Cheap meals and suave decor: Is this Melbourne’s best value-for-money restaurant?

Cheap meals and suave decor: Is this Melbourne’s best value-for-money restaurant?

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Words by D'arcy McGregor

The intimate little place that impresses when you need it most.

Saxe is the baby of renowned chef Joe Grbac of Saint Crispin, The Press Club, Il Fornaio and many more. But to keep up with the ever-changing Melbourne food scene, Grbac opened a new dining experience in July, Saxe Kitchen.

Saxe Kitchen has taken up residence in a very Harry Potter fashion, under the stairs of his critically acclaimed Saxe ­– but that doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention to downstairs. The space has seven tables of two along a banquette bench, and about 15 stools along the bar and window. The space is small, it’s intimate, and it’s chic as hell.

From anywhere in the cosy downstairs space, you can see the kitchen pumping out the meals for both dining areas. The open kitchen creates a modern-European-family feel to it, which is new in the Melbourne scene for me. A seasonal menu ­– made from some of the best produce Grbac can get his hands on – consists of classic-inspired dishes from his own Croatian heritage.

“Saxe Kitchen is about sharing,” Grbac said. “The food is what I love to cook at home. Seasonal, simple, tasty and, as always, ingredient-driven. In European households, food is always split down the middle of the table and shared, delivered directly from the kitchen close by – the same offering is at Saxe Kitchen. Chefs will deliver food and have a chat and tell you a story, it’s like you are in our kitchen… well, technically you are.”

All their beverages – alcoholic or not – have been curated and matched to everything on their small one-page menu. The menu isn’t a cheap and cheerful affair, but you can get away with not breaking the bank. If you stick to the smaller plates, they range from $4.50 for an oyster to $16 for a meat dish. Then you’ve got your more expensive main meals, from $23-$34 – but remember, they’re made to be shared.

Saxe Kitchen is there to impress, and when you want to go somewhere a little more adult. If you’ve got a date, for instance, this would be a great place to take someone special, and to be ahead of the rest of the Melbourne crowd – your own hidden gem if you like. Likewise, it’d be an ideal spot to invite someone out for a coffee or drink to meet in a business or casual setting. It’s also a fantastic little spot to grab a drink with your friends and catch up about your days.

Yeah, it’s not a cheap eat, and yeah it’s a little more fancy than I would usually write about for this column, but everyone needs a go-to place to impress – and this might just be yours.

Saxe Kitchen is located downstairs at Saxe, 211 Queen St, CBD. Check out the menu via the Saxe website