Experienced southside cafe operators MJ Daffy, Jim Marinis and Brett Hobbs (Glovers Station, St Martin's) have opened Carter Lovett in Elsternwick.
Their first day-night venue feels rather grown up and fills a gap on fast-improving Glen Huntly Road: locals are already piling in for approachable contemporary-classic food and drinks.
Daffy dug into the State Library archives for inspiration and encountered two female entrepreneurs from 1880s Elsternwick.
Miss Carter, a draper who ran her business from the restaurant's corner premises, and Miss Lovett, a florist who worked in a Tudor building opposite, have been honoured with soft drapery, a dramatic floral installation and a menu that nods to Victoriana with dishes like corned beef, steamed lemon pudding and ox tongue cheeseburger.
The daytime menu covers off eggs and extras with aplomb (the eggs florentine is a paragon). There's also a summer salad with grilled greens and poached egg, and the coffee list includes a French press (two cups for a neat $4).
Lunch or dinner might mean barley risotto with pea and nettles, or roast chicken with green beans and thyme gravy.
It's classy without being intimidating. "We don't want diners to have to ask our waitstaff what sauce gribiche is," says MJ Daffy, of their jargon-free carte.
New businesses often struggle with service, but the Carter Lovett crew has had the advantage of schooling up at St Martin's in Brighton (Glovers Station has long since been sold). They've come to 3184 and hit the ground running.
One of the most appealing aspects of the venue is the as-you-wish approach to afternoons. Will 4pm mean tea and cake, pickled mussels and rose, a coffee negroni or indeed a progression of all these? It's yours to decide. I wonder what Miss Carter would do.
Carter Lovett is open Sun-Wed 7am-4pm, Thu-Sat 7am-10pm at 329 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick, carterlovett.com.au.