The Christmas issue

Our December issue is out now, featuring Paul Carmichael's recipes for a Caribbean Christmas, silly season cocktails and more.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller before 28th December, 2016 for your chance to win a share of $50,000!

Gourmet digital

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad or Android tablet.

Chilled recipes for summer

When the mercury is rising, step away from the oven. These recipes are either raw, chilled or frozen and will cool you down in a snap.

Shark Bay Wild Scampi Caviar

Bright blue scampi roe is popping up on menus across Australia. Here's why it's so special.

Decadent chocolate dessert recipes for Christmas

13 of our most decadent chocolate recipes to indulge guests with this Christmas.

What the GT team is cooking on Christmas Day

We don't do things by halves in the Gourmet office. These are the recipes we'll be cooking on the big day.

Sydney's best dishes 2016

For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia asking two questions: What dishes are making waves right now? What flavours will take us into the next half-century? Sydney provided 16 answers.

Paul Carmichael's great cake

"Great cake, also known in Barbados as black cake or rum cake, is a variation of British Christmas cake that's smashed with rum and falernum syrup," says Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. "This festive cake varies from household to household but they all have two things in common: tons of dried fruit and rum. It's a cake that should be started at least a month out so the fruit can marinate in the booze. Start this recipe up to five weeks ahead to macerate the fruit and baste the cake."

Mango recipes

Nothing says summer like mangoes. Go beyond the criss-cross cuts - bake a mango-filled meringue loaf with lime mascarpone, start off the day with a sweet coconut quinoa pudding with sticky mango, or toss it through a spicy warm weather Thai salad.

Summer feta recipes

Whether in a fresh salad or seasonal seafood dish, feta's creamy tang can be used to add interest to a variety of summer dishes.

Anchovy, Melbourne restaurant review

Chef-owner Thi Le (right), co-owner Jia-yen Lee (centre) and manager Ted James.

Chef-owner Thi Le (right), co-owner Jia-yen Lee (centre) and manager Ted James.

Anchovy has hit its stride and, writes Michael Harden, there’s promise of more exciting times ahead. Blood pudding ahoy.

There have always been plenty of reasons to be cheerful about Anchovy. Take the Vietnamese blood pudding, for example. A quite brilliant calling card of a dish, it's been on the menu since the restaurant opened in Richmond about six months ago. It brings together a whole dance troupe of textures and flavours in just a couple of bites - the rich, custard-like texture of the pudding, the flavour of Vietnamese mint, rice-paddy herb, Shaoxing wine and star anise, the edges slightly caramelised from the pan, all tucked into a crunchy baby cos leaf with pickled ginger and Vietnamese mint tossed with a pickled ginger dressing. It's all over pretty quickly, but the flavour punch is powerful and lingering, the balance admirable. It could feasibly be a reason for a return visit in itself.

This cracker of a snack not only signals owner-chef Thi Le's talent, but also illustrates what Anchovy is all about - a modern, finessed approach to Vietnamese food, deploying carefully sourced ingredients and both Asian and European techniques. Modern Australian, if you really must. Eat there today and you may wonder why more of this hasn't been done sooner.

Le's CV - Universal, Cumulus Inc, Supernormal, The Town Mouse - promised great things, yet in the early weeks there were misfires alongside the numerous success stories on the Anchovy menu, particularly when it came to the larger dishes. A goat curry with taro, for example was heavy-handed and stodgy compared with, say, the clever light simplicity that could make a plate of stir-fried garlic shoots seasoned with cumin and chilli salt into something revelatory, particularly when served with a super-cold beer on a hot day. There was a dish of beef intercostals, meanwhile, in which the flavour of the meat was lost in the sugary onslaught of a sticky glaze.

And so in the beginning Anchovy came across as uneven, one of those places where diners in the know would limit themselves to the smaller dishes, leaving the others for the unwary. Combined with the spareness of the shopfront dining room - plain white walls, undressed timber-topped bar and concrete-topped tables, lit by a collection of dangling exposed Edison bulbs - it appeared slightly underdone.

Six months in, however, Le has more than matched the potential flagged by her CV and some of those brilliant smaller dishes. It may be that she's more familiar with the strengths and limitations of her small and somewhat elderly kitchen - she now delivers a line-up of dishes that are exhilarating, surprising, original and clever, from freshly shucked oysters with Kampot pepper through to rum parfait with ginger-beer granita.

A few of the original menu's dishes have survived. There's the blood sausage, thankfully, and the garlic shoots, plus raw beef dressed in a perfectly judged mixture of sesame and mustard oils, fish sauce, lime juice and tamarind, topped with pickled and deep-fried shallots and teamed with rice crackers. But there's plenty of new stuff, too. It's all worthy of attention and, as the breadth of Le's repertoire becomes more apparent, we find another layer of potential to the story - a "what'll she do next?" sense of anticipation.

Some of the best stuff is still found among the smaller dishes. Beef crisps - thinly sliced pieces of girello brushed with a mix of curry spice, kecap manis, fish sauce and chilli, then dehydrated and dusted to winning effect with a commercial curry spice mix - are nothing short of addictive. They're a truly great bar snack and a great match with a cocktail like the Pandan Collins, a mix of gin, pandan syrup, soda and lemon.

Anchovy does a good line in theme-appropriate cocktails based on classics (a Julep tweaked with grilled pineapple, say), and the short list changes almost as regularly as the menu. The cocktails are part of a two-page drinks list that, for all its modesty, nonetheless manages to cover a lot of ground. About 16 wines are listed, a mix of reasonably priced Old and New World labels that includes Australian rosé, Spanish tempranillo and Austrian grüner veltliner, and a short list of beer that sees Chang Lager sitting alongside a few Aussie craft staples such as Red Hill Brewery's Scotch Ale. The decent tea list features clever additions like Vietnamese iced coffee made with sweetened condensed milk, and a house-spiced ginger ale.

