The Ripponlea strip that's home to Attica and Firebrand Bakery has a new bar and casual walk-in restaurant. The Clifford's classic cocktails, easygoing wine list and pizza-based menu are a boon for the neighbourhood but the fact that the place is open at all has really got residents talking.
The corner site has been closed for 12 years, since fire flared in the extraction duct above Indian restaurant Bala da Dhaba, gutting the 1922 building owned by Rob Fregon, who also lived in the first-floor apartment upstairs.
Bala da Dhaba reopened across the road and Fregon began the extraordinarily long process of settling an insurance claim, designing and building three apartments above, and then more-or-less handcrafting the corner space which has just opened as The Clifford.
Finally, the brown paper has been peeled from the windows and the concertina doors are wide open to the street. Fregon was a project manager for LendLease; having constructed 100 or so generic restaurants, he wanted to make something with character. The Clifford – named after Fregon's beloved old dog – is certainly unique.
Fregon upcycled most of the fittings, painstakingly restoring vinyl chairs salvaged from the Exhibition Buildings, turning soda siphons into light fittings, and driving to Sydney to collect terrazzo toilet partitions from a renovating surf club.
The feel is quirky and casual with 70 seats set either side of a central bar. The wine and beer list is strong on well-known local labels and the menu goes big on pizza, platters and nibbles – maybe confit garlic king prawns, grilled haloumi with radish salad or, in a nod to the Jewish enclave, pâté with toasted challah.
Open Wed-Sun 5pm-11pm, 56-58 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, 03 9114 2500, theclifford.com.au.