Navi's new cocktail lounge in Yarraville is fine-dining in bite-sized form

Fine-diner Navi has transformed a vacant beautician shop next door into a more casual bar for walk-in guests, while ...
Fine-diner Navi has transformed a vacant beautician shop next door into a more casual bar for walk-in guests, while still serving its high-octane brand of food in snack form. Photo: Ed Sloane

Yarraville fine-diner Navi has added a no-reservations bar next door, serving snacks such as duck baklava and waste-conscious cocktails in a brutalist-inspired space that was previously a beautician.

"It's really exciting," says chef and owner Julian Hills. "It's what I'd dreamt about 15 years ago when opening a restaurant. It's happened quicker than I expected, but to see Navi keep moving forward, it's nice to see it happen."

The 18-person lounge, connected to Navi's dining room by a concrete archway, completes Hills' vision to have a more casual spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks, or a quicker taste of his Australian-meets-Japanese eight-course menus.

The Grapes on Gamon cocktail and duck baklava with tamarillo chutney at Navi Lounge.
The Grapes on Gamon cocktail and duck baklava with tamarillo chutney at Navi Lounge. Photo: Ed Sloane

It's also another option for those who are unable to get a table in the small restaurant, which has had to run a waitlist for bookings almost since day one back in 2018.

Bar snacks in Navi Lounge will change often but might include potato beignets filled with fermented green tomato custard, or flash-fried baby octopus and nasturtium.

Reducing waste is a focus across both food and drinks, but it's an exercise in fun, not frugality. Fish skins dusted in salt and sherry vinegar powder give crisps a run for their money while a Tamarillo Sour cocktail utilises the syrup left over after the kitchen poachesĀ the fruit for tamarillo chutney.

An eye-catching dark orange banquette occupies one corner of the space, while a high bar of handcrafted and reclaimed timber seats 10. Here, you get to see drinks boss Elise West (ex Bar Liberty and Atlas Dining) working her magic on the spritzy Callistemon Blush featuring bottlebrush cordial or a buttered rum drink lifted by native thyme.

Once you order a few plates, some of the famed house sourdough that powered the restaurant's lockdown bakery, and a chocolate and miso torta for dessert, you can easily make a night of it.

If all that only further whets your appetite for a seat in Navi's dining room, the good news is eight more spots have been added in this renovation.

Open Wed-Fri 5pm-late, Sat 2pm-late

83A-83B Gamon Street, Yarraville, restaurantnavi.com.au