Posts Categorized: Fitzroy Street

Croce via di Stasio – the beautiful bar next door


It’s 4.38am. My mouth is dry. My head is sore and I have hangover insomnia (as I call it). Last night I dropped in for a quick bowl of pasta at the new Bar di Stasio. And that’s where I went wrong. There has never been any such thing as a quick bowl of pasta at Cafe di Stasio nor will there ever be such as thing at Bar di Stasio, which last week celebrated its 25th year. I know that about half of you out there are gong to disagree with me here as di Stasio is the kind of place that polarizes people. Even before I’d met (and I should declare been watered) by Ronnie di Stasio or Mallory Wall (pictured at the bar above) I was a big fan of the restaurant. And for me it just gets better by the visit. It’s starts off with the set lunch which I remember as far back as $15 for two courses and a glass of wine. It’s now $35 but you will never get out of there without a mugging by the charm of restaurant’s old school Italian waiters complete in their white jackets, black bowties and, sometimes, dyed black hair. It’s insidious. Perhaps it starts with a glass on impeccably presented Campari ($13). An Aperol Spritz ($15). Or maybe a prosecco ($11). Kerching! Watch out for the bottled water. And that second glass of wine. The caffè corretto (espresso with a shot of grappa) is mandatory. $35 is now $75. And I’ve started drinking so I have to finish off as much as I can from the bar. In possible the most aesthetically designed bar I’ve ever been too – a collaboration between Ronnie, architects and artists – and it happened again. And since I started writing this post it has happened again and again. And again. I sat at the monolithic marble bar imported in two slabs (from Sicily as is the original bar next door) and sealed together in a near invisible paper thin seam. Behind me over the entrance is a fire engine red Callum Mortan sculpture appearing to give structural integrity to the single fronted space. The pale rendered walls are finished to a polish with no addition of paint. It’s just expensive detail in a solid brick and plaster wall. It makes for quality and solidity. It gives you the feeling that… Read more »

A Mexican Table fights for Fitzroy St

There I am, sitting opposite someone who has had more botox than expected and a smooth, smooth forehead. It’s the polar opposite to the chef to my left who has the hairline of Mel Gibson, the intensity of Russell Crowe and a brow so furrowed with concentration that it makes Gordon Ramsay look baby-faced. We’re in the St Kilda combat zone of Fitzroy Street, defined on the North by Grey St and the South by Acland St. It’s not a pretty place with some blaming the residents of the notorious Gatwick Hotel boarding house for dragging the area down. Certainly the wrong sort of crowd is attracted to this strip of dubious late night bars that are the drinking holes of last resort, that may or may not have something to do with the blood I’ve frequently seen being scrubbed off the street on Monday mornings. This strip isn’t a happy place to be for many a restaurateur. If fact St Kilda isn’t a happy place for all but a few operators, having lost its status as a destination to the Melbourne CBD and arriviste suburbs such Fitzroy and Collingwood. In fact you could argue St Kilda is broken bad with a council distracted by the future of the Triangle and festivals. Amid this chaos, a few years back, chef owner James Blackman opened The Table not too far up the street from Di Stasio (which is about to open a next door bar) and a planned Asian bar concept from David Zhou, the owner of the Oriental Tea Houses and David’s in Prahran. Blackman slowly has been building a reputation for Mexican-style food. It’s largely been ignored by the established paper-based food guides and reviews (probably because of the lamentable service) but has a health 82% score on Urbanspoon at the time of writing (despite the negative reviews generated by Scoopon deals). So what do you get for your money? The wine list is a handful of whites and reds and a single rosé, not inspiring but perfectly quaffable (as are the margaritas which I moved to). In terms of dollar per hour a lot and that’s because the service is slow, very slow. But once the food arrives it is a terrific surprise. We began with the Oyster Shooter Tomato & Mezcal Consommé, Cream Fraiche Ice Cream & Manchego Tuile ($9.5). The oyster itself looks like an alien floating… Read more »