6 Keys St Beaumaris, VIC 3193(03) 9589 2627
|Opening hours||Wed to Sun, noon-3pm; Tues-Sun, 5pm-late|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||AMEX, Mastercard, eftpos, Visa|
When a restaurant is more than 10 kilometres from the city, one big challenge for the owners is striking the balance between accessible and interesting. Sure, locals may have been grumbling about the lack of fabulous dining options near home but if someone is brave enough to open a nice, quirky little restaurant, will those grumblers visit it, and visit it again two weeks later, and spend money on drinks, and refrain from demanding chips with sauce? Maybe not.
Six Keys has been meeting that challenge for three years. The menu is an easy-please assortment of safe dishes, such as calamari, chicken breast, steak and pasta. Oh, and there are two types of chips. But it's all done pretty nicely and there are enough flourishes to keep things interesting for customers and staff.
My favourite little extra is the steak knife selection: a tray of savage saws is presented to those who have ordered the eye fillet or rib eye with a choice of herbed cafe de Paris butter or creamy pepper sauce. Another sweet touch is the rack of loaner hats and sunglasses at the entrance to the attractive new courtyard.
Weekly fish and duck specials mean there's always something new to try: recent rosters included oven-roasted duck breast with peach puree and rockling with asparagus. The children's menu lists the usual spag bol and stuff with chips but my research team really lit up for mocktails such as the Leaping Leo raspberry spider.
There's house-made bread: the cobb loaf with chive and parmesan oil is a decent appetiser, though I'm sure some folk gripe about paying for bread.
Generous pasta dishes include fettucine with smoked chicken, spinach and pesto. Meal-size salads include nicely scored and grilled calamari with fresh Greek salad.
Apparently the raspberry souffle is bolted to the menu but my desserts needed a bit of work. The ''Six Keys Mess'' included unpalatable boulders of Turkish delight, and when the Chocolate Bomb spurted creme anglaise, it seemed like a melted ice-cream kitchen error. Service neither adds to nor detracts from the experience, which, given the difficulty of finding great waiters, probably counts as a win here.
Owner Dave Morley is about to open a similar restaurant in Mount Eliza, where he grew up. It's called Three Ducks Restaurant Bar, at 34 Mount Eliza Way, and is likely to be another easy place to gather.
Lau's Family Kitchen, 4 Acland Street, St Kilda, 8598 9880. Sun to Fri, lunch; daily, dinner.
The Cantonese food is impeccable and an indulgent view is taken of under-age diners (there are even training-wheel chopsticks).
Jack & Daisy, 152B Cumberland Road, Pascoe Vale, 9350 4106. Daily, breakfast and lunch.
A cool kids' menu and a cubby in the courtyard makes this a popular hangout with families. The new breakfast menu stars brioche french toast with chocolate ganache.
Pizza Religion, 493 Tooronga Road, Hawthorn East, 9882 2555. Thurs and Fri, lunch; daily, dinner.
If pizza is your religion then this is your church and you may become evangelical about the chorizo pizza with prawns, chipotle and jalapenos, and the zucchini with ricotta, chilli, mint and lemon zest.