30 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda VIC 3182
03 9525 5555
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, St Kilda’s Stokehouse is back in majestic form, spreading its wings with not just one new restaurant, but three new venues.
When a blaze broke out in the kitchen of the St Kilda venue in January 2014, some questioned whether that was the last we’d seen of it. However, for the owners of the iconic space, the Van Haandel group, there was never any doubt: Stokehouse would return, bigger and better than ever.
The brand-new building is home to a takeaway fish and chip kiosk – Paper Fish, a casual eatery – Pontoon and of course, Stokehouse Restaurant.
With a completely blank canvas, just where do you start? For Frank Van Haandel, leader of the eponymous hospitality group, it was about looking to the past and to the future. Changes on the ground floor, where Pontoon and Paper Fish reside, were inspired by the group’s history as operators and experiences as customers. In contrast, the building’s overall design was developed by looking forward – it is the first Design and Built 5 Star Green star building of its type, ensuring that its environmental impact is as low as possible.
This fusion of concepts results in a two-level structure, home to three distinct venues. Upon walking along the promenade, the first thing you’ll notice is a huge sand dune, under which the entire ground floor will be hidden. This visual feast continues to the first level, which will appear to be floating above the dune, making for a dramatic and theatrical start to the culinary experience. To create this, Frank and his team recruited the best in the business: Pascale Gomes-McNabb was the creative force behind the first floor, while George Livisiannis was responsible for the lower levels.
Paper Fish is the first part of the package, providing the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon on St Kilda Beach. The classic fish and chips combination is given a healthy twist, with fresh sides and sustainably sourced fish that’s served in environmentally conscious packaging. Stop by on your way to the water’s edge and order a feast: signature menu items include grilled or tempura-fried flathead, blue grenadine, salmon or gummy; crinkle cut chips, fritto misto, sweet potato cakes, Japanese potato cakes and a range of salads, including cucumber, mint, coriander and lime.
If you’d rather sit at a table than in the sand, Pontoon should be your next stop. The ultra-casual venue will be fast-moving and affordable, and feature an all-day kitchen with a custom-made grill. The shareability and fast speeds of the grill made it perfect for this environment, meaning you’ll be in and out in no time and have more time in the sun.
Lovers of the original Stokehouse will delight in 2.0 – much of the original concept remains, but there are a few new additions to make the experience even better. The new space will include a dedicated 12.5-metre oval-shaped bar, which straddles the restaurant and outdoor terrace. The bar, lounge area and terrace will have room for up to 120 people, and will offer an all-day bar menu, so you can pop by without making a booking beforehand. The balcony has also been made Melbourne-proof, ensuring it can be used in both the depths of winter and height of summer.
The design may be breathtaking once finished, the offerings varied and the location just unbeatable, but what about the food? That’s where Ollie Hansford comes in. As Head Chef of the first level restaurant, he’s working closely with Executive Chef, Richard Ousby, to bring a seafood-driven menu to Stokehouse’s tables.
Despite all this moving and shaking, there’s something familiar about Stokehouse 2.0. Whether it’s the laidback charm, waterfront setting or welcoming atmosphere, the formula that made it one of Melbourne’s most-loved dining destinations is still as prevalent as ever.
Paper Fish is now open. Pontoon and Stokehouse are yet to open.