Overlooking the Gardens’ Ornamental Lake, The Terrace reopened in December with a fresh lease on life and a whole new menu, with an emphasis on approachable, seasonally informed café favourites.

The Royal Botanic Gardens. Stunning. Better with a combination café-kiosk-events space? That would depend on who’s steering the ship, but when you’re talking the Darling Group, aka the crew behind breakfast landmarks Top Paddock, Higher Ground, and recently, Sorrento’s Stringers, the answer is a resounding yes.

Circumnavigating the Ornamental Lake from the stern of a bottle green gondola, here’s Darling Group executive chef Ash Hicks with what to order at The Terrace.

How about a drink?
It’ll have to be one of our all-day cocktails. My favourite is the Champagne Royal. Between you and a friend you get fresh lime, mango, and velvet falernum, which you then top up yourself with a 375ml bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvée. We also have a Terrace Spritz, made with gin, raspberry, plum amaro, mint, strawberry gum and sparkling rosé, and the Garden Cooler, made with vodka, cucumber, lime, soda and river mint – perfect in summer.

I’m here for a good time not a long time.
If it were me, I would grab The Terrace club sandwich to take away and a batch brew or a cold-pressed juice, then find a lovely spot somewhere in the Gardens to enjoy it.

Got anything light and fresh?
I’d say the seasonal breakfast plate is the epitome of light and fresh. At the moment it includes local cold smoked trout, fresh sprouts and greens, dense dark rye bread from our bakery, chive labne, soft-boiled egg, and house pickles, but each component will change with the market and what’s in season. Best enjoyed while sitting by the lake at the café’s outdoor dining space.

What if I like tasty food but don’t eat animals?
We have plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. I really like the green goddess sandwich with avocado, cucumber, green goddess dressing, butter lettuce, and alfalfa. We also have fresh summer salads. Out of the three, my personal favourites are the fattoush and the Mediterranean, the latter being loosely based on a Californian-style chop salad. We also have an avocado tartine and a warrigal greens pan omelette with house-made bush tomato relish. On the sweet side, vegetarians will love our fluffy ricotta hotcakes with seasonal berries, whipped cream, toasted seeds and grains, and a dash of maple syrup.

Name the dish that captures the The Terrace vibe.
A dish unique to The Terrace would have to be either the breakfast plate for its hyper seasonality, or the warrigal greens omelette. Both are minimal fuss dishes that show off quality, seasonal produce.

Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
If the sun is shining and you’ve just sat down at the café with some mates I would definitely get a few dishes to share. My highlights for breakfast would be the granola with almond and flax, whipped vanilla yoghurt, mango, pineapple and passionfruit; eggs Benedict on herbed flatbread with smoked bacon; or the pan omelette. For lunch, go for the truffle mushroom toastie; asparagus with stracciatella; chicken schnitzel roll; a Mediterranean chop salad; and, of course, the Terrace club sandwich. For drinks, I’d opt for a glass of vino – maybe the Sidewood Estate sparkling rosé – or go for a Bellini.

And to close?
I would grab an espresso and a boysenberry choc top and go for a walk in the Gardens.

The Terrace, Gate A, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, corner of Alexandra Ave and Anderson St, Melbourne, open 8am-4pm every day, theterrace.melbourne@theterracenbotanicgardens