Consider The Sauce may have views on the varying food, service and even the social media hubris of West Footscray’s Indian restaurants, but right from the start we’ve considered them a community asset.
So we were surprised to discover – via a comment on our story about new Indian kid on the block Amrutha – that such a welcoming outlook is by no means universal among West Footscray locals.
Still, as much as we love our Indian tucker, we also dig the heck out of diversity – so we’re delighted to see something very exciting happening in one of the neighbourhood’s landmark buildings.
The double-storey building at 572 Barkly Street has been vacant and unused, so far as we are aware, for several years.
Its history includes time spent as an ANZ bank branch and as home for a Serbian Social Services And Support group.
That latter was still active when we were living just around the corner, many years before CTS.
My very strong visual recall is that “social service and support” meant, in this instance, a very blokey spot for coffee and gossip!
That’s the (potted) history.
The future is … Ovest.
The new eatery, at this point scheduled to be unveiled to the eating and coffee-slurping public in February, is the baby of Ben Sisley, his wife Stephanie and Alex and Kate from Seddon’s Sourdough Kitchen.
Ben has a long history in Melbourne’s hospitality industry, including more recently stints food styling in the corporate world and, before that, time with Mr Wolf in St Kilda and, before that, with Madame Joe Joe, also in St Kilda.
Ben tells me Ovest (it means “west” in Italian) will offer food that will be based around the joint’s pizza oven – think pizzas and the likes of seafood and steak dishes using the same cooking apparatus.
Ben talks enticingly, for instance, of whole snapper lightly crusted/dusted with flour, seasoned, pan-fried and then quickly grilled in the pizza oven.
“We will be tightly focused in terms of opening hours and menu at the start, and then we’ll see where the public takes,” he says.
“This is a great location and we think the area is ready for something like this.
“We see us catering to everyone from people grabbing an after-work drink right through to young families.”
What that means is … no pasta, no breakfast, dinner and maybe lunch on selected days.
Nor will there be entertainment offered – the open kitchen will play that role.
“The food is the entertainment,” Ben says.
And, thanks to a liberal licence being secured, there is the possibility of 1am finishes on Saturdays and Sundays.
“But we won’t be sitting around chewing up money on wages if there’s no customers around,” Ben quips.
Significant renovations are underway on the ground floor of the old bank building.
But in some ways it appears to be almost purpose-built for the likes of Ovest.
The classic ’60s/’70s style bar is cool as!
The area around the entrance will be for more casual, drop-in customers, with the rear area offering dining of a more formal variety.
Read Hilary McNevin’s story in The Age here.