Published on 23 March 2021
Tucked inside an intimate terrace on Toorak Road lies Vesper Bistro and Bar, an exciting new dining spot in the European heart of South Yarra. Owners Duncan and Marlane Fraser-Smith have spent over 40 years combined in hospitality, perfecting the art of what they call “polished dining”. Influenced by the couple’s travels to places such as the French Riviera, Greece, Corsica and Sardinia, the menu is a trip through the Mediterranean without the airfare. At the helm of the kitchen is chef Francesco Castellana, whose résumé includes Vue de Monde and New York's Per Se. Seafood is the star of the show at Vesper, but there’s plenty going on besides, with a focus on bright and bold flavours across the board.
Here’s the word from Fraser-Smith himself about how you might approach things.
How about a drink?Try our Vesper Martini, a modern take on a classic cocktail with Four Pillars olive-leaf gin and 666 vodka. Topped with a drop of extra-virgin olive oil, sea spray and a sprig of rosemary, it's the essence of the Mediterranean.
What if I’m here for a good time rather than a long time? I’d suggest taking a seat in the Green Room, a secluded dining area and bar opening onto a private courtyard. It’s the perfect spot to start your night with a round of oysters and a glass of Borrowed Cuttings picpoul blanc. While you can indulge in our full menu, you can also sit at the Raw Bar for a plate of house-cured swordfish with baby fennel and pickled grapes followed by a glass of skin-contact pinot gris by Unico Zelo.
Which dish from the menu is quintessentially Vesper?You can’t really go past the Sardinian fregola: semolina pearls paired with saffron-braised abalone, finished with a light dusting of pecorino.
Got anything light and fresh? I would recommend the tuna crudo with spicy citrus salad, however, if you are feeling a little more adventurous, try the crisp blue mackerel with pan Catalan, tomato and capsicum gazpacho. Simple yet elegant.
I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.It’s very hard to think of food from the Mediterranean and not think of eggplant. We have stuffed ours with freekeh made from green durum wheat, served with summer squash and pomegranates. I’d suggest a side of buffalo yoghurt tzatziki and marinated seasonal vegetables.
Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?I’d ask for the six-course chef's selection menu, highlighting what’s available at the markets that day. Make sure he includes the whole baked sea bream served with a seven-olive ragoût and potato crisps if you can – it's a real treat.
And to close?Who doesn't like coffee and cream? Coffee ice-cream, granita and amaretto brioche matched with a glass of Kreta Rakimeli, a raki made with honey, will do the trick.
Vesper Bar and Bistro, 25 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, (03) 9038 8088, vesperbistroandbar.com.au.
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