Tanaka Community Grocer duo open Fenton Food & Wine in Carlton

Soft-boiled egg, fennel and olive salad, creme fraiche and cured trout from Fenton Food & Wine's breakfast menu.
Soft-boiled egg, fennel and olive salad, creme fraiche and cured trout from Fenton Food & Wine's breakfast menu. Photo: Esin Ustundag

Nesbert Kagonda and Ruby Clark, the team behind Carlton's Tanaka Community Grocer, have opened a neighbourhood bistro, Fenton Food & Wine, just up the road.

Chef Lubna Bahashwan is cooking the food, most of which is sourced from a share farm in Clarkefield, just north of Melbourne. Meat and eggs come from Kagonda's parents' farm in South Gippsland.

"We write the menu as we come out of the garden," says Kagonda.

Co-owner Nesbert Kagonda.
Co-owner Nesbert Kagonda. Photo: Esin Ustundag

At the moment that means Friday night "harvest dinners" and weekend breakfasts are stacked with broccoli, fennel, herbs, beetroot and radicchio.

"Fennel is definitely our hero at the moment but you always come across something unexpected," he says. "This week we found pine mushrooms and slippery jacks and nettles."

Bahashwan, who has Yemeni and Japanese heritage, is drawing on multiple influences for her menus. "It's very creative, open, experimental and fun," she says. Some of that fennel is braised with yoghurt and harissa for the dinner menu; it turns up for breakfast as part of a celery and olive salad with egg, cured trout and creme fraiche.

"I have a no-waste policy so we make use of everything," says Bahashwan. "I just used carrot tops to make a green carrot cake."

The 40-seat bistro features recycled materials; barn doors hang on the wall "to give it that farm feel," says Kagonda.

Like Tanaka, which launched in 2020, Fenton has a focus on social impact, with a portion of profits ploughed into community projects.

Open dinner Fri 6pm-11pm; breakfast Fri-Sun 8am-3pm. Extended hours coming.

158 Rathdowne Street, Carlton, fentonfoodandwine.com