There's a large photograph of fresh sardines above the fireplace at this casual waterside bar and restaurant in Paynesville, East Gippsland. There are sardines on the menu – fresh from the port at Lakes Entrance – brined, hot-smoked, then served on a crumpet as pâté. And the little silver-coloured fish also lend their name to the new kitchen from former Vue de Monde head chef Mark Briggs and his partner Victoria Hollingsworth, who leads the front-of-house team.
Sardine Eatery & Bar sits in a new building looking over the water towards Raymond Island. The fitout is modern and beachy, with white walls, blue trim, blondwood furniture and polished concrete floors. There are 30 seats inside and a further 30 outside.
The menu is based on what Briggs' suppliers bring through the front door. "There is so much good produce in the area," he says. "The seafood from Lakes (Entrance) is spectacular." There could be flathead pan-roasted in butter served on pearl barley orzotto with samphire, or, when Bass Strait bugs are in season, they might be served with grapefruit and rocket grown in nearby Lindenow.
While Briggs likes the produce to do the talking, he doesn't hide his mastery of modern fine-dining technique, so expect beautifully finished dishes based on a lifetime perfecting technique.
Open Tue-Thu noon-9pm; Fri-Sun 8.30am-9pm.
Shop 3, 65-69a Esplanade, Paynesville, 03 5156 7135, sardineeaterybar.com