How I Melbourne: Jessi Singh

Published on 12 February 2020

Photo: Chef and restaurateur Jessi Singh (credit: Griffin Simm)

Jessi Singh loves to surprise. The Punjabi-born chef first turned heads with his “unauthentic Indian” cooking at Dhaba at the Mill in Kyneton, just over an hour north-west of Melbourne. Along with his later restaurants, Horn Please and Babu Ji, Singh became known for contemporary Indian dining that mixed slick surrounds with fun soundtracks and dishes reflective of both his Indian background and Australian home. He went on to open restaurants in New York City, Santa Barbara and Sydney before returning to Melbourne last year to open Daughter In Law, one of the venues that’s part of our sold-out New Kids on the Block Crawl and Bite presented by Estrella Damm. His latest venue is Mrs Singh, a wine bar that breaks the mould with Indian-leaning snacks, express thalis for lunch and a 300-strong cellar.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was a sausage in white bread at Bunnings on the weekend. I love the Australian way of cooking for the community.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I can walk around any neighbourhood and find a great coffee.

The best new thing I’ve found is the rolled rice XO noodles with cured pork belly at Lagoon Dining Room. The noodles are perfectly rolled, cooked really well on the wok (in front of your eyes if you sit at the bar), and finished with toasted sesame seeds. It’s sweet, salty and delicious.

When I want to go crazy on a meal, I go to Butchers Diner at the top end of town after service for the Coney Island chilli dog. It reminds me of the hot dogs you get at Coney Island in New York and brings back memories of one of the greatest amusement parks in the world.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than the all-you-can-eat vegan buffet on Sunday nights at Horn Please. For $20, it’s an absolute bargain.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to HuTong in Chinatown for dumplings.

If I want to eat at multiple venues in one day, my itinerary includes coffee and breakfast at Mitte Cafe in Fitzroy North, before a pre-lunch snack at Le Petite Bourke (the homemade Turkish pastries are the thing to order) and then dumplings at HuTong. When it’s time for an afternoon snack, I’ll hit Bomba for a Jamon and truffle bikini (toastie) and, for dinner, The Hardware Club. The osso buco ravioli and a piece of tiramisù are hard to go past. Follow that with an after-dinner gin and tonic at Heartbreaker before walking up to Spring Street Grocer for gelato, and that’s a great day out in my books.

In the mornings you’ll find me walking in Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy North.

If you looked in my fridge, you might be surprised to find everything needed to cook from scratch. Because I work in restaurants, most of my friends and family assume I don’t cook at home.

My local is Neighbourhood Wine  because it has the best wine list and friendliest service.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be absolutely nothing – Melbourne is the best.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is our casual yet awesome service and great coffee and food. 

Keep up with Jessi’s latest projects by following him on Instagram at @jesssi_singh, or check out his new venue Mrs Singh at 88 Flinders La, Melbourne, mrssingh.com.au.

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