Lume review

'Mussel and its shell'.
'Mussel and its shell'. Photo: Chris Hopkins

226 Coventry Street South Melbourne, Victoria 3205

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Opening hours Wed-Sat 5.30pm-late
Features Accepts bookings, Bar, Licensed, Degustation, Private dining, Vegetarian friendly
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef Elijah Holland
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9690 0185

Restaurants have many tasks to tick off so they can reopen after lockdown. There's food to order, staff to schedule and bookings to wrangle in line with current restrictions. But no eatery has the same to-do list as Lume.

Executive chef, forager, hunter and diver Elijah Holland nips over to Point Gellibrand to dive for sea urchin. His team scatters around Melbourne collecting edible seaweeds and beach succulents. An apprentice is sent to a city fringe forest to gather moss and native mint.

These foraged ingredients are key to Holland's iteration of this fine dining restaurant, previously helmed by culinary chemist Shaun Quade (now taking the US by storm with vegan cheese) and John Rivera (wowing Melbourne with Filipino-influenced sorbets).

'Trip to the Bass Strait coast' (kelp parfait, wakame sponge and sea-water foam dessert).
'Trip to the Bass Strait coast' (kelp parfait, wakame sponge and sea-water foam dessert). Photo: Chris Hopkins

Restaurant owner Harry Erez Shahak owns a food manufacturing company; you might call Lume his folly if it wasn't so compelling and fun.

The service experience is overseen with warmth, intelligence and intuition by restaurant manager Az Azman.

Drinks are exceptional - make mine a Grampians, the Victorian version of a martini with local gin, olive and pine. You can come in just for drinks and semi-secret bar snacks as an alternative to the $195-plus dining experience.

Elijah Holland is the third chef to helm the South Melbourne fine diner.
Elijah Holland is the third chef to helm the South Melbourne fine diner. Photo: Chris Hopkins

But if you have dollars and hours for a degustation, the full shebang is an exhilarating culinary jaunt around Victoria. Each dish is built around an ecosystem and tells a story of the environment and the endemic and introduced species that thrive there. 

Port Phillip Bay is represented by a mussel, steamed with kelp, seasoned with samphire and placed into an edible shell of potato flour and squid ink brushed with kelp oil so it glistens like a just-washed-up mollusc.

Also representing our bay is an abalone tart with an impossibly delicate pastry shell and a puree of "unwanted wakame", an invasive seaweed that we should eat like maniacs to give the local plants a chance. The only seasoning is the sea herbs themselves.

The wild abalone tart.
The wild abalone tart. Photo: Chris Hopkins

It's all like this: lyrical, loving investigations of forests and flats in layered dishes that surprise, provoke and please.

Wild-shot sambar deer with earthy swedes and mountain herbs stalks the High Country.  Marron in lemon myrtle bisque takes you to Kangaroo Island. A crazy-brave dessert reconstructs wild Bass Strait in kelp parfait, wakame sponge and sea-water foam.

Holland offers a highly-crafted homage to a planet we should live on more thoughtfully, but you're also allowed to love it because it's delicious.

Marron and a salt marsh.
Marron and a salt marsh. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Rating: Four stars (out of five)