ENQUIRE WITHIN – BY INVITE
30 Bray St, South Yarra VIC 3141
Ph: 03 9862 2370
Enquire Within is the latest venture from Jason Jones of Mamasita fame, who previously operated B’stilla at the same South Yarra location. Jones is joined by new business partners; Anita Basile, formerly at The European and Hugo Tremayne who has previously worked front of house at Mamasita and Cookie.
On entering, the first thing to catch my eye is an illuminated sign behind the bar stating “Closing Soon”. It seems a tad odd given this new project has been trading for only a few weeks when I visit, but I soon discover there’s some method in the madness.
With Melbournians forever fixated about eating at the new kid on the block, the plan is to operate Enquire Within for a total of 12 months before closing shop and re-launching with a new concept. In a year’s time, expect brand new décor, a different menu and another chef manning the pass. Does that make Enquire Within a pop up? We can have that curious debate another time but the idea undoubtedly is designed to enable the venue to re-invent itself and keep up with the Joneses.
The current fit out is bright, colourful and loads of fun. It’s hard to look away from the fabulous wallpaper that features Albert Einstein, Rita Hayworth, King Kong and other stars & starlets that were way before my time. Essentially the present theme is all about fun and games. There’s a striking bar that opens out to the exterior and outdoor tables feature board games for customers to play whilst enjoying a beverage.
Speaking of drinks, there’s beer and cider (on tap & bottled), cocktails and a clever wine list that despite being brief includes some really interesting varieties and producers. Another bonus is that virtually every wine listed is priced at $11 a glass or $55 a bottle. Surprised I haven’t come across this no-nonsense approach elsewhere.
In the kitchen is head chef Florian Ribul who has worked at Hammer & Tong and London’s The Clove Club. You can pick and choose as you wish from the single page menu that’s broken down into appetisers, entrees, mains, sides, vegan & desserts or put your faith in Ribul’s hands with one of the feed me options; A LITTLE for $45 per head or A LOT for $60 per head.
We decide to risk it all and order A LOT.
To start, a few small bites including the cleverly named oysters Kill Pedro which are a novel re-imagining of the classic Kilpatrick. Popcorn lamb brains may have a few diners feeling squeamish, but if you didn’t what you were eating, you’d happily scoff an entire bowl of these deep fried golden nuggets without blinking.
The beef tartare, smoked yolk & garlic emulsion served with a side of fries is excellent. The same goes with the lettuce tacos that come with a filling of cured kingfish, yuzu, fermented chilli & peanuts. Possibly the biggest surprise are the party pies which are choc-a-block with a dense meaty filling of braised oxtail and arrive accompanied by a house made tomato sauce that’s a remnant from the B’stilla days.
Moving onto mains, the boneless braised beef short rib would have been falling off the bone if there had been one present. The short rib meat was genuinely fork tender and truly splendid.
The chargrilled prawns with broad beans, split peas and cress was principally Spring on a plate. This dish demonstrated restraint and highlighted seasonal produce in its simplest form.
Make sure you save room for dessert. There’s the Chapel St sundae with rhubarb, vanilla & lemon that was actually very clean and refreshing despite my preconceptions. Alternatively the warm brownie with salted caramel, mandarin & crème fraiche is a decadent ending to such a top-notch feed.
Whilst the menu is playful in parts, the dishes that hit the table show abundant skill and technique, leaving little doubt Ribul is one incredibly talented young chef. Enquire Within is here for a good time, not a long time, so get in while you can as it would be a shame to miss out.