The team from Coda are gradually colonising Flinders Lane. Tom Hunter and Mykal and Kate Bartholomew (who also own Tonka in Duckboard Place) are taking over the subterranean Yu-u site to create a contemporary French bistro with Frenchman Flo Gerardin heading the open kitchen bar.
The team will take the keys for the yet-to-be-named bistro on November 1, giving the dark-timbered space a polish before reopening around February. Plans include a 30-40 seat restaurant, a small bar and primo seating around the open kitchen. Kate Bartholomew says they also hope to open up the tatami rooms, where the windows look across the cobbled laneway to Coda.
Gerardin, a finalist for this year's Age Good Food Guide Chef of the Year award, will draw on experience at Pei Modern Melbourne, Vue de Monde, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse's 59 Poincaré in creating the menu. "It will be soul food – what I've learnt from Robuchon and Ducasse and the produce I receive from farmers and suppliers."
That might mean a classic steak tartare "without 15 ingredients and different sauces", or beef cheek served with a beautifully cooked brown onion. But there will be plenty of flex: bar snacks and share dishes, raw, cold and hot dishes.
Bartholomew says there's a sense of inevitability about their plans. Seven years ago, after visiting L'Atelier, she and husband Mykal returned to Melbourne determined to open a cool, sexy French restaurant-bar. But the idea morphed into cool, sexy Asian-inspired Coda. "Now we get a chance to do what we originally wanted to do," she says.
Meanwhile at Pei Modern Melbourne, Anthony Hammel, whose CV includes the Press Club and Daylesford restaurants the Lake House and Kazuki's, has stepped into Gerardin's clogs. Expect a steady evolution of Pei Modern's bistro menu, says co-owner David Mackintosh.