Spoonbill restaurant on Chapel Street is a chic and imaginative restaurant that is part of the arty Olsen Hotel. The Olsen Hotel is a favourite with the fashion industry in Melbourne due to its amazing spaces and design conducive to showcasing collections and industry events. Notwithstanding the penthouse suite is one of the best in Melbourne with great views of the city.
Spoonbill features a black industrial looking ceiling with exposed pipes etc. and large cane structures around the supporting poles. In the corner is a collection of hanging spoons. The restaurant is spacious with timber tables and spotlights, a distressed timber floor, and the use of stainless steel. The ambience is improved with funky music. Nearby is a large rounded bar, but there is separation between the bar and the restaurant.
A feature of this hotel, part of the Art Series Hotels (along with The Cullen and The Blackman), is the art work by John Olsen, an outstanding landscape artist whose paintings are alive with movement and flow. Olsen is an artist of note and has received the Archibald Prize and an Order of Australia. His originals and prints abound. A huge painting is featured in the foyer. The Olsen delivers a great combination which highlights the best of Melbourne – art and food, and fashion.
Spoonbill restaurant features Australian regional produce. Come here for great tapas, where tapas is a feature and encouraged as an alternative to just the usual 3 course approach. The Oysters are stunning with a great sauce. The Sardine Taco and the Beef cheek Taco were both superb. Spoonbill creates tacos with big flavour hits, some of them Asian – maybe the next big thing in taco cuisine.
Another highlight was the Zucchini flower filled with goats cheese and accompanied with avocado and preserved lemon. The Blood sausage on scallops was superb and a delectable flavour contrast.
This is not the usual hotel fare – Spoonbill cuisine is crafted and creative.
A favourite here is the John Olsen’s Famous Paella – fashioned after the artist’s tastes – and is a smashing success full of fresh seafood (notably prawns, clams and mussels) and the right amount of spice (mainly saffron). The artist learned to cook paella in the 1950s and has been a recurring theme in his work ever since. The Slow Cooked Otway Ranges Pork Belly, Apple Coleslaw, Broad Bean & Potato Puree was another highlight with the pork soft and the flavour combinations brilliant. Fortunately there was a piece of crackling to accompany.
The desserts hit the high notes – the Taste of Chocolate was the pick with Chocolate mousse, chocolate gateau, honeycomb, with home made icecream. The Apple Delicious – Apple Jelly, Calvados Panna Cotta, Sorbet, Millefuille was a delicate dessert, with a hint of sweetness and fresh tastes of apple.
Spoonbill is an impressive restaurant and part of the amazing experience which is The Olsen. Looking up from the street afterwards I could see someone arranging their fashion collection on a rack in one of the rooms. Melbourne at its best.