5 Gamon St Seddon, VIC 3011
|Opening hours||Mon Closed, Tue-Fri 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM, Sat-Sun 9:00 AM – 11:00 PM|
|Features||Licensed, Accepts bookings, Outdoor seating, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9362 7333|
The last decade was all about cafes. Cafes that serve dinner, healthy cafes, cafes that serve just coffee and a few bespoke pastries, and daytime cafes, maybe with a licence. Now, it seems, Melbourne is beset with cafe fatigue, and businesses are dodging the four-letter word "cafe", steering things in the equally broad direction of "fast-casual". And, if you insist on categorising them, then, this might be the decade of the: diner, canteen, or bar-eatery.
The cushy inner-west suburb of Seddon is keeping pace. Andy Smith, owner of Seddon cafe Le Chien – known for its longevity (more than a decade), bold wall mural, lap-topping lingerers, and British-accented menu – has stepped out of the cafe genre, teamed up with Denis Lucey (Bottega) and relaunched Le Chien as Luxsmith. The business is still open all day, every day, but has been completely reinvented with a sparse mod, semi-industrial look (with pretty tiled bar and wood-panelled ceiling), and jaunty menu of south-east Asian share plates.
High bench-type tables with stools positioned along the window, looking on to Gamon Street, make a fine prop for a few drinks and a snack, such as salt-and-chilli school prawns and a long-neck Melbourne Bitter.
Equally you could settle in there or at one of the timber-top tables with blondwood school-style chairs in the middle of the long room. Nineties hip-hop (more Grandmaster Flash than NWA), played with volume, might add ebullience of an evening, when the menu invites diners to build a meal from small, medium and large parts.
Two people should look at ordering a few small plates, one medium (at least) and one large. (Which squeaks in at about $30 a head, without drinks.) The menu admirably balances popular dishes with quiet achievers, so you can stick with those you know and/or dip a toe in lesser-known waters. Spongy sweetcorn fritters with a tangy chilli chutney will please all comers, as will crisp-fried chicken wings laced with a sweet chilli-soy sauce.
Then, there's roasted marrow, served in the bone and drizzled with a darkly sweet master stock reduction. Slide the rich and unctuous marrow on to a pert prawn cracker for delicious, crisp-fatty mouthfuls.
A medium dish of sweet potato in coconut milk goes well as a sweetish element of a meal made up of, say, whole fried fish (perhaps baby snapper), its white and juicy flesh under a handful of rough-chopped herbs, and sides of steamed rice and garlicky greens. As a stand-alone, though, it doesn't really hold up. Once through the impressive topping of sweet potato chip curls, the dominant coconut cream flavour left me looking for something else – a grounding spice or lifting zest.
By day there are new-school banh mi (egg and bacon, and grilled beef) and congee (rice porridge), and a handful of Asian-inspired brekkies, such as Vietnamese omelette or hotcakes with grilled pineapple.
From morning to night, Luxsmith's perky drinks list and easy-eating, sparky food is a boon for Seddonists.
Do … Try to keep a straight face reading the narrative-driven drinks list.
Don't … Actually don't try, laugh out loud as intended.
Vibe ... Concrete cool, casual with class.