07.08.2019

Downstairs Bistro & Lounge’s accessible menu makes it the perfect weekend joint

Downstairs Bistro and Lounge
Photo: APL Photography
Words by Augustus Welby

Downstairs Bistro & Lounge is located on Sturt St in Southbank just moments away from the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

The café-cum-bar-cum-restaurant opens its doors in the early-AM all week (except Sundays when they’re closed) and turns into a happening night-spot from Thursday through to Saturday, offering live music and a finely sculpted cocktail menu.

But it’s the food and drinks that distinguish Downstairs first and foremost, around which a comfortable and friendly atmosphere has developed. This is backed up by the fact you can find Downstairs on Menulog, Deliveroo and Uber Eats, where a range of takeaway sandwiches, wraps and pizzas are available throughout the day.

The Euro-centric breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are all truly extensive. Each one caters to vegan or gluten free diets while also providing plenty of choices for those of an omnivorous disposition.

Let’s start with breakfast. Downstairs opens its doors at 7am every day and is suitable if you’re looking to grab something quick and easy like sourdough toast with vegemite or peanut butter. If you want to settle in and treat yourself, however, they’ve certainly got you covered. All of the menu items bear tongue-in-cheek names – Millennials Mortgage is smashed avo and poached eggs on grain toast with ricotta, dukkah and the option of bacon; Ali Baba & The Baked Eggs is an especially enticing number, comprising Moroccan-style baked eggs, tomato, chickpeas, kale, goat’s feta and pomegranate served with the absolutely essential grilled flatbread.

Vegan breakfast choices include muesli with coconut yoghurt, candied almonds and green apple. The vast majority of things can be made gluten free on request.

Now, onto lunch. Downstairs is famous for its pizzas and the lunchtime menu covers everything from the classic Neapolitan-style Margherita to a trio of Gruyere, mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses, wild mushrooms with black truffle, and some more adventurous choices like lamb and tzatziki and prawn and chorizo. Gluten-free pizza bases are available on request, likewise vegan mozzarella, so everyone wins.

The lunch menu also includes six different burgers, encompassing a range of proteins. If triple cheese, bacon and 200g of wagyu beef isn’t for you, why not give in to the allure of Cajun chicken with coleslaw, chipotle mayo and grilled chilli? Vegans are acknowledged in the form of a royale with leaves: an avocado fritter accompanied by green kale, vegan mozzarella, crispy onions and a dressing of lime and coconut yoghurt and Sriracha. Grilled chicken, butter chicken and crumbed hoki pad out the lunchtime burger parade, while salads, fish and chips and sirloin steak are all also available.

Downstairs is open for dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and the dinner menu upholds all of the lunchtime pizzas while also appealing to culinary Francophiles with seafood bouillabaisse, beef bourguignon and twice-roasted duck with pomme puree and burnt orange sauce. If you’re keen on Italiano cuisine but don’t feel like a pizza, there’s veal saltimbocca with pecorino cheese and prosciutto and the risotto of the day.

Perhaps you’re just keen to have something to nibble on while you enjoy a few glasses of wine or beer or a cocktail – and why not? It’s the weekend. In this case, may I introduce to you the fried baby calamari, chicken liver pate with a warm baguette or the grilled sardines marinated in tomato sugo.

On the drinks front, they’re fine purveyors of all the staple coffee drinks, along with matcha lattes and iced coffee and chocolate. Soy, almond, oat and lactose-free milks are there to meet your needs. In a more indulgent field are the chocolate, strawberry, vanilla or caramel milkshakes and the smoothies (bananarama and strawberry dream). Fresh, customisable juices are available until 4pm daily and crucially, bloody marys and espresso martinis are happily served all day.

Downstairs Bistro & Lounge is located at 215-217 Sturt Street, Southbank and is open six days a week. Head to downstairs.net.au to check out their menu and what they’ve got going on.