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Melbourne's latest dining hotspots

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10 December 2010

Merchant, City
Merchant, a new venture from acclaimed chef Guy Grossi, has just opened at the Rialto building in the heart of Melbourne’s financial district. Inspired by the rich culture Grossi experienced during a recent trip to his mother’s hometown of Venice in Italy, Merchant is styled as a typical Venetian osteria, a place designed for the informal enjoyment of food, wine and good company. Settle into the bar to enjoy bite-sized "cichetti" (antipasto) washed down with a traditional Venetian cocktail, or order cichetti in larger quantities for a meal in itself. Sip wine by the glass from a list that pays homage to north eastern Italy and watch as white-jacketed barmen mix bellinis. Merchant joins a growing Grossi empire, which includes Grossi Florentino on Bourke Street, St Kilda’s Mirka at Tolarno and the Grossi Trattoria InterContinental Hotel Bangkok in Thailand.

Hare & Grace Eatery and Mini Bar, City
Hare and Grace, the new upmarket eatery and bar from acclaimed chef Raymond Capaldi and Pasquale Franzese, has just opened in a heritage-listed bluestone butter factory next door to the Rialto Tower on Collins Street. With interiors by cutting-edge local designer, recycler and artist Joost Bakker - including smoke bush hanging from the ceiling and large murals on the walls - this venue will no doubt draw the arty set as well as foodies. The restaurant menu has small starter-type dishes, ‘two to share’ dishes such as whole fish or ‘the perfect roast chook’, and ‘principals’, such as beef short ribs and chausson quail. The Mini Bar has a separate bar menu which veers from classic drinking food (calamari schnitzel served in a bun) to more innovative (ocean trout crisps with apple puree, or sour cream and green prawn popcorn with garlic and lemon mayonnaise).

The Millswyn, South Yarra
A stylish new brasserie situated across the road from the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Millswyn serves classic French fare using Australia’s best and freshest local produce. With a chic Scandinavian-themed interior, the Millswyn features chef Nathan Johnson, formerly of Gordon Ramsay’s maze Grill at Crown. An extensive drinks list includes the exclusive Estrella Inedit beer, created by renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adria and his sommelier team at El Bulli. A perfect spot for summer dining, the restaurant’s open veranda is maintained in the traditional French manner with all tables facing the park.

The Botanical, South Yarra
Just down the road from The Millswyn, the Botanical reopened its doors late last month after a major renovation and with star chef Cheong Liew (The Grange, Adelaide) at the helm.

PM24, City
Philippe Mouchel’s new French bistro and rôtisserie recently opened on Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD. The rotisserie offers highly flavoursome spit-roasts of chicken, lamb, suckling pig and other seasonal treats, while the rest of the menu features lighter, more modern versions of classic French dishes, including charcuterie, offal and Burgundy-style snails. PM24 is the latest in George Calombaris’ expanding Press Club Group, which includes The Press Club restaurant, Little Press Cellar and Bar, and Hellenic Republic.

Newmarket Hotel, St Kilda
The group behind the reinvention of the Middle Park hotel, Albert Park hotel and the Royal Saxon - chef Paul Wilson, entrepreneur Julian Gerner and Six Degrees Architects - have worked their magic on the once notorious Newmarket hotel in St Kilda. With the great success of their other venues, expect it to be packed from day one.

Byblos, WTC Wharf
Award-winning Brisbane bar Byblos has just opened a Melbourne outpost in WTC Wharf, a newly rejuvenated precinct along the northern banks of the Yarra. The Melbourne Byblos will be more food focused with a Mediterranean-meets-Lebanese menu prepared by chef Nino Kanaan, while still retaining the glamorous and exotic cocktail list the original venue is known for.

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