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Chefs playing with fire

/ 01 Jul 2019
Where there’s smoke, there’s flames…and a world class dish waiting for hungry diners.

Cooking with fire is hot right now as Victorian chefs return to basics and embrace the global trend of flamed, charred and smoky this winter.


Igni literally means 'from fire' in Latin and here at Aaron Turner's restaurant, tucked away in the backstreets of Geelong's city centre, there's no shortage of fire – both literal and metaphorical. Awarded two hats in Good Food Guide 2019, IGNI's dining experience is based around the charcoal grill, which, along with the imaginative flavour combinations and seasonal ingredients, provides much of the drama. With a minimalist interior, all blonde wood, muted greys and polished concrete, the focus remains on the food at all times and so it should. There's no menu here, just the understated authority of a chef in control. Diners are advised to sit back and let Turner and his team do the rest. Ryan Place, Geelong, Victoria, 3220. (03) 5222 2266.


The Good Food Guide's chef's hat rated Montalto restaurant on the Mornington Peninsula offers a warm and relaxing dining experience with seasonal local and estate-grown produce, cooked on the wood fire grill, central of the kitchen. Diners enjoy produce-driven food in an elegant setting with floor to ceiling windows taking advantage of the stunning outlook of vines, olive groves, sculpture, lakes and wetlands, with pasture, and a hint of the ocean as the backdrop. Visitors can enjoy an award-winning Montalto wine with real character from six vineyard sites across the Peninsula. 33 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South, Victoria, 3937. (03) 5989 8412.

The Woodhouse Restaurant

An open fire greets diners on arrival at Bendigo’s only dedicated steakhouse during winter. The Woodhouse Restaurant, which specialises in premium wagyu and dry aged grass feed beef, use locally-sourced meat and the very best in fresh, regional produce. The smell of aromatic local redgum emanate from the char-grill while the sweet smelling applewood, sourced from nearby Harcourt, is used in the charcoal oven. The menu is vast, famous for the signature regionally sourced charcuterie selection, wood-fired gourmet pizza and a delicious range of desserts. However, a true love is Wagyu beef provides diners with the ultimate showcase and selection of premium F1 Wagyu and free range dry-aged beef, sourced from and both local and regional farms. 101 Williamson Street, Bendigo, Victoria, 3550. (03) 5443 8671.

Off the Grid
After 25 years in kitchens around the world, Danish born chef Bente Grysbaek escaped to nature to open a unique culinary experience of open fire cooking in regional Victoria. With undertones of her Viking heritage, Grysbaek’s food is rustic, theatrical and most importantly a tribute to nature. Menus, tailored according to location, produce and seasonality, typically feature slow cooked protein and vegetables over fire and coals, including salmon fillets nailed onto wooden planks, chickens hanging from a steel frame and whole lamb strapped onto a vertical steel bar. Grysbaek, who has appeared on Masterchef in Denmark and was the private chef to HRH Princess Mary and HRH Crown Prince Fredrick during their holiday in Australia, hosts regular dining events.


Matilda 159 Domain - Scott Pickett
Shik - Monocle

Matilda 159 Domain

Flames, coal and incredible local produce headline chef Scott Pickett’s South Yarra restaurant, Matilda 159 Domain. The Australiana inspired hatted diner is a visual and sensory journey, fuelled by open fire and hot coals with a feeling of comfort and warmth. The neighbourhood restaurant celebrates fresh regional produce, along with Macedon Ranges duck, Lakes Entrance seafood and Gippsland beef. 159 Domain Rd, South Yarra, Victoria, 3141. (03) 9089 6668.


The wine bar, located in Melbourne’s city centre, has hit a chord with gourmands and wine lovers. Embla’s hat from the Good Food Guide says something about the culinary imagination of executive chef Dave Verheul and his team. The exciting menu is focused on modern Australian cuisine with nearly every plate on the menu including an element cooked over fire. The kitchen and bar are open all day, allowing plenty of opportunity to flick through the esoteric wine list and find the right pairing. Diners wanting to take time to slow down can find their pace upstairs at the sister sibling restaurant Lesa. 122 Russell Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000. (03) 9654 5923.

San Telmo

Wood fired char-grilling goes hand in hand with South American cuisine. Walking through the 300-year-old antique doors of San Telmo, diners will find themselves whisked away to the oldest neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, from where this Argentinean grill takes its name. An imported 2.5-metre parilla (charcoal grill) is the focal point of our cuisine, imparting a unique flavour to the dishes and cooks steak to perfection. The laneway eatery has since been joined by sibling Argentinian restaurants Palmero and Asado, along with Peruvian restaurant Pastuso and Spanish restaurant Sebastian Beach Grill.  14 Meyers Place, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000. (03) 9650 5525.

Half Acre

Behind Half Acre’s naked brick façade in South Melbourne is a wood fire grill. Visitors can take a seat in the expansive 75-seat “glasshouse” dining room or find some privacy in the 10-seat chimney house and settle in for a modern Australian meal cooked on the open-flame charcoal fireplace. The multifaceted space means that guests can drop-in drinks in front of the courtyard fireplace or enjoy a meal from the open kitchen with its coal-fire grill and wood-fired oven at the centre. For those hungry, Half Acre offers a Bottomless Brunch with a do-it-yourself (DIY) Citrus and Spritz Bar every weekend. 112 Munro St, South Melbourne, Victoria, 3205. (03) 9999 1191.


Montalto Estate

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