Saint Crispin

300 Smith Street, Collingwood, VIC

Too good for the 'hood: Saint Crispin.
Too good for the 'hood: Saint Crispin. Photo: Ken Irwin

Dani Valent

"Oh no, no, no," I thought, reading Saint Crispin's menu. "This is a disaster." The problem was that I wanted to eat everything I was reading. I couldn't rule out anything because it sounded too try-hard or gross or boring. Every item was a big, fat "yes" dotted with button-pushing words such as "scorched cauliflower" and "hand-rolled macaroni" and "miso eggplant". So, it was a long night but a tasty one.

Saint Crispin is a new restaurant from Scott Pickett (ex-The Point, still at The Estelle) and Joe Grbac (ex-Press Club, Arintji). The two chefs bonded because they both worked for Philip Howard at London's two-Michelin-starred The Square. They weren't there at the same time but they came away with a similar sense of modern cuisine built on classic French foundations. Add a decade of home-ground experience and they have strong and heartfelt notions about hospitality with the chops to back it up.

Saint Crispin is their vision writ tasty and appealing. They're in the old Cavallero shopfront, which already had lovely high ceilings and wrought iron gates. The new owners have scrubbed away the scunge and found the building's soul, and they're backed by a jaunty wine list and ace waiters that make the experience hum.

Saint Crispin delivers such delights as the 'sublimely balanced' duck entree.
Saint Crispin delivers such delights as the 'sublimely balanced' duck entree. Photo: Ken Irwin

I really did eat most of the menu but I can pick out a few emblematic dishes. The duck salad centres on pink roasted breast and a succulent terrine of confit leg meat. Foie gras parfait lends luxury and lift. Beetroots both salt-roasted and pickled bring earthiness. Cumquat jelly pipes up with extra zing. The dish is sublimely balanced.

There's heaps of respect for the meat-free spectrum in a gorgeous Jerusalem artichoke and parsnip roast, and in a luxurious vegetarian entree of soft egg, pine mushrooms, parmesan espuma (don't say "foam"!) and savoury mushroom cake. This isn't the only dish dotted with cheffy tricks but the food wears its learning lightly, with technique in the service of lovely produce rather than shoving cleverness at the diner.

Flavours combine with inspired confidence in dishes such as super-slow-cooked veal cheek with an umami blast of miso eggplant and a jus so sticky it may clamp your lips shut.

Pickett and Grbac may have wanted to open a simple neighbourhood restaurant. They failed. Saint Crispin is too good to be that. I think all Melbourne will want to eat here.

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300 Smith Street, Collingwood, VIC

  • Cuisine - Contemporary
  • Prices - Two courses, $50; three courses, $60; seven courses, $120
  • Features - Licensed
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Visa, Mastercard, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Wed-Sun, 6pm-late; Fri-Sun, noon-3pm
  • Author - Dani Valent
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4 comments so far

  • One of the problems I have with visiting these inner-suburban establishments is personal safety of me and my family while walking to and from a venue. I have no doubt that this venue would be worth while visiting and does serve good food. I am not able to be there during the day so that leaves night-time. At night the streets of Melbourne are becoming no go zones. I do go to these places if I can park very close by. However, I will not walk down streets for any distance at night.

    Big Al
    Date and time
    July 15, 2013, 5:25PM
  • By the photo I'm guessing that, like almost every other Fitzroy restaurant, it's so noisy that conversation is impossible? That's a killer for me.

    Date and time
    July 15, 2013, 9:09PM
  • @Big Al - you must be from the outer suburbs. As a Collingwood resident, I feel perfectly safe walking the streets at night. Do the people asking for spare change scare you or are you confusing the inner suburbs with the CBD?
    @Richard - the restaurant's in Collingwood, not Fitzroy. There's quite a big difference ...
    And Dani, while I'm not questioning the food at Saint Crispin, it broke my heart to see the so-called 'scunge' removed from Cavellero's rich, authentic interior. Yet another cookie-cutter design by non-professionals (BTW - I'm a design professional) ...

    Ummm ...
    Date and time
    July 17, 2013, 7:53PM
  • Read the menu for St Crispin and it gives a list of ingredients rather than a list of dishes. We are expected to guess or have to ask what they do with those ingredients to make a dish. Nonsense of the highest order!
    Try "Chocolate, earl grey, milk and ginger" and think of what this might be.
    Or maybe "Pumpkin, pecan, maple and cream cheese". Is it a stack, or a pie filling or what?
    Another example "King salmon, shaved calamari, oyster, squid ink and saffron" is a list of ingredients but leaves the diner guessing. Soup? Stew? Cooked? Raw?
    I think the chef has lost sight of his customer. Call me old fashioned but I'd rather know what dish I'm ordering.

    David Diner
    Date and time
    August 23, 2013, 1:43PM

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