Considering the slings and arrows of 2020, for chef Tobin Kent to be opening his first restaurant on the outskirts of Torquay in November, just two months behind schedule, is a pretty big achievement.
Kent, who has headed up Inverleigh's Gladioli and done time at Brae, will be delivering an eight- to 10-course tasting menu at 12-seat Moonah largely fuelled by produce he will grow on his established two-hectare property. And while this year has been no picnic for producers economically, it has been good for crops.
Kent's dishes will be spare combinations of his home-grown vegetables plus the best produce from the Otways and the bay. He might have a dish of wild mussels with smoked organic Schulz cream and seaweed; a tartare of crayfish with fermented tomatillo and Mount Zero's new-season olive oil, or dry-aged Great Ocean Duck, wood roasted over his property's red gum and served with finger lime.
Close relationships will be a significant driver. All fish will go from boat to plate via independent fishermen, who can bypass Melbourne's markets. Kent says a stint at seafood-focused La Bimba in Apollo Bay established this connection and gave him access to bycatch such as hermit and velvet crabs, something he hopes to replicate here.
Sommelier Amy Tsai, whom Kent met at Brae, will be running the floor and managing a drinks program that steps slightly further than Victoria, but maintains a similar small-scale ethos. Spirits will be supplied by Timboon Distillery, Maidenii and Four Pillars.
Moonah will have three tables on each side of a central, freestanding kitchen pass, all with views through giant windows at twin billabongs that sandwich the restaurant.
Those views mean it's mostly lunches from November 14, Friday-Sunday, with dinners on Saturday at 95 Minya Lane, Connewarre.
Bookings open on October 2; moonahrestaurant.com.au.