How I Melbourne: Pascale Gomes-McNabb

Published on 18 October 2019

Photo: Interior designer Pascale Gomes-McNabb

Interior designer to Melbourne’s restaurant royalty, Pascale Gomes-McNabb has an unrivalled sense of what makes a dining room at once welcoming and striking. Part of the team that rebuilt Stokehouse from the ground up, Gomes-McNabb’s touch can also be felt at Cumulus Inc, while in Sydney her work includes Cirrus, Bentley and Yellow and, in South Australia, Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant. Knowing when to add dramatic design elements and when to let natural assets do the talking, Gomes-McNabb has picked up more than a few tricks in the art of hospitality from many nights sitting around the table with family and friends, enjoying home-cooked food or the best that our city has to offer.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I can have a better coffee than I can get in Italy. (And I’m not a caffeine snob.)

My first defining food moment in Melbourne might’ve been the really fabulous tortellini brodo at Donnini’s in Drummond Street when I was a kid? Clear delicious broth with handmade tortellini – nobody makes it like that anymore and I still crave it. Or was it eating Pellegrini’s multi-coloured rainbow salad in front of the mirror with my friend Zahava, both of us with our mouths open – great entertainment for seven-year-olds! Then there was Mietta’s in Alfred Place. It was the place to go, whether you wanted classic French fancy fun for celebrations upstairs or cultural explorations in the saloon downstairs. And as a teenager, I also loved the atmosphere and space at Rosati’s. Later, Tansy Good’s asparagus ice-cream made an impression. But probably the most important, rather than the first, defining food moment was when I served my first paying customers at Diningroom 211 in 2000 when I became a restaurateur and then three restaurants later at Cumulus Inc in 2008 and the next year at Cutler & Co.

The best new thing I’ve found is cooking at home. I love my kitchen and the produce from farmers’ markets is astounding. I particularly enjoy Milking Yard Farm chickens from Hagen’s Organic Butchers and buying from small organic vegetable growers.

My favourite dining room in Melbourne is Stokehouse St Kilda (and not just because I designed it). Seriously, you can’t better that view across Port Philip Bay in a gorgeous environment!

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I gather my friends and/or family and have a feast. There are myriad ways I like to do this, but always with lots of food, interesting tipples and good music, hopefully some dancing, and always spontaneously. I hate being overly planned.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than pho. My favourite is from I Heart Pho or Pho Chu The on Victoria Street. Or a Lune croissant eaten a few hours out of the oven. Or a quick pasta at Grossi Cellar Bar – an old favourite. Or Super Ling’s pork and scallop wontons in broth. Or a roast at King & Godfree’s deli. Melbourne is good value when it comes to eating out at any price point. 

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take a bar crawl to a few fantastic spots to get a spectrum of tastes, places, drinks, art, and all levels of service and atmosphere. For example, cocktails in the sun at Madame Brussels, a Negroni with snacks or a more substantial meal at the bar at Di Stasio Città, a Martini at Arlechin, a glass of Champagne in the bar at Vue de Monde, sunset Champagne and snacks at Stokehouse, a glass of cava with oysters at Bar Lourinhã, followed by a tailor-made drink at Romeo Lane and/or Bar Americano – all in no particular order. And then of course Angel Bar later on for dancing.

In the mornings you’ll find me walking – or more like chasing – my dog around one of the local parks. Afterwards, I have a matcha at 279 on Victoria Street in West Melbourne – a tiny Japanese café that’s my new local favourite. It has a super cool, beautifully orchestrated and restrained aesthetic. And it's also great for people watching.

My local is the Lincoln. Even though in the old-fashioned sense of the term a local is non-existent in my part of town, fortunately the Lincoln isn’t too far away. It’s a great pub with sensible and delicious food and a solid wine list… and beer too. I don’t often drink beer but a local has to have beer on tap.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be the waste that comes from food and drink production and packaging. I’d love to see local councils make it mandatory for all food and drink establishments to have an organic waste composter and more effective ways of disposing of waste – all of it. Ideally, a ban or limitation on the production, import and use of single-use plastics and harmful chemicals needs to be implemented and then enforced. Otherwise, we’re on track to destroying the planet. Until we reach my utopian future, every single person and entity needs to embrace sustainable food practices and waste management among other planet-saving measures. Follow the lead of zero-waste poster man Joost Bakker. Our mantra really needs to be: reuse it, recycle it, recharge it and compost it.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is, apart from people embracing a more sustainable way of living, not much. We are pretty lucky with what is on offer here and hopefully the standard of living and the overall liveability of the city never changes – or only gets better with a zero-waste management plan!

See what Pascale's working on over at @pascalegomesmcnabbdesign.

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