A crop of new hotels is injecting energy into Melbourne's bar and restaurant scene.
W Hotel Melbourne has opened Lollo by Adam D'Sylva and Curious bar, next month Ovolo South Yarra launches Lona Misa from Shannon Martinez and Ian Curley, and Next Hotel Melbourne is about to unveil La Madonna, from chefs Daniel Natoli (Rina's, Neptune Food & Wine) and Adrian Li (Saigon Sally, Tokyo Tina), at the 80 Collins development.
Named for Natoli's expletive when he first laid eyes on the space, La Madonna had its soft opening on March 29.
Natoli has Sicilian roots while Li's family is from Hong Kong. They'll combine those cultures and their diverse kitchen experiences in a boundary-pushing menu that runs from breakfast through to dinner.
You'll be able to start the day with the likes of fried morcilla (blood sausage), potato dauphinoise, roast tomatoes and toast fried in morcilla fat or boozy bircher muesli with dried fruit plumped in spirits that have been barrel-aged in-house.
Later in the day, the kitchen will be sending out dishes such as a stracciatella-stuffed ox heart tomato compressed in white soy; dry-aged duck served with whatever vegetable is at its most delicious, and hand-rolled cavatelli with black sesame and Skull Island prawns.
Sited on level 3 of the 255-room hotel, La Madonna seats about 130 people across the main dining area, lounges, black marble bar and eight-seat, semi-closed Barrel Room. There's lots of glistening marble and handsome leather, but the eye is drawn to a suspended ceramic installation by artist and geologist Jodie Gray, inspired by Sicily's Aeolian Island shipwreck ceramics, bells and olive oil pots.
Wines come courtesy of smaller-scale producers and sustainable winemakers, both near and far, and Creative spirits distributors Proof & Company is responsible for The Barrel Room, where Phil Smithers is barrel-ageing spirits, cocktails and herbal liquors, along with fish sauce and balsamic vinegar for the kitchen.
If you're sleeping over, there's a revolving list of pre-bottled aged cocktails in the mini bar. The entire menu is also available for in-room dining during restaurant opening hours, with plans to offer pizza around the clock, too.
Downstairs, tiny Ingresso cafe is already open from morning coffee to aperitivo hour with pastries, antipasti and the signature porchetta and Hainanese chicken-inspired rooster rolls.
Open breakfast Mon-Fri 7am-10am, Sat-Sun 7am-11am; lunch daily noon-3pm; dinner daily 6pm to late; bar Mon-Thu 5pm-1am; Fri-Sun noon-late.
Next Hotel, level 3, 103 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, lamadonnamelbourne.com