St Kilda's dining stocks are rising. The freshly renovated Hotel Esplanade has queues around the block. Captain Baxter has installed new cheffing talent. And Circa, Melbourne's perennially hatted, great incubator of talent, which closed last year, opens this week as Prince Dining Room, a more casual being, but one with high ambitions regardless.
The late Circa, which shaped the careers of chefs such as Michael Lambie, Matt Wilkinson, Philippa Sibley and Andrew McConnell, has shifted from "special occasion" restaurant to an accessible dining proposition with a local, sustainable and fire-driven bent.
Executive chef Dan Hawkins (ex-Stokehouse) and head chef Dan Cooper (ex-Garden State Hotel) are pushing a coiffed but casual menu of flatbreads topped with blistered tomatoes, zucchini and ashed goat's cheese, raw kingfish with macadamia cream, Flinders Island lamb skewers razzed by fermented green chilli sauce, and roasted carrots dressed cannibalistically in their own tops-turned-harissa.
IF Architecture's Iva Foschia, who once worked at Circa and reimagined Attica and Cutler and Co., has opened up the room, already stunning with its big French windows.
She has united late-1940s and early '50s Deco design by juxtaposing luxe stone staircases and marble tables with wooden tables and fibreglass booths. Portraits by photographer Rennie Ellis star on the walls.
Not all in? Drinks and snacks can be had at the sweeping central bar.
2 Acland Street, St Kilda, 03 9536 1122, theprince.com.au/prince-dining-room