Anchor review

Anchor in Elwood is a step up for bayside restaurateur Rosalin Virnik.
Anchor in Elwood is a step up for bayside restaurateur Rosalin Virnik. Photo: Nicole Cleary

133 Ormond Rd Elwood, VIC 3184

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Opening hours Tue-Sat 6pm-10pm
Features Accepts bookings, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard

Anchor is a new restaurant from Rosalin Virnik who until recently ran Brighton's petite French-focused Curly Whiskers. It's in the Elwood site vacated by Dandelion and even though the cuisine has shifted from Vietnamese to Mediterranean, there's a similar upbeat, invested neighbourhood feeling.

Every suburb hankers for a restaurant that offers a bit extra, able to turn easy catch-ups into fabulous meals, and adept at facilitating glowing special occasions. Anchor is on the way to playing this important role for its bayside community.

It's a big step up for Rosalin Virnik, a passionate gourmet who grew disillusioned with her career in commercial food production and launched a new life as restaurateur at the end of 2016. But Curly Whiskers was a 26-seat bijou chamber. Anchor, licensed for 80, is a thrumming beast in comparison.

A skewer of paprika-marinated beef.
A skewer of paprika-marinated beef. Photo: Eddie Jim

Every restaurant is struggling for staff but given industry-wide issues, Anchor is doing well, juddery occasionally but mostly skipping briskly, handsomely in a swirly December breeze.

The food expands from French foundations into broader Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. A sincere focus on excellent produce means the flavours are true and the kitchen's arts are about coaxing into becoming rather than applying any artifice.

Lamb cigars – made with crepes rather than brik pastry – are a gently spiced balance of French and north African. Ocean trout is cured, furled and served with appealing sumac-sprinkled red onion.

Curly Whiskers' signature scallops have sailed to Elwood.
Curly Whiskers' signature scallops have sailed to Elwood. Photo: Eddie Jim

Some Curly Whiskers' signatures have made the journey. Glorious grilled scallops with beetroot vinaigrette and champagne cream are as pretty as they are tasty, and confit duck is technically adept, falling from the bone into a red wine sauce.

Quality beef is paprika-marinated, skewered and flamed, then brushed with housemade toum (garlic emulsion). It perfectly finds the balance between BBQ-simple and restaurant-elegant.

The baklava is inspired: shredded pastry is formed into a bowl shape and layered with roasted nuts, honey syrup and ice-cream. It's created with integrity and reaches for joy, encapsulating the Anchor project in a series of delicious bites.

Bowl-shaped baklava.
Bowl-shaped baklava. Photo: Eddie Jim

Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five).