Buy recipe journals from Melbourne’s best restaurants

Published on 2 September 2020

Photo: Clockwise from top left: Sunda's beef tartare, Sunda's squid noodles, Bar Saracen's chicken kebab

Just because you can’t eat at your favourite restaurant doesn’t mean you have to miss out on their hit dishes. Cartilage is a new recipe journal bringing chefs and diners closer together during lockdown.

If lockdown 2.0 has taught Victorians anything, it’s that the power of imagination wins the day. Can’t dine at your favourite restaurant? Hit up the takeaway menu and get out the linen and fancy plates. Missing drinks with friends? Order a cocktail to your door and jump on Houseparty. And if you’re missing some of our city’s signature dishes, you can always get busy recreating them yourself.

That’s what Cartilage, a new series of recipe journals, is encouraging with its collection of dishes, drinks and tips from beloved restaurants around Melbourne. The first drop includes Embla’s soured cucumbers, Bar Saracen’s hummus and Capitano’s meatballs, with more journals on the way.

“This is another avenue – apart from getting takeaway – for people to experience restaurants that they would otherwise frequent,” says co-creator David Matthews.

The idea for Cartilage came about back when the pandemic first hit Australia, as a way of offering some extra income to venues that were forced to close, and some joy to diners who were missing the hospitality of their favourite venues. Joining Matthews, a former chef and Gourmet Traveller editor, on the project are Anna Vu, an illustrator and ex-art director from the same magazine, and James Lark, an animator and former waiter.

They started with Sydney restaurants before turning their attention to Melbourne, approaching Sunda, Very Good Falafel, Capitano, Embla and Bar Saracen for the opening line-up.

“Part of the idea behind Cartilage was to capture a cross-section of venues, many who wouldn’t necessarily put out a whole book on their own, but whose recipes have captured the appetite of their city,” says Matthews.

Each restaurant’s journal features three recipes that work in a domestic kitchen plus an extra tidbit: a cocktail, a killer salad dressing or perhaps a condiment or sweet treat. The teams at each venue are closely involved in their journal, choosing the recipes, offering tips that only come from making something hundreds of times, and in some cases even creating the illustrations that act as a guide for your cooking.

From Sunda, you get a recipe for beef tartare with red nahm jim and witlof, along with a diagram from chef Khanh Nguyen showing how to plate it up. Very Good Falafel’s sabich is accompanied by an illustrated flat-lay of all the different elements that give this dish its hands-on, DIY appeal.

Every journal costs $15, and $10 from every sale goes directly back to the venue. The journals have raised $8,000 so far. Being a digital download means the purchase price is kept low, plus it gets the recipes into your hands as quickly as possible.

“We wanted to make something you could buy and be cooking from the same day, without the cost or commitment that comes with a cookbook,” says Matthews.

Marion is the latest journal to be released and more are on the way from Napier Quarter, Lee Ho Fook and Cumulus Inc.

And while we’re hungrier than ever for a night in the dining rooms of these venues and more, we’re grateful to have them at our table in some form. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and channel your inner Dave Verheul as you put that imagination to work.

Journals are $15 each and come as a downloadable PDF. Shop at

By Emma Breheny