Sth Central

Location: South Yarra
Cuisine: Contemporary
Price Range: $$
Awards: Good Wine List

Gemima Cody | July 7 2016

The botrytis parfait with waffle grids, and port and sauternes gel. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The botrytis parfait with waffle grids, and port and sauternes gel. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The big question is, which colour gets you shot? Crips blue, or Bloods red? It's unclear what parallels this South Yarra restaurant draws to South Central, the ganglands of LA. Best play it safe with black leather – it's definitely de rigueur here on Yarra Street, both on person, and on seat.

It would be difficult to feel further from Jefferson Park in this space: as dark and masculine as London's White Lya, with leather-clad beauties vanishing against inky banquettes. A huge glossy artwork pops on deep charcoal walls. High above, vents give it some street credentials, but it's otherwise what you might call boardroom luxe. Or Gotham chic. Backed by a mega-mix of '90s hits, nothing short of a Michael Bublé concert at Whole Foods could say thug life less.

Sth Central is brunch. It's business lunches fuelled by prime beef and local salad. It's Perrier Jouet by the glass and tarama from that fashion launch thing – Tommy Collins, boutique caterers, are co-brains behind this gaff.

And, sure, it's the kind of carefully curated restaurant, in the kind of new-build block that could feel like a Frankendiner  – something born in a boardroom to fastidiously tick boxes. Truthfully, it aches a little when under capacity. But it's a warm team lead by Stokehouse-expat Lee Smith, and if the menu reads like a trend piece on modern classics (Burrat? Of course. See also smoked mussels; meats passed through an Inka charcoal oven and robust side dishes that deserve a promotion to stars), chef Tom Johnston, who's settled a kitchen that lost two early chefs, is turning them out with skill.

Foot-high squid ink rice crackers plume from a baggie like pillars of smoke. Snap and scoop through cod roe dip freshened with celery leaf. Everything, it will surprise no one, is designed to share. Here, heed that call. That tarama is a siren song for salt fiends. In-house duck prosciutto – blush ribbons with the chew of kid leather that work as well, if not better, without the complex foliage of pear twigs, endive, Parmesan and mustard crackers – delivers an intensity of flavour usually reserved for canape-size snacks.

It's rich food, best tackled with three people plus. Strength in numbers means you can graduate the nice by-the-glass-or-carafe list (Jamsheed's elegant roussanne is a nice pick and $18 is great value for that Perrier brut) to interesting local, French and Italian bottles sitting around $50-$75 for most. Make it Chalmer's 2014 greco – a hell of a food wine from Heathcote.

All the better to explore the burrata, a whole mozzarella purse atop chunky tomatoes and onion petals – roasted to make it a winter dish – and lamb ribs, before, or instead of, the main event. Those single serve meat pops, so often flabby or overdone, see you bite through snappy skins, glazed and almost a little resinous from PX sherry, lime and smoke, to find pure meat, fat rendered out, clinging to the bone just long enough to finish the mission to mouth.

In those ribette and a whole mustard-rubbed lamb shoulder – a smart Sunday proposition if you're a resident above – Johnston proves the investment in that big oven worthy. Our smoked half chicken is fine, if too past juicy to satisfy the "should I order chicken in a restaurant" index.

In vibe, this is an upscale option for locals; an undeniable corporate bolthole, and an OK place for a date. On plate it's more than you expect of such places. Roasted brussels sprouts are tender orbs frosted with horseradish and pecorino – great friends to brassica.

The botrytis waffle sandwich at dessert is a flat-out showstopper, albeit by the un-sexy name of the magical mould giving dessert wines their life. The criss-cross outlines of still-warm waffle come with a parfait that drags on the tongue – pure delicious fat – with tart dots of rhubarb and a gel of port and sauternes.

Smart stuff and almost zero risk of gang warfare. Win win.

The lowdown

Don't wear blue or red at Sth Central: it's more about black leather, brunch and prime smoked beef.

Vibe: It looks built for business lunches and post-blow wave dates, but it's a warmer place.

Pro Tip: Ice Cube says: rule number one, don't bring a gun. We second that. Bring pals to get the best of the menu.

