To the untrained eye, a fine-dining restaurant mightn’t have looked to be on the cards for Collingwood brewery Molly Rose.

But for owner Nic Sandery it was always part of the dream, and something that he and venue manager Simon Hall (Easy Tiger, Major Major) spoke about regularly throughout COVID. So when the building next to their Wellington Street brewery and taproom became available, it was a no-brainer.

Of course, you can still to drop by the brewpub for a cold pint and a snack from a bar menu that takes inspiration from the melting pot of South-East Asian cuisines Sandery grew up eating in Darwin. But you can now also making a booking at the European-leaning chef’s table and settle in for something a bit special, courtesy of chef Ittichai Ngamtrairai.

Whatever the occasion, here’s what to order when you visit, according to Nic Sandery.

How about a drink?
Being the brewer at this brewery this is a toughie. I love almost all beer but what I drink is so seasonal and situational. In the winter months, I was enjoying the classic English way of pulling a pint through our beer engine. It adds a creaminess and softness to the beer and changes the flavour profile completely. Very fun to taste the same beer pulled through a normal tap and also through the hand pump side by side. Our Short and Stout is just way too drinkable, it’s like someone else is having sips of the beer in between mine. Since I can’t keep it just to beer and I am thoroughly impressed with our cocktail offering, I’d say grab a Lemon Drop #2 to kick off your day or night. It’s layered with multiple lemon extracts from our beautiful beer garden lemon tree and topped with one of our first-ever beers, When Life Gives You Lemons. It’s zippy, it’s textural, it’s fun and bloody delicious. We think beer should only ever be used in a cocktail if it makes the drink better, and in this case, it most certainly does.

I’m here for a good time not a long time.
I sometimes get disapproving looks ordering like this, but being the father of a young child and growing business, I don’t get much time to enjoy eating and drinking, so if I can sneak 45 minutes to myself you might find me using my double-down technique. Basically, the first beer doesn’t touch the sides, so I would order something light and refreshing like a pot of our Lager #3 or Little Hazy Beer and in the same order grab a pint of your next beer, I reckon a hand-pull of Rye of the Tiger Rye IPA. If time is very tight, in the same order, grab some spring rolls as a quick entrée, the Skull Island prawns in pineapple curry and a bowl of steamed or fried rice, depending on how cheeky you’re feeling.

Got anything light and fresh?
The kingfish and the miang kham are in-house favourites in this category. The kingfish cures slightly in the salsa verde-like sauce while the smoked mussels wrapped in betel leaves are flavour explosions. Both would pair wonderfully with When Life Gives You Lemons or even our Squished Berries, Shiraz and Moscato Giallo Farmhouse Ale.

What if I like tasty food but don’t eat animals?
There are more than a few vegetarians and vegans in the Molly Rose family so it’s important that we can plate up something that’s just as special as the meat offering. We’re of the opinion that taking the meat out of a dish doesn’t make it a vegetarian dish. We have a full vegetarian menu and a lots of gluten-free and vegan options.

Name the dish that captures the Molly Rose vibe.
Our baccala-stuffed chicken wing. If you haven’t experienced a stuffed chicken wing before, basically the drumette is removed and the wing deboned before being stuffed with some kind of delicious filling and cooked. In our case, Ittichai whips up a modified salt cod mousse, dips the wing in a light batter and fries it before coating the wing in our house-made hot sauce. The wing looks slightly alien on the plate and the first bite is definitely exploratory while the second and third are unstoppable. It’s complex and amazingly well balanced, but at its heart, it’s just plain delicious.

Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
It has to be the chef’s table experience, but first, jump up to the bar, double order yourself a pot of beer and a cocktail and join in on a little bit of banter with the locals. Then, relax into the night as you’re guided back through our bar and into the chef’s table area. Throw some oysters into the mix, grab the caviar and wagyu for an additional course. Finish the night on a Boilermaker (that classic pairing of whiskey and beer) in the beer garden, sit back and reflect on how bloody good beer is.

And to close?
Ittichai has a few surprises up his sleeve for the chef’s table so I won’t spoil them, but the ice-cream sandwich is as cute as a button and it’s moreish enough that it doesn’t matter how full you are, you’ll always find room. Black rice and house-made stout bread is toasted to sandwich a quenelle of banana ice-cream before being topped with toffee peanuts and a sour beer caramel. Did I mention it’s pretty?

Molly Rose Brewery, 279/285 Wellington St, Collingwood, (03) 9113 6046, open 4pm-10pm Wed-Thu, noon-midnight Fri-Sat, noon-10pm Sun,