Pop up restaurants – visions of cardboard walls, old noisy generators and a camp stove ovens come to mind – a venture so temporary it can be disassembled in minutes. But this week Rue & Co popped up in an inverted corner of Collins St and not so much as ‘popped’ as completely exploded like a barge full of New Years Eve fire crackers. I was invited along for opening night to have look, feel and taste by Rue & Co but ever curious, I returned on Saturday lunch time as a guest of myself.
Salvatore Malatesta of St Ali (North and South) , George Calombaris of Jimmy Grants (Gazi, Hellenic Republic) and Chris Lucas of the yet to open Kong (and owner of juggernauts Chin Chin and Baby Pizza) have commandeered the forecourt of 80 Collins St and transformed it into a little slice of eating paradise, all housed in custom built shipping containers and sitting under a big ol’ RONE. Just a few weeks ago this rare flat city real estate was a place for lunch time workers to eat their vegemite sandwiches or late night lovers to steal a kiss. Now it’s a full bore Astro-turfed, black laminated, fairy lighted Food Park of sorts. So what’s on offer:
Oh my beloved Jimmy, how exciting that you’ve made it to the big smoke. Although my partner and I continue to visit the St David St establishment on a weekly basis, it is good to know that when in the city, a Cypriot Grain Salad is a quick jump off a tram away. The cream of Jimmy’s souvlaki crop here; Mr Popodopoulos filled with slow cooked lamb and chicken, or the Homer (and best of all the souvas in my opinion) felafel, Greek yoghurt and Hellenic slaw. The formula for this place has always been great and if you need to know more, my Twitter and Instagram feeds are testament to Jimmy, as is the indentation of my jean rivets on their wooden stools. You simply can’t go wrong.
The Church of Secular Coffee (St Ali)
Forgive us our sins Father Sal, for we will no longer drink rubbish coffee from the nearby 7/11. At this Church, water is swapped for world class coffee and bread comes in the form of burgers, of which the anti-brioche brigade of Melbourne (I’m a member) will be happy to see a crunchy, sturdy, unsugary bun. The ‘Pork Me!’ ($12) is filled with soft pulled pork, apple sauce and a delicate celeriac slaw. It’s messy – grab napkins. There’s a ‘Cheech and Chong’ mushroom burger for our veggie friends and a shrimp and kimchi burger – not sure how well this one will fair with uber Kong two doors down.
The Toast Bar (genius!) is open from 7am-11:30am each day, breads supplied from Melbourne’s quartet of yeasty greatness – Baker D Chirico, Candied Bakery, Tivoli Rd and Cobb Lane with muy caliante jams to match.
Kong has been teasing us with their static web page for months now and FINALLY we get to have a slice of the Korean action. Anticipation of this place has reached fever pitch, even a mini ‘documentary’ on their kimchi and BBQ taunts us. Rightly so, I’m no kimchi expert but if this is a bad representation, then I’m happy to eat bad food. I didn’t get to try the fried chicken wings on opening night but the cross-eyed groans from party goers would suggest they’re delicious. I had the steamed bun combo – brisket and kimchi and the peanut coated tofu on a soft steamed bun ($11). Nut allergy friends, if you could block your ears for a moment please; this bun ROCKED. Crunchy, salty peanuts covering pillowy soft tofu wedge. Oh man.
I was disappointed with the brisket bun, a choice us meat lovers naturally gravitate too. The brisket was seriously lost under the yummy kimchi and well…it was kinda coolish. I imagine keeping the integrity of stellar brisket is a challenge in this environment. Maybe it’s meant to be cool? I don’t know but next time I go it’s peanut tofu all the way for me, maybe even twice. Considering the brisket was one element of an entire menu, I think it goes alright.
If you are lucky enough to nab a seat in the undercover gazebo, brava to you but if the inclement weather of late is persuading you to seek out alternatives – Rue & Co will quite happily loan you an umbrella and I dare say they would wipe down a seat for you as well. It’s around for about 6 months after which they will start development of the new QIC 40ish story monolith (I don’t want to talk about it – history gone forever and all that).
I would imagine that Rue & Co is going to be BUSY during the week when that end of Collins Street is chocka block full of office workers, my tip is to get down there on a weekend when not much else is open in this area and you will be served with ease. Rug up though; it is 100% outdoors.
Rue & Co
80 Collins St forecourt
7am – late
7 days a week