The closure, relocation and return of Pure South to its original Southbank site, only more than double the size and twice the height, is a parable for the fortunes of fine dining in 2016. The Southbank restaurant that opened in 2004 with a brief to showcase the produce of Tasmania, King Island and Flinders Island, has read the tea leaves, thrown out the entrée-main carte, and embraced a new era of all-day dining.
"The spot (on a Southbank corner opposite Flinders Street Station) has opportunities that are a lot broader than we were using it for," says co-owner Philip Kennedy. "It could challenge Young and Jackson of the 1970s for prominence. But we were sitting behind a hedge, with white linen and nice stemware and if you put all those things together it basically says 'Don't come in'."
Tuna and peas.
Over the summer Kennedy and business partner Peter Leary recruited chef Jesse McTavish on a temporary basis to revamp the menu's daytime offering. A fixture at Nathan Toleman's café empire - he worked at Top Paddock and Kettle Black. Though he's now left, giving way to Clinton Camilleri, McTavish's restaurant spin on breakfast dishes remains, with proteins such as wallaby (with beetroot and smoked scrambled eggs), smoked Huon ocean trout tacos with finger lime and avocado, and wagyu pastrami with Vegemite and pickle. Expat Scot David Hall continues as executive chef with Sam Prance-Smith as his second in charge. "The idea is that we do food that excites early in the morning as well as at night," says Kennedy. "It's an attitude shift that you see around Melbourne."
The eight-month renovation by Herbert & Mason architects - during which Pure South found a temporary home in the Southgate space formerly occupied by Walter's Wine Bar - has seen the venue grow from one level to two after taking over the former Ice Lounge directly above. There's now an outdoor terrace on both levels and interiors inspired by the Tasmanian landscape.
"Pure South is an authentic story, we were doing it before things like sustainability and provenance were buzzwords," says Kennedy. "It's really just a continuation of a story that started back in 2003 when I went on holiday to Tasmania and got goosebumps about some really good produce."
Pure South Dining, River Level, Southgate Precinct, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank, Vic, (03) 9699 4600; open Monday to Friday 7am-late, Saturday & Sunday 8am-late, puresouth.com.au