Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Estelle Bistro, Melbourne.
The most immediately eye-catching aspect of Northcote's Estelle Bar & Kitchen, the pink, black and white wall tiles that gave the place a 1950s suburban bathroom vibe, are no more. They've been swept away as the first part of owner-chef Scott Pickett's two-step plan for High Street, replaced by an earthier, more dramatic palette of timber, exposed brick, shiny copper and massed indoor plants that fill the light well leading to the smart (and similarly leafy) courtyard dining area. It's a handsome fit-out, one that suits the new name, Estelle Bistro, and the new direction. Estelle Bistro is a more flexible, user-friendly entity now with a menu that includes several varieties of good oysters, excellent bar snacks (chicken livers with muscatels and Sherry), quality steak and fish, and a charcuterie menu that includes a particularly spicy 'nduja. Dishes, including a fine wagyu tartare with nettles and chips, and an octopus artfully plated with splodges of taramasalata and squid ink, are classic Pickett and, in the bistro spirit, stay the right side of being overworked. The wine list, well priced and focused, offers around 20 wines by the glass, a smart move for a place positioning itself as a flexible local hangout. Part two of the plan, Estelle by Scott Pickett (ESP), a more experimental, upmarket dining concept right next door to Estelle Bistro, is expected to open in April.