Name chef? Check. Back lane entry? Check. Tricked-up street food menu? Check. Melbourne's newest restaurant Lucy Liu nailed the modern-dining trifecta before serving its first Tsingtao or crisp pork bun.
Punters will be able to experience it for themselves this Friday when executive chef and part-owner Michael Lambie (The Smith) opens his pan-Asian city diner for business in the space once occupied by Philippe Mouchel's PM24.
The venue is a stark contrast to the former tenant's whitewashed bistro style. Architects March Studio have gutted the building and created a warm, inviting space lined with Tasmanian oak and flashes of red neon lighting.
But the biggest change is the entry, switched from Russell Street to the back door on Oliver Lane. This puts Lucy Liu next door to Coda and just around the corner from Chin Chin on Flinders Lane. "We want a back-lane entry that's a bit sleazy," says Lambie. "We want people to be surprised as they walk in. First, they'll be hit by the aromas as they go up the hall and then they'll see this amazing, buzzing space."
The low-lit hall opens to a bar with bar stools lining an open kitchen, and there's room for 140 at high benches, laminex tables, big communal tables with lazy Susans and booth seating, plus there's a private room.
"This isn't fine dining," says Lambie. "We're taking inspiration from China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam and we're serving our food fast." Better still, they take bookings.
Lucy Liu, 23 Oliver Ln, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9639 5777.
Looking for more Melbourne dining options? Check out our list of the best restaurants in Melbourne.