92 Smith Street Collingwood, Victoria 3066
|Opening hours||Wed-Sun 6pm-late|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Degustation, Events, Gluten-free options, Groups, Late night, Licensed, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
Last we visited Ides, we were elbowing into a packed-out Persillade and grateful for a seat. For 18 months, the pop-up by Attica sous chef Peter Gunn was the hottest ticket in town – for good reason. Gunn originally set out on a mission to test his own strengths outside the temple of native Australian cuisine that is Attica. In doing so, he started a tiny revolution.
The Kiwi chef, who is otherwise pretty hesitant to get whimsical, gathered about him a team of volunteers for monthly dinners where all lines were blurred. His motto was "In pursuit of creation, not perfection". Chefs served dishes. Diners were asked for critiques. It was fourth-wall-dismantling dining, and one of the most memorable experiences of 2015.
Now, with the backing of restaurant visionaries David Mackintosh and Peter Bartholomew (they who tapped MoVida's Frank Camorra, Rosa Mitchell and Lee Ho Fook's Victor Liong), Ides the pop-up has become Ides the Smith Street restaurant.
Gunn has upped the comfort factor but he's kept that energy alive.
The old Lee Ho Fook site is unrecognisable. Luxe in all the right ways, it's a felt-panelled cocoon where glassware twinkles and a plating station draws the eye. For that you can thank Grant Cheyne, the Spice Temple Melbourne designer whose love of targeted lighting means everything beyond your leather-clad table vanishes into a smoky sea. It's mostly classic with a sharpened edge – a chip fryer portrait glows resplendent on a wall and Outkast is setting the pace.
Ides' manner of flipping the script on fine dining is subtle but astute. It's a tight six courses, plus bread. No secret amuse. No pre-pre-dessert petit fours. That's about two hours, and in 2016, that feels exactly enough.
That bread, malty and hot with a peanut butter-butter (your late-night shame brought to savoury life) arrives in the hands of a puff-chested chef. The chefs-as-waiters is a big thing here and it's a dorky-excellent touch.
Booze is the charge of Gunn's longtime ally Raffaele Mastrovincenzo who shows no less fondness here for the natural and cutting edge wines, sakes and craft beers, than he did at Kappo.
Gunn's plan to keep the energy high is to keep the menu evolving, so, while I can recommend the excellence of Jauma's peachy, lightly tingling Peek-a-Boo Pet Nat to start, your dishes are anyone's guess.
Our opening gambit is destined for tweaking – a complex union of a goat's curd-filled fig razzed up with toasted hazelnuts, a savoury-sweet coriander-pear puree and smoked herring roe battles a mandarin oil frenemy.
But a pan-fried tranche of line-caught red gurnard is bold, and beautiful: a firm-fleshed thing tingling with a fiery pumpkin and chorizo sauce, atop toasty fushimi chillies, with soy bean garnish.
Gunn's broth work, a highlight of previous Ides pop-ups when he created a smoky, deep and complex consomme from barbecued fennel tonkotsu is evident again in a dark, peppery, sweet and acidic broth of charred-and-fresh carrot, poured table side around chickpeas, samphire and citrus-poached octopus. Doubly good with Mastrovincenzo's Ryan and the Beaster Bunny Evil Twin saison, a yeasty calming force.
Eagle-eyed eaters might wonder at the lack of saltbush and lemon myrtle. But if Gunn's time at Attica has imbued him with the qualities of leadership – and he's captaining what seems to be a happy crew – and a faith in bending the rules, his food philosophy is far from Shewry's.
The complexity of that fish yields to the armchair comfort of a luxurious chicken thigh: first given the confit treatment, skin on, then coated in panko crumbs and baked to give soft-as-butter flesh and a double crunch crust of crackling and crumb. Chestnut puree earths it while clove dusted kohlrabi is a crunchy, refreshing fascinator.
What Gunn and his team bring to the table is dynamic, risky dining. A wedge of pineapple-melon (all honeydew texture, with tropical funk) bejewelled with finger lime and a saffron white chocolate sauce is the antithesis of safe, and squarely divides the room. But who wants safe, when risky gifts us great?
Pro tip Sunday fundays are starting soon – one-day pop-up concepts in their own space (hello, hotel buffet day).
Go-to dish Charred carrot broth with octopus and chickpeas.
Like this? Another pop-up that's downed roots is team Nora, doing contemporary Thai. 156 Elgin Street, Carlton.