There are so many new restaurants in Melbourne that it is sometimes difficult deciding where to dine.
Little Hunter, opened Tuesday 26th February, has a point of difference that has foodies talking. A celebrity chef backer (Pete Evans) and a chef direct from the famous Fat Duck in the form of American Gavin Baker, promising to bring the best of Americana to this new project.
Expecting molecular would be a mistake. The waiter advised it was a ‘steakhouse’, a term I haven’t heard since the days of the defunct Lonestar restaurant chain, but uptown meat market might be more appropriate.
It’s a little tricky to find, the logo in the concrete on the doorstep is subtle and clever. Head straight down stairs and into the luxe basement space of the iconic George’s building. Little Hunter has a smouldering, clubby feel with a lovely mixture of booths, large communal tables standard restaurant four tops and a little bar with banquette seating at the back of the room. There are two open kitchen spaces from which the chefs keep an eye on proceedings.
The night started on a high – warm, garlicky herb bread with an incredible butter with bits of crunchy chicken skin hits the table. Yup, butter with chicken skin. It’s a bit like everything that is right in the world in one little mouthful. We gobbled it quickly and it might have been nice to have been offered another loaf, as before ours was devoured it was definitely on the small side.
We took the waiters recommendation and shared entrees. The highlight was the beef on toast, a lovely little beef carpaccio with some chicken liver parfait and chives on a thin toast. The kingfish, watermelon and goat’s cheese and chunky pate were all ok, but not great.
The entree servings were probably not that well suited to sharing despite being advised that sharing was the best way to dine. Based on cost, there were actually appropriately sized, but a recommendation to order a couple more might have been apt.
The main course menu read a little flat.
The steaks which are the signature of the restaurant were good, flavoursome and interesting. I liked the simplicity of the main course with just 2 or 3 lovely components on each plate. Out of the three cuts we tried – the Blackmore wagyu flank, Koonwarra NY strip and the Cape Grimm filet mignon – the latter was the pick of the bunch. Sadly, I had food envy as I thought that filet mignon might be a little daggy. Shame on me!
Side dishes, however, sounded delicious and we wanted everything! The fries with a tangy fry sauce and blue-cheese and cabbage salad were winners. Try grits in a herb butter, the smooth green goo is nothing if not unique.
Dessert was the standout course of the night. The double chocolate mousse does what it says on the box and sometimes simple is simply best. Frangipane was perfect – chewy and tangy and tasty. A highlight and definitely worth a re-visit and a re-order. The fresh yoghurt, with an apple pie base and vibrant basil granita on top was the molecular component of the evening.
Service was enthusiastic and informed, excited about having customers to serve after an intense training period. We were interrupted a number of times when our waiter should have known better which was sadly a low point of the night.
Little Hunter is a big project, an ambitious whole-package restaurant that with a little polish and some more of that bacon-butter, could be a major player on the Melbourne scene.