Go-to Dish: Lamb ribs in PX glaze might be the city's best, and just $4 each.




A CATERER, a chef and a restaurant manager walk into a brothel.

Sounds like the beginning of a joke I’m certainly not going to tell. But it is what’s happened down at 4 Yarra St. Sort of.

For while this part of South Yarra is now a block of apartment towers, in a not-too-distant past it was an industrial zone of warehouses and 4 Yarra St was a house of ill repute.

The ladies have since moved on, their office long razed and now replaced by more than 350 apartments and Sth Central on ground floor.

This is the first restaurant for cool catering group Tommy Collins and their hospitality smarts shine through this sharp neighbourhood joint pitched at their equally sharp neighbours.

When was the last time you saw a dark restaurant? Within the overexposed world of exposed brick, blond wood and living greenery, those places that embrace their dark side — Scott Pickett’s ESP comes to mind — stand out. So it is here; while the windows flood the space with light, inside is monochromatically chic, wearing its uniform of black as proudly as any Melburnian. A still by video artist Shaun Gladwell adds a dramatic splash of colour. It’s a rather sexy space.

That design is by firm Molecule, which has the simple things right — a wonderfully worn leather banquette at the right height for the tables, for instance, and while we’ve seen exposed ducts and roof bits elsewhere, here it creates a soaring ceiling space that adds untold airiness to what is essentially a compact 60-odd seater with bar along one side, open kitchen the other.

Getting the simple things right extends to the service, with Leroy Smith leading a team already well-versed in the how-to’s that adds up to so much more: prices with specials, writing orders down, beautiful cutlery. It’s attentive, clever, clearly invested in getting it right, whether you’re here for a bite, or making a night.

And why wouldn’t you settle in with a bottle, for there is lots of good wine here, the list studded with alternative varietals (greco, fiano, fruiliano) and cultish producers (Alpha Box and Dice, Luke Lambert) without veering into annoyingly niche.

Sth Central opened in December with Daniel Southern in the kitchen offering a focused menu of bistronomy hits that I liked very much. But it was a false start and Daniel has since returned to The Prince where he’s previously worked, with Nick Mahlook (last seen at Stokehouse City) and Sam Hocking (Stokehouse, Ezard) taking over the coal oven and Inka grill. As well as adding pop-in-for-a-quiet-bite hits at night — gnocchi and steak, fried chicken and sticky lamb ribs — they’re offering rib-wiches at noon and avo and bircher breakfasts to more fully realise a vision of the day-through-night neighbourhood joint.

And if this is your ’hood, this is quite the joint.

It’s not mine, but I’ll happily come back for the glorious roasted chicken.

The standout dish... smoked half chicken.Source:News Limited

Half a chook, salty and tender fresh from a smoke in the oven, has a crisp-tanned skin that gives way to fall-off-the-bone flesh filled with flavour. It’s deeply delicious on its own, but when swiped through the sharp labne underneath and eaten with the forest of fresh herbs on top, it makes the case for best-in-class in a city that’s taking its fowl seriously indeed ($27).

And I’ll be back for one of the most surprisingly understated line items on a dessert menu: pear, saffron, almond tart. This individual beauty comes baked to order, its sugary pastry with a caramelised crust the crunchy mattress for the frangipane pillow on which a warmed pear rests its cheeks. Adorned with a quenelle of creme fraiche and you have the stuff of sweet dreams ($15).

Earlier on that gnocchi, pan-tossed until golden in a buttery sauce dotted with sharp goats’ curd with mint, zucchini ribbons and baby peas adding bursts of sweetness, was perfectly satisfying, though needed a hit of salt on the table ($22).


Excellent mussels, all plump with brine and then smoked, served with a velvety saffron aioli to eat on crisps to start ($12) and PX-sticky lamb ribs ($4 each) are both good friends to a crisp Cricketers Arms lager ($7), though not as bosom-buddy tight as the crunchy fried cauliflower florets ($9).

