The February issue

Our clean eating issue is out now, packed with super lunch bowls, gluten-free desserts and more - including our cruising special, covering all luxury on the seas.

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Recipes by Christine Manfield

As the '90s dawned, darling chefs were pushing the boundaries of cooking in this country. A young Christine Manfield, just starting out at this heady time, soon became part of the generation that redefined modern Australian cuisine. She shares some of her timeless signatures from the era.

Cirrus, Sydney review

Cirrus moves the Bentley team down to the water and into more lighthearted territory without sacrificing polish, writes Pat Nourse.

How to grow rocket

A vegetable patch without rocket lacks a great staple, according to Mat Pember. The perennial performer is a leaf for all seasons.

50BestTalks brings World’s best chefs to Sydney and Melbourne

Massimo Bottura and more are coming to the Sydney Opera House.

Toby Wilson, Sean McManus and Jon Kennedy to open Bad Hombres

Expect Mexican-Asian flavours and an all-natural wine list from two of Sydney’s edgier operators.

Local Knowledge: Moscow

Director of Shakespeare theatre company Cheek by Jowl Declan Donnellan walks us through the essential sights and his favourite cafes and restaurants of his hometown.

On the Pass: Danielle Rensonnet

Bellota chef Danielle Rensonnet talks us through the current menu at the restaurant and her favourite summer ingredients.

Melbourne's Tomato Festival is back in 2017

Returning for another year, Melbourne’s Tomato Festival is ripe with cooking demonstrations, talks, and produce stalls dedicated to plump produce.

Most popular recipes summer 2017

Counting down from 20, here are this summer's most-loved recipes.

Bali's new wave of restaurants, hotels and bars

The restaurant and hotel scene on Australia's favourite holiday island has never been more exciting and Australian chefs, owners and restaurateurs are leading the charge, writes Samantha Coomber.

Persian love cake

Baguette recipes

These baguette recipes are picture-perfect and picnic ready, bursting with fillings like slow-cooked beef tongue, poached egg and grilled asparagus and classic leg ham and cheese.

New South Yarra restaurants

The Melbourne suburb lost some of its lustre in recent years, but is now bouncing back.

Fast summer dinners

From an effortless tomato and ricotta herbed tart to Sri Lankan fish curries and chewy pork-and-pineapple skewers, these no-fuss recipes lend to relaxing on a humid summer's night.

Long Chim, Melbourne review

David Thompson brings the heat to Melbourne with his newest incarnation of Long Chim. Michael Harden drops by for dinner.

Curtis Stone's strawberry and almond cheesecake

"I've made all kinds of fancy cheesecakes in my time, but nothing really beats the classic combination of strawberries and almonds with a boost from vanilla bean," says Stone. "I could just pile macerated strawberries on top, but why not give your tastebuds a proper party by folding grilled strawberries into the cheesecake batter too? Cheesecakes are elegant and my go-to for celebrations because they taste best when whipped up a day in advance."

Restaurant Ôter, Melbourne Review

Jordan Marr, Tom Hunter and Florent Gérardin

Jordan Marr, Tom Hunter and Florent Gérardin

Savoir-faire in the kitchen, savvy service and a seductive free-form take on the French label keep the offering at Ôter en pointe, writes Michael Harden.

Call your restaurant "French" in this country and expectations tend to run to steak frites and escargots. If that's the kind of French you're after (no judgement - some of my best friends are steak frites and escargots), Ôter's more expansive approach to the label might take a little getting used to.

Florent Gérardin, native to France's west coast and one-time head chef at Melbourne's Pei Modern, is chef and co-owner at Ôter (OH-tay). His partners in the basement space, formerly home to Japanese restaurant Yu-u, are Kate and Mykal Bartholomew (Coda, Tonka) and long-time Coda employee Tom Hunter. With that collection of backgrounds, you'd think that Ôter would have to walk a modern French path. At times it does.

The menu is free of French onion soup and magret de canard, and there's not a tricolour paint job or Piaf soundtrack to be seen or heard. Instead a moody, minimalist concrete-rich space is the backdrop for a menu that might list a rich combination of puffed beef tendon, fresh sea urchin and cashew-nut cream ready and willing to divide the crowd with overt displays of gaudy flavour. Or a coyly delicious dish of raw mushrooms with house-made fromage blanc. Or a quite brilliant layered combination of slippery slow-cooked egg, chicken livers and gizzards, and surprisingly robust mustard foam dusted with shaved truffle and served with spelt crackers. So far, so modern.

But then look to the central kitchen bar where a small and gorgeous collection of sweet tarts is theatrically displayed on a large breadboard. Precise and lustrous, meticulously arranged like a pâtisserie window display, the selection of jewel-like shapes and colours is pretty enough to bring a lump to the throat.

As with the rest of the Ôter menu, the tart selection changes from day to day. But there'll always be a chocolate tart, round and glossy, and a cinnamon one, too, the spice looking like ragged lace laid across bright yellow custard. Perhaps there'll be a rectangular shell containing caramelised white chocolate studded with straight lines of blueberries. Or a sunset-coloured orange curd sitting on a layer of lemon cake and encased in perfect ripple-sided pastry. There might also be a quince or apple number, shimmering under the overheads, rounding out the collection.

At a time when restaurant desserts tend towards the deconstructed-and-artfully-strewn-across-the-plate school, the precise, contained nature on display is almost startling. It also flags that Gérardin has classic French moves in his toolkit and he's not afraid to use them alongside his modern toys.

This is a good thing, especially when he turns his attention to the traditional regional dishes he cooked and ate as an apprentice chef in the French seaside city of La Rochelle.

Pig's head terrine with celeriac rémoulade.

