New life is stirring in Melbourne's inner north

Biji Dining will be serving contemporary Indian dishes in Carlton North.
Biji Dining will be serving contemporary Indian dishes in Carlton North. Photo: Jana Longhurst

Restaurants and cafes have not yet been granted the green light to fully reopen but life is stirring regardless.

Harry Mangat​, the former IDES chef behind roving contemporary Indian pop-up Biji Dining, is taking up residence at Little Andorra (555 Nicholson Street, Carlton North) until December 24. Andorra owner Luke Bresnan will continue running front of house, while Mangat offers twice nightly set menus Wednesday to Saturday, and collaborative lunches with guest chefs on Sundays.

Expect snacks such as oysters with coconut and curry leaf, and more substantial ghee-roasted potato, coconut curry, salt bush, pickled chilli and onion bhaji. Bookings are open for November 4 via littleandorra.com.au and bijidining.com.au. Until then, Mangat will offer five-course takeaway menus for $55 a head at weekends.

Biji Dining is popping up at Little Andorra.
Biji Dining is popping up at Little Andorra. Photo: Jana Longhurst

Last week, former Vue de Monde chef Paolo Arlotta​ swung open doors (for takeaway) to Riso, his sustainability-focused vegetarian Italian eatery at 60 Rose Street, Fitzroy. The venue, beside the Rose Street Artist Markets, was formerly Young Bloods Diner. With retractable doors and an open rooftop area, Riso will be able to seat 45 patrons in three plant-strewn, aquamarine spaces.

For now, Arlotta is offering eggplant, pesto and mozzarella panini and pastries by day, and $50-a-head finish-at-home tasting menus on Friday and Saturday nights. Past dishes included focaccia with zucchini escabeche, ricotta and onions and an olive oil sponge with hazelnut, white chocolate and mango. risodiner.com. 

On Smith Street, Nourish is the long-delayed nutrient-dense cafe from a veteran operator Freddy Raftellis. The founder of Westgarth's Gypsy Hideout (RIP) has been operating venues regionally but, inspired by a health kick, returned to open this vibrant Smith Street space serving juices, salads, raw cakes and balanced macro bowls with ingredients such as coconut chicken with fresh vegetables, edamame, alfalfa and almond soy dressing, all approved by a dietitian.

Slated to open in April, it's better late than never, and good for shifting those post-COVID kilos. 118 Smith Street, Collingwood. nourishcollingwood.com.