Published on 20 January 2022
Reservations at Julian Hills’ intimate fine-diner Navi are released in two-month blocks at 10am on the first of every month. They’re gone shortly thereafter; the restaurant’s attention to detail both on and off the plate has turned more than a few heads since it opened in 2018.
But the addition of Navi’s new lounge bar brings new hope for last-minute planners and off-the-cuff snackers. Fulfilling Hills’ original vision for the restaurant, the walk ins-only addition means guests can now drop by unannounced for a more casual version of events, where a menu of top-tier snacks like duck baklava – ducklava – and an imaginative cocktails list from drinks boss Elise West are backed by the full Navi wine list.
It’s an excellent development. Here’s owner and chef Julian Hills on what to order when you pop in.
Which of the dishes on the menu best capture the vibe at the new lounge, Julian?
Everything on the lounge menu has been road-tested in Navi at some point. It is a little glimpse of the flavours you might try in the dining room but it’s a bit more relaxed – it’s food you can eat with your hands. My play on baklava – ducklava – is braised duck meat mixed with nuts, spiced honey and duck stock, rolled in filo and baked, before being dunked again in a honey, duck and rosewater syrup and served with a tangy tamarillo purée. It’s a crowd-favourite already.
How about a drink?
It’s always best to start with a cocktail. My pick: Grapes on Gamon with tequila, fino sherry, and salted red grape. Or a Paperbark Martini with loquat, paperbark and vodka. Our full restaurant wine list (plus some extra sips) is on offer as well.
What if I’m here for a good time not a long time?
Good times don’t always have to last a long time. Sink into the banquette with a glass of Champagne or a Strawberry Gum Negroni and enjoy a few quick bites – perhaps our black garlic and salmon roe macaron, or salt and vinegar fish skins – and come back for a longer stay another time.
Got anything light and fresh?
Absolutely. The lounge features a menu of snacks, designed to be eaten with your hands and to accompany a quick drink pop-in. So you can enjoy a pre-dinner bite or settle in and enjoy a bigger meal of small plates. Start with our smoked eel with native thyme and apple: eel parfait sandwiched between two glass crisps of reduced apple juice, native thyme and rice flour and seasoned with kutjera (desert raisin) and seaweed. It’s the perfect balance of sweet, smoky and salty.
I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.
You are very welcome here. We have potato beignets with fermented green tomato; a selection of vegetable crudités and pickles from our small producers, served with a miso emulsion and chilli, garlic and pepperberry oil; our beloved sourdough with cultured butter; and a blackened Jerusalem artichoke miso chocolate tart. All a great match for the various cocktails and wines on our list.
Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
Let’s do it. One of each of our snacks, a bottle of Frederic Savart Bulle de Rose Extra Brut and a few rounds of cocktails should do it.
And to close?
Finish with our moreish blackened Jerusalem artichoke miso chocolate tart alongside our cocktail The Bitter Ending (coffee-infused Campari, wattle, macadamia and lemon). Perfection.
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