Top of the list in this category is his soupe de poisson. It's made from fish trim (heads, bones, tails and fins) cooked in a big pot for a few hours with tomato, fennel and aromats. The soup arrives, terracotta of hue and redolent of the ocean in a small earthenware bowl, accompanied by a crisp piece of toast (a croûton, really) topped with rouille and grated Gruyère. The croûton is dumped into the soup where the bread softens, the rouille dissolves and the cheese melts, and all is right with the world.

Other good things are done with fish, too. Sardines are brined, then tossed briefly on the teppanyaki grill (a leftover from Yu-u) and served on a croûton with rouille and a sprinkle of lemon myrtle. A citrusy escabeche, most often using whiting, sometimes deviates from the classic by substituting yoghurt whey in place of the usual vinegar, softening the acidic bite. Juicy, glossy cobia wings marinated in a mustard and olive oil mixture are served under a thin sheet of shaved kohlrabi and sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Back on land, there's la crêpe, based on a trad recipe from Brittany. Here kurobuta ham is combined with Cantal cheese, rolled in a little crêpe and then in brik pastry and grilled on the teppanyaki. The brik gives the finger-sized crêpes fantastic shatter and snap, while the warmed ham and melted cheese are equally convincing in propelling this dish towards cult bar-snack status.

There's certainly something bar-like about Ôter, just as there is with other new Melbourne arrivals such as Marion, Embla and Bar Liberty where food and booze get equal billing. Ultimately, though, Ôter's emphasis is the food.

The renovation has seen the room opened up, the formerly blacked-out footpath-level windows made clear, the private rooms banished. A small bar has been installed over to one side of the room, which helps emphasise that the central kitchen bar, which was also a feature of Yu-u, is the focal point in the room. Ôter's kitchen bar is a seriously good example of the species, built long and low to accommodate chairs rather than stools, with a bar top that's table-width and with uninterrupted views of the kitchen action. It deserves heritage listing on ergonomic grounds alone.

It also ensures Gérardin is the room's focus. He works the bar efficiently, deftly balancing cooking with tending to diners, always encouraging them to forgo the menu and just let him feed them.

No matter which way you go, take his enthusiasm for terrine as genuine and order it. Whether it's a classic, satisfyingly chunky pig's head number served with a celeriac rémoulade, or a similarly textured black-pudding version that includes a bit of brain and tongue in the mix, seared on one side on the teppanyaki and served with kipflers mashed with olive oil and chives, they're a cut above.

Bigger, more robust dishes - a Blackmore flank; a rabbit blanquette, all glazed onions, light-green tarragon sauce and chunky bacon; a Mediterraneaninspired braised lamb neck with almonds and capers - further enforce the idea of Ôter being more restaurant than wine bar. But the interesting, dynamic wine list from sommelier Jordan Marr and the number of snack-ready dishes on the menu will see as many people here to have something small to eat while drinking wine as coming for the full feed.

Ôter's cellar isn't solely about France, but there's an apt bias. Its non-French space is given over to Australian, mostly Victorian, wine. There's chardonnay from the likes of Bindi, Yarra Yering and Mount Mary, and syrah from Luke Lambert and Giaconda. It's not all big-name, big-buck drinking, though. The solid and decently priced by-the-glass list might include 2014 Domaine Comte Abbatucci Faustine from Corsica or 2012 Tavel rosé from Domaine de la Mordorée, and there's some good-value drinking from all over France (and parts of South Australia and Tasmania) to be had on the rest of the list, too.

Glassware, some of it from the Noma Sydney fire sale, is as carefully selected as the handmade tableware, and wine service is pitched at the right calm, clear and straightforward level needed when much of the list hangs out with smaller French producers.

Add a short list of apéritifs of the Lillet Blanc and pastis kind, and a collection of on-theme cocktails (the Ôter version of a White Lady adds Lillet to the usual gin, Cointreau, citrus and eggwhite recipe) and there are plenty of reasons to come here for a quick drink and a snack, especially when the snacks include thinly sliced Blackmore beef tongue flavoured with soy, star anise and bonito flakes, and served with a sauce charcutière.

The more you fossick through the layers at Ôter, the more influences appear. There's a wash of Japanese, some of it coming from the kitchen equipment inherited from the former tenant, some from ingredients such as soy and bonito that Gérardin likes to use for seasoning. Artist Bridget Bodenham's translucent abstract birds, like faded graffiti, soften the concrete walls and reference the restaurant's laneway location. There are rustic regional dishes, precise classic ones and elements of modern technique. There is thrillingly fine glassware, and chunky earthenware plates and bowls, and service that treads the line between friendly and formal.

It all comes together pretty seamlessly, but it resists easy categorisation. Best not to overthink it and just go eat there. Ôter speaks for itself.


Oter, 137 Flinders Ln, Melbourne,
(03) 9639 7073,

Open Lunch Mon-Fri noon-3pm, dinner Mon-Sat 5.30pm-10.30pm
Prices Entrées $6-$27,
main courses $29-$50,
desserts $8-$16
Vegetarian On request
Noise Aggressive when full
Wheelchair access Yes
Minus Some meat is cooked sous-vide, and not to convincing effect
Plus A new French accent added to the Melbourne CBD mix


Oter, 137 Flinders Ln, Melbourne,
(03) 9639 7073,

Open Lunch Mon-Fri noon-3pm, dinner Mon-Sat 5.30pm-10.30pm
Prices Entrées $6-$27,
main courses $29-$50,
desserts $8-$16
Vegetarian On request
Noise Aggressive when full
Wheelchair access Yes
Minus Some meat is cooked sous-vide, and not to convincing effect
Plus A new French accent added to the Melbourne CBD mix

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