Clayton Bowls Club looks like any typical suburban bowlo.
There's the ''don't leave children in cars'' sign as you walk through the door, the flashing lure of the pokies and the vast, nondescript front bar.
What's different are the ex-Vue de Monde chefs in the kitchen. Clinton McIver, who worked for four years at the celebrated three-hatted restaurant under chefs Shannon Bennett and Cory Campbell, has taken over Champions Grill bistro, with help from Brazilian girlfriend Ali Rolim Correa.
''It's definitely not a career move,'' says McIver. ''It's not something I'd necessarily put on my CV.''
Oddly, this is the gig that's got people talking. Some bowling mates convinced McIver to do consultancy work in the kitchen before the couple heads to South America next year. ''I was intending on keeping a low profile, not doing much,'' he says. But he saw the potential to build up the kitchen.
''There are lots of Indian … and Chinese restaurants [in Clayton] but nothing else that's a weekly dining option. I wanted to tap into the local market.''
''People are shocked,'' McIver says. ''I couldn't tell you how many people have said, 'I can't believe what's happened.' I've got regulars who come in two or three times a week.'' Although he admits losing some local diners who aren't too rapt with his fine-dining food and deconstructed desserts.
The menu is well priced - two courses for $35, three for $40 and a weekly changing five-course degustation, $50 on Saturday night with bookings into November.
McIver's French-leaning menu is classically driven, inspired by top produce such as line-caught fish, Spanish jamon and premium beef aged in house. In the club's surrounding parkland, he forages for wild turnips and wood sorrel to use in the day's dishes.
Read Nina Rousseau's review of Champion's Grill.