An ambitious young restaurant team looks to make its mark on Elgin Street by leaning into the classics.

Give the people what they want. That’s the operating principle at Bistra, a restaurant that has just opened its doors on Elgin Street in Carlton, between Rathdowne and Drummond. The pitch is not redefine a genre or dazzle with the unfamiliar, but rather to take dishes that have stood the test of time and present them as well as possible, in a welcoming environment and at a reasonable price.

With a strong emphasis on good drinking (and beer on tap), it’s almost like an upmarket pub bistro without the pub. You can get classic onion soup with Comté and croûtons, scallops baked in garlic and parsley butter, a steak with peppercorn sauce and maybe a rhubarb and gooseberry trifle, or settle in with a cheeseburger and a really good glass of wine. It might well be exactly what this slice of Melbourne is looking for.

Joseph Ho is one of the co-owners, along with Henry Crawford and Alexei Taheny-Macfarlane. Here’s his inside word on what Bistra is all about.

What is Bistra all about, Joe?
Our fare draws its influences predominantly from British, French and Italian cooking and technique, and yet it is quintessentially Australian. In our intimate, two-storey space, you can expect generous, memorable plates championing seasonal ingredients and an extensive list of wines which we know you’ll want to drink. We’re looking inwards at Australian bistro-styled dining and what it means to us.

Why are we going to Bistra?
To celebrate with your closest friends and family, enjoying three satisfying courses alongside delicious wine; for a casual burger, which comes with fries, washed down with an ice-cold Martini or pint at the bar; or to woo your partner on date night, at a classically set table, in a dining room that makes a lasting impression. You’re coming to Bistra because you love great restaurants and we want to serve you.

What’s cooking?
An honestly exciting, and yet intentionally traditional à la carte menu featuring equal consideration between entrées, mains and desserts. Start with our potato rosti served with trout roe, crème fraîche and chives; move on to our Sommerlad chicken breast with leek, bagna cauda and jus; and close with a serve of the lychee, coconut custard and lime granita.

Who’s on the pans?
Chef Alex Nishizawa, who comes to Carlton by way of California. He has spent the last few years cooking alongside Ben Shewry at Attica as sous chef. He has also worked at Bar Liberty and Falco.

What are we drinking?
You’re drinking from a cellar that’s been put together by us for over 10 years, reflecting the producers, regions and varieties that we love to drink; a pint or pot of Albert’s lager (we’ll change our tapped beer selection each season); and a short but smart list of classic cocktails.

Do you have great some Victorian booze in there?
Heaps. By the glass, we’ll always promote a Victorian producer in each category. We’ve worked in the Victorian wine industry for years and have built a great network of exciting producers. Think Gembrook Hill and Garagiste, alongside younger winemakers like Joshua Cooper, Oscar Hermann and Tim Mead from Lo Havoc. We’re also sharing our love of Rutherglen’s criminally underrated fortified wines on the dessert pours. Back-vintages from stalwarts like Mount Mary, Wantirna Estate and Crawford River will always be available by the bottle.

How can we get the most out of this place?
Come to Bistra on the occasion of anything. There will be dishes that stand out a little more than others from season to season, and there will often be an unmissable special that you’ll have to order. But we’ll always provide a consistent approach and atmosphere.

Bistra, open for dinner Wed-Sat and lunch Fri-Sun, 157 Elgin St, Carlton, (03) 9000 5607,