For their first outing as restaurant owners, chefs Shaun Quade and John Paul Fiechtner are determined not to plunder their back catalogues. It's quite ambitious when you consider Lûmé, due to open in South Melbourne next month, will offer an 18-course dégustation-only menu.
"We just want everything to be new," says Quade, whose form includes time at the Royal Mail Hotel, Quay and Biota, while more recently he has been known as a pastry gun-for-hire at the likes of Bar Nacional. "It's the same stuff everyone says - local and seasonal and all that. But we've got a guy growing two hectares of gardens - things like aromatics for tea, a lot of different shoots and herbs. We're embracing the fact that the direction we're going in is different to the casual track everyone else seems to be on."
Quade admits the term "fine dining" comes with plenty of baggage. "I can't think of an alternative - the best I can come up with is 'contemporary'." But he promises Lûmé will do away with the stigma. "We don't want to be a temple of gastronomy. We're encouraging dialogue with the chefs, we're discouraging photography, we're trying to make it comfortable."
Quade and Fiechtner, who has worked at the likes of Le Chateaubriand in Paris and Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, are trying to turn the concept of the dégustation on its head. They'll be mixing up the courses - "it won't be snacks, seafood, bigger proteins, the end. The menu will ebb and flow so people don't know what's coming next."
Diners can also expect some novel ideas. The first menu, for example, will feature a dish of cured cow udder with rhubarb. "It was really hard to source udder, but it comes out like lardo, with a lactic back-flavour to it."
The pair recruited sommelier Sally Humble to put together a list that focuses on Australian single-vineyard wines. "It's low-intervention but only to an extent," says Quade. "Basically if it's delicious we'll put it on."
The fit-out by St Kilda's Studio Y, which embraces exposed brick and copper, makes the kitchen a centerpiece, while a separate bar area will offer a "Town Mouse-ish" à la carte menu. All going to plan, Lûmé opens June 11.
Lûmé, 226 Coventry St, South Melbourne, Vic, 03 9690 0185.