When it comes to good quality restaurants in Melbourne, competition is fierce. Once trialled and tested, a foodie hot spot can quickly tire within months of opening. When it comes to eating out, Melbourners can be fickle. But there are some restaurants that are here for the long-term, robust stalwarts who are not weathered by the storm. One of these is Epocha, a timeless treasure in the heart of Carlton.
There are not many restaurants in Melbourne which are as beautiful as Epocha. The charming restaurant is housed in Montefiore House – a grand Victorian terrace on Rathdowne Street, overlooking the Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Building.
Upon entering, I was instantly captivated by the beautiful dining room. It instils a feeling of old-fashioned sophistication and class – in an old world Europe kind of way – yet it doesn’t feel forced. It’s stylish yet understated. Cosy candlelight illuminates the dining space, heightening its sense of intimacy and romance. What I love the most about Epocha is its seamless blend of modern and traditional touches; marble fireplaces and silverware are paired with casual decor like wicker dining chairs and mosaic studded tables. It almost felt like I had stumbled upon one of my wealthy neighbour’s dining rooms without an invitation.
Epocha has quickly made a name for itself within Melbourne’s fine dining circles, gaining an esteemed hat in The Age Good Food Guide. Angie Giannakodakis (ex Press Club) and business partner Guy Holder (House of Commons London) are a foodie force to be reckoned with.
Epocha is not the kind of place to come to be raucous. It has a quiet, unassuming atmosphere. You can often hear the creak of the wooden floorboards as hungry diners flurry in or the tiptoe of someone walking up the precariously steep staircase to Hannah’s Bar. The service is formal, but not too awkward or stuffy.
The menu is largely inspired by European cuisine, with a focus on dishes to share. If you are feeling indecisive, the Sharing Menu for $68pp is a great option and has a good mix of dishes ranging from snacks to larger plates. For an extra $55 per person, their sommelier will offer you the best of their matched wines, putting you in the heart of old-world Europe.
To start, a complimentary loaf of bread arrived at the table, prettily wrapped in a knotted bag. The bread, served warm, had a beautiful aroma, delicately spiced with caraway and anise. The bread had a dense consistency almost like an old-fashioned damper. The partner in crime – a tub of house-churned butter with a sprinkling of salt crystals which oozed gently into the warm bread.
From the snacks menu, a plate of mini crumpets ($9) topped with a smear of honeycomb better. The bite sized morsels were delicate and beautifully aerated. The butter was just enough to ooze slightly through it, a touch of honeycomb just enough to sweeten the dish ever so slightly.
A confit of ocean trout ($18) bursted with flavour and textural elements like roast cauliflower, sorrel and hazelnut. The trout was beautifully cooked – its pink hued flesh almost silky, a direct contrast to the cauliflower and crunchy hazelnuts.
A simple salad of beetroot and goat’s curd ($17) was brilliantly executed. The smooth and creamy goat’s curd cut through the earthy tones of the beetroot beautifully, complemented further by a delicate sprinkling of honey which provided a touch of sweetness to the dish. Note: This dish usually includes pecans but I am allergic.
The hero of the evening was the 550gram rib of beef ($66). The slices exposed a beautiful rosy centre. Served with bone marrow and baked cippolin it was quite simply heaven on a plate. A generous bowl of roasted potatoes were the perfect companion. Roasted in duck fat, they had a gorgeous crunchy and golden outer layer with a pillowy, soft centre. A great textural balance between crisp and softness. A touch more seasoning would have created the perfect potatoes.
Unfortunately there was no room for desserts on this occasion, despite the temptation of the dessert laden trolley. At least it is an excuse to come back again soon.
Epocha is a great restaurant to go on a romantic date or celebrate a special occasion. The European inspired menu has more hits than misses. To make the most of the experience try the chef’s sharing menu with matched wines. Epocha is a treasure which I hope will never go out of fashion.