Hazel is lighting up the charts. The name is being branded on everything from dresses to glasses and now, to a chic restaurant in Flinders Lane – Melbourne’s Collins Street Precinct. The name is described as decidedly posh and a smidgen British which could sum up the restaurant which stretches over two floors of the historic Richard Allen & Son building.
I’m visiting at the time of the Australian open when Dominic Thiem is having a meteoric rise. Thus when I’m greeted by Daniel another Austrian, I’m surprised that he doesn’t play tennis. Yet what he lacks in ground strokes is made up for in his service. He is extremely accommodating discussing what I as a vegan and eat and how the chef can make me a range of dishes described so well I wish to devour them on the spot.
I glance up at the sparkling chandelier as Daniel runs me through Hazel’s beverages. Cocktails include a Strawberry Negroni and an Appleseed Gimlet but I’m on the wagon tonight. I settle for the home made pink ginger beer with mint and lime. What a kick. I want to order another but I’m tempted by the home-made olive leaf tonic. Nice but the ginger beer is the winner.
Sitting on my own I take in my funky landscape. There’s a bit of a Scandi thing happening with the pale floor boards which extend across the North Sea to French café chairs, chunky art nouveau mirror frames and bench seating (more the Fonz than Gerard Depardieu). The walls are white and harbour long windows revealing a European style skyline with low rise brick buildings.
The slightly British accent of the food is apparent in the ‘on toast’ section. The toast is made from house created sour dough bread charred over a wood fire grill and heated by ironbark coals. The vegan can have it topped with fig and balsamic vinegar. Wherever possible ingredients are derived locally.
I settle on the spicy peppers of which one in five is very hot. Russian roulette would never be my game as I’m not courageous enough to test the odds after eating one. The beetroot salad pelts the tastebuds with golden drops of tang enforcing the Goldilocks measure of crispness – just right. This is complemented by the peach, heirloom tomato and shallot salad with chardonnay vinegar and oil dressing – my mouth is watering as I write about this combination of tastes. I’m feeling satisfied and wonder if I can fit in a dessert when the mains arrive. Smoky eggplant puttanesca, Oven roasted tomatoes with sorrel and macadamia cream, cucumber salsa, and chargrilled zucchini.
Each dish is served in a china dish; you know the old fashioned ones with roses and flowers around the rims. Very fine china. Very British and very eclectic when mixed with the diverse décor.
The dishes are filled with flavour. The smoky eggplant is my favourite but unfortunately I can hardly fit it all in. I take my linen table napkin from my lap and despondently put it on the table placing my knife and fork together like the perfect Dally-Watkins recruit.
I gaze longingly at the eggplant before farewelling the waiters and carry my full stomach back up Flinders Lane to my bed for the night at the Hotel Windsor.
164 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Levels 1 & 2
Monday – Saturday: Lunch 12-4pm, Dinner 6-11pm
Sunday: Lunch 11am-5pm
Bookings via www.hazelrestaurant.com.au
Telephone 03 9070 4938