Sides are a highlight, whether the sneakily virtuous bowl of quinoa tossed through charred corn with pepitas for crunch and ricotta for creaminess ($10), or one of the best salads of the season: freshly podded peas and shoots tossed through a horseradish dressing with the genius addition of sharp blueberries for bite ($12).

Good food, good wine, good time. At 4 Yarra St they are here to please.


4 Yarra St, South Yarra

Ph: 8679 6755

Open: Breakfast through dinner, daily from 7am

Go-to dish: Smoked half chicken

Rating: 14/20

Weekly Review - Leanne Tolra


Put this one on your list, southsiders, before the $220 million, 30-storey residential tower above it fills up and you can’t nab a seat.

Six-week-old Sth Central is just 50 metres from the South Yarra railway station so you’ll be sprinting to beat the dwellers of the 357 apartments at the luxury Central South Yarra development.

Thoughtfully priced, eat-with-abandon food, a classy floor team and a sophisticated better-than-weeknight drinks list are surrounded by slick monochrome decor and glimpses of Melbourne’s trains.

A diner buried beneath a luxury apartment complex could have been ho-hum, an afterthought, but developer Little Projects handed it to the ambitious Tommy Collins team (ex The Little Ox, Hawk and Hunter and now Schmucks Bagels) with Leroy Smith (ex Stokehouse) in their first restaurant venture.

In went an Inka charcoal oven and out went five of the original 65 seats as the savvy team got the floor balance right. They commissioned the luxe-industrial fit-out – by Molecule interior design – that features a confronting still from video artist Shaun Gladwell’s Maximus Swept Out To Sea. Its flashes of orange flame are picked up by homely touches of colour that will make the residents feel proprietary.

Food by Daniel Southern (ex Est Est Est, Circa and Comme) that reveres ingredients will do the same. A kingfish ceviche sings with blood orange, olive oil and dill, and dances with the textures of firm flesh, pomegranate and creme fraiche.

Lovingly treated beef short-rib, topped with shaved horseradish masquerading as parmesan, is treated to a nubbly, nutty, red-pepper-rich romesco sauce, and buttery wood-fired lamb shoulder collapses under a knoll of gremolata.

There’s a fine cherry and frangipane tart on the menu, too. Perhaps not for weeknight dining, but neither is the impressive wine list. Jam the elevator, block the stairwell, and try to get a table at the weekend.

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Urbanlist - Fave 5 New Melbourne Openings featuring Sth Central

Sth Central

South Yarra

Photo credit: Gareth Sobey

Photo credit: Gareth Sobey


The newest addition to the South Yarra hood is Sth Central; Taking a foothold at the bottom of a brand new apartment building, conveniently located a mere few steps from South Yarra station. And when you slide into a booth and start taking in an Aperol Spritz or ten, you'll know why that's the best news you've heard all week... From scallops with tomato ketchup, jamon and chilli - juicy and served in shell - along with tender venison laid over smokey eggplant and crunchy greens, this is the place for classics with a twist.



Broadsheet - Sth Central

Photography: Gareth Sobey

Photography: Gareth Sobey


Sth Central is the first proper restaurant for the Tommy Collins group (The Little Ox, Hawk & Hunter, Schmuck’s Bagels). It has teamed up with Leroy Smith, former frontman at Stokehouse, for a casual but sophisticated restaurant.

Daniel Southern (ex-Est Est Est, Circa, Comme) is head chef. The team is aware of the abundance of apartments and other residences in the area (Sth Central is at the base of the Central South Yarra apartments), and so it serves “homey” food.

The menu will evolve, but is all about protein. There’s a slow-roasted beef short rib served with a dark, smoky eggplant puree and fresh grated horseradish. For something a little lighter, the confit salmon served with cubes of compressed watermelon, radish and fennel salad and a quenelle of lemon puree is a great option.

Smith has called on old friend and former Stokehouse sommelier Lincoln Riley to help him devise a seriously solid wine list. The classics are there for those who want to play it safe, but there are also options for the adventurous, such as the Quealy Fruiliano fermented in amphora. There’s a healthy by-the-glass list, a few sweet and fortified wines, and cocktails.

The team will serve a list of digestives, too, such as amaro montenegró, and fernet branca.