That pared-back quality is in sync with the clean-lines-bordering-on-ascetic theme of the décor and the low-key, friendly style of service (courtesy of co-owner Jia-yen Lee and manager Ted James). The food does the heavy lifting.

Vietnamese blood pudding with pickled ginger, Vietnamese mint and cos

Vietnamese blood pudding with pickled ginger, Vietnamese mint and cos.

Le's rice paper rolls certainly do their share. They arrive cut diagonally in half and filled with diced ocean trout, Vietnamese mint, coriander, coconut, noodles, and pickled and deep-fried shallots. It may look like a rice paper roll that you could buy by the truckload in nearby Victoria Street, but the trout has been lightly cured in a mixture of brown sugar, soy, mandarin peel, star anise, coriander seed and cassia bark, and there's a complexity of flavour here that emphasises the Modern Australian part of the Anchovy equation.

More modern stuff happens with the drop noodles - made in-house from tapioca rice flour - that are stir-fried with pieces of confit rabbit, cos leaves, Brussels sprouts and a peanut-free Vietnamese-style lemongrass satay. It's also there with superb lamb ribs, cooked and then steeped for a few hours in masterstock before being painted with a Kampot pepper-flavoured glaze, then grilled and served with a beautifully crisp and refreshing watercress and turnip salad.

Steamed clams have also been on the menu since Anchovy first opened, but where they were originally served in a heartily comforting, deeply coloured turmeric broth, they now come in a spicy chicken soup, with fermented rice adding a lovely tamarind-like sourness, aided and abetted by the citrus hit of kaffir lime leaves.

One of the best dishes on the menu is also one of the most traditionally Vietnamese - aside, perhaps, from one of the ingredients in the marinade. A whole spatchcock is marinated overnight in a mix of sesame oil, lemongrass, caramel, fish sauce and Coca-Cola (yes, the Real Thing), then grilled, roasted and dished up with sticky rice, spring onion oil and a cleverly spiced tomato sambal. It's comfort food, sure, but with its sweet, sour and citrusy notes, and soft and crisp textures coming into play with the juiciest little spatchcock you're likely to meet, it's comfort food taken to the next level.

The sweet stuff also leans modern, combining pretty plating with cleverly handled traditional ingredients. A rum parfait, flavoured with brown and palm sugars, and rum, is helped along by coconut cream mixed with lime juice and diced pineapple cooked with rum, sugar, star anise and cinnamon, then finished with a lovely ginger-beer granita.

Unfortunately for doughnut fans, Le's beignets served with condensed milk and passionfruit cream are, for the moment, unavailable because she's not happy with the results from her current deep-fryer (she's obviously a perfectionist because there wasn't much wrong with the ones she had been dishing up). The light and puffy morsels will return, however, once she is happy with them. Yet another reason to watch this space.

No restaurant gets everything right when it first opens, despite the pressure for immediate perfection from our voracious appetite for the new. As Anchovy shows, restaurants can take time to find their beat. Having a chef with the talent and experience of Thi Le in the kitchen meant good things were on the cards, but how very good Anchovy would become only truly became apparent a few months in.

And the best thing about the slow burn? The promise of more exciting times ahead.

338 Bridge Rd, Richmond, (03) 9428 3526
Open Tue-Sat 5.30pm-10.30pm, Fri noon-2.30pm
Prices Entrées $5-$24, main courses $29-$35, desserts $13
Vegetarian One entrée
Noise Noticeable but bearable
Wheelchair access Yes
Minus The austere room could use a little softening
Plus Thi Le's food keeps getting better and better

338 Bridge Rd, Richmond, (03) 9428 3526
Open Tue-Sat 5.30pm-10.30pm, Fri noon-2.30pm
Prices Entrées $5-$24, main courses $29-$35, desserts $13
Vegetarian One entrée
Noise Noticeable but bearable
Wheelchair access Yes
Minus The austere room could use a little softening
Plus Thi Le's food keeps getting better and better

Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
Christmas Boutique is now open

The smallgoods, homewares, art and more from the pages of GT are now all under one roof, ready to take their place under the tree.

Read More
Gourmet TV

Check out our YouTube channel for our latest cover recipes, chef cooking demos, interviews and more.

Watch Now

You might also like...

The dishes that define Melbourne dining in 2016

For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia...

Melbourne’s Rosa’s Kitchen has closed

A kitchen fire has forced Rosa Mitchell’s Punch Lane restaur...

Da Noi

While many chefs bang on about provenance, few can top Piet...


Elwood is perhaps an unlikely destination for some serious ...

Dainty Sichuan

Sichuan food, like sado-masochism, is not for everyone. ("M...


David's hums with renewed energy since its transformation t...

Flower Drum

Four decades is a long time in this fine-dining caper, yet ...


How is it that after nearly 28 years, France-Soir still gen...

Izakaya Den

This subterranean bar and diner always holds a sense of adv...

Il Bacaro

Il Bacaro is proof that great design never goes out of fash...


Hidden away in Collins Place under the soaring five-star So...

Ladro Greville

Overdue a Roman holiday? With its well-groomed, Aperol-swig...

Longrain - Melbourne

Why mess with a good thing? This surely is the mantra of th...


There's a genuine, easygoing charm to Lupino, thanks in no ...

Lee Ho Fook

A sparse, clattery interior creates no expectations but the...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.