The new King & Godfree in Carlton needs a warning sign at the door: Overwhelming choice ahead – proceed with caution.
What was previously one of Lygon Street’s best Italian delicatessens has morphed into an all-day eating, drinking, dining and shopping space after extensive renovations that saw the iconic site close its doors for three years.
The Italian DNA is still there; now there are even more ways to enjoy it. Want breakfast before you do your shopping? Pull up a pew in the ground-floor espresso bar. Looking for a spot for Saturday afternoon drinks? Make a beeline for the rooftop bar. Need a bottle of wine, a quick lunch to-go or a dinner reservation? King & Godfree has all that, too.
The brand-new space from the Valmorbida family, who have owned the business since 1955, will be unveiled this Saturday, 8 December.
“Inspired by our heritage we’re continuing our Nonno’s legacy by transforming one of Australia’s oldest grocery stores into a vibrant new precinct,” says Jamie Valmorbida, grandson of original owner Carlo. King & Godfree first opened its doors in 1884 before the Valmorbidas purchased it.
Perhaps the most exciting addition to the large corner site is the rooftop bar, Johnny’s Green Room. Named for the late-night Carlton hangout of the same name that had its zenith in the 1960s and ‘70s, the bar ditches pool tables for bright red umbrellas, greenery and neon. Italian cocktails, smashable wines and an extensive bar menu of small bites through to larger plates are on offer at the 200-capacity space, which will regularly host DJs from Melbourne’s Hope Street Radio.
Those who have missed the deli and grocer will be pleased to know it’s back with some exciting new products including cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, lasagne to take home and chocolate wafer biscuits by Brusa, a Piedmontese company.
“We’ll continue to look for things like that, hunting out the new and the good,” says general manager Anthony Musarra.
A new espresso bar at the front of the store seats about 40 and serves breakfast and lunch each day, with take-away friendly options available. For those who choose to sit in with a panino, bowl of pasta or porchetta and salad, there are huge windows with views on to Lygon and Faraday streets. For a true taste of the old country, spring for the tramezzini – pillowy triangular sandwiches eaten as snacks across Italy – stuffed with the likes of prawn and spicy mayonnaise or chicken, herbs and lettuce.
Come afternoon, the counters are covered with cicchetti, perhaps torta verdure, anchovies and bread or arancini. Between 5 and 7pm each day, an aperitivo hour will offer drink specials and, in the Italian tradition, snacks with each drink purchased.
The only thing that’s missing is a restaurant – and that opens in a week or so. Agostino features a cellar bar with bluestone walls, as well as a ground-floor space, and will highlight northern Italian dishes, a nod to the family’s roots in Vicenza. Expect coccoli, stuffed pastas, grilled fish and gnocchi with beef ragu, which will be presented with a cinnamon shaker.
“We want it to be a place where you can come and eat three or four times a week,” Musarra says.
Completing the picture is a wine store, where you can browse and take bottles away or drink them at Agostinos with some snacks from the menu.
We have a feeling we’re going to be spending a lot of time at King & Godfree this summer.
K&G Deli, Grocer & Espresso Bar, 293-297 Lygon St, Carlton, (03) 9347 1619, kingandgodfree.com. Deli and grocer open 7 days, 7:00am-8:00pm. Espresso bar open 7 days, 7:00am-10:00pm.
Johnny’s Green Room, Level 3, 293-297 Lygon St, Carlton, (access via the lift in King & Godfree Lane), (03) 9347 1619, kingandgodfree.com. Open 7 days, 12:00pm-late.
Agostino, 249 Lygon St, Carlton, (03) 9871 6381, agostino.com.au. Open 7 days, 12:00pm-late.