THEME: SILVER LININGS
Diners making their way into Quat Quatta tend to follow a script that doesn't actually exist. "Wow, what a spot! I can't believe this is here. Can you keep it open forever?" Oh, and always: "Those hedges!"
Quat Quatta is an impressive Victorian mansion that's been a wedding venue for 50 years. COVID delivered a "nup" to big nuptials so it's now open to the public for the first time under the moniker Summer House. The pandemic sucks but there's no guilt in enjoying its silver linings.
Built as a home in 1890, and subsequently doing duty as a Cobb and Co carriage stop, hospital and hostel, Quat Quatta (named after a frog call or maybe an Aboriginal term for "good camping place") has a parquetry ballroom, marbled veranda and sky-high hedges; even the car park is grand. Seating is in the courtyard and the veranda that wraps around the building. It's a charming setting, made more special by the hidden-secret feeling.
The menu is concise, approachable and modern international; wine and beer is patriotically all-Vic.
Oysters and a spritz are an easy "yes". Crab and prawn brioche buns are saucy three-bite winners. Ocean trout nicoise salad is fresh and vibrant with the tart kick of capers. Vietnamese-style grilled chicken comes with lively green papaya slaw. There's a wagyu burger with fried chat potatoes and pickles.
It's all generous with honest flavours: there's catering-kitchen consistency plus the finesse that's possible when cooking to order.
Quat Quatta hasn't been idle through 2020. When COVID hit, six staff spent 70 hours a week for four weeks on the phone shifting weddings and calming couples. The calls continued as the months ground on and the ground kept shifting.
The team launched take-home meals, selling food to past customers and Ripponlea locals, and donating meals (almost 20,000 and counting) to international students, hospitals and community groups.
While enjoying staff lunch on the pretty premises, the notion of Summer House arose. The plan is to keep it going through to March but as the script might as well say, "Can't you keep it going forever?"
Quat Quatta Summer House 17 Quat Quatta Avenue, Ripponlea, 9528 6483, quatquatta.com.au
Open Thu-Fri 4pm-10pm, Sat-Sun noon-4pm, 6pm-10pm
Prices Small: $14-$18; Large: $24-$28; Sweet: $13
Summer EXP By Sunda
From December 5, Sunda's take-home meal service is re-launching as an Italian-Asian summer pop-up in the Windsor Hotel site that recently housed Lekker. Lockdown DIY favourites now plated up by chef Nabil Ansari include burrata with nasi lemak condiments and prawn toast with red curry cocktail sauce.
1 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9633 6065, sundaexp.com.au
Lakeside at Carousel
Caterers Food & Desire have turned one of their function venues into a restaurant for summer, with a menu big on salads, snacks and picnic box spreads. Bring the fam or friends for the fish 'n' chips box for four which includes battered fish, calamari, prawns and large chips for $92.
22 Aughtie Drive, Albert Park, lakesideatcarousel.com.au
Fine dining chef Julian Hills from Navi developed a strong following for his sourdough during lockdown. He's reopening his Yarraville restaurant but shifting the baked goods to a new beer garden venture with the owners of Hop Nation. Fermentation is the focus: think snapper crudo and sourdough, Reuben sandwich with pickles, and toasted koji parfait.
561 Barkly Street, West Footscray, zymurgywest.com.au