One of the gems of the seaside suburb’s casual dining scene, the Lady of St Kilda is a hip cocktail bar with charming staff knocking out relaxed Mediterranean fare with a smile.
Location: 204 Barkly St, St Kilda, VIC 3182 Ph: (03) 8256 7064
St Kilda is a funny old place.
Grungy and faded in parts, yet a pricey place to live, it’s bayside location makes it a popular destination with Melburnians and tourists alike.
As far as dining goes, St Kilda is very much a mixed bag. There are specialised eateries like Milk the Cow where an excess of cheese is never enough and true institutions like Donovans with its ocean views. For the bar flies, there are some lively pubs and there’s more than one decent Mexican in the area. There are parma and chips-style joints for visitors and the vegan/vegetarian community is well-catered for.
But what if you want to grab a cocktail or 2 and a bite to eat before a performance at the recently renovated Palais Theatre?
Well, you could do a lot worse than flopping into a booth at the Lady of St Kilda.
Named for the ship that gives the entire suburb its moniker (see their website for more), this relaxed cocktail bar churns out unpretentious Mediterranean fare and a highly quaffable Margarita.
Set on a corner block, the Lady of St Kilda resides in an attractive art deco building. The restaurant has plenty of outdoor seating running up its quieter side – perfect to entice drinkers to stay for just one more beer on a sunny afternoon.
Inside, the restaurant is a delight. During the day, the interior swims in natural light from well-placed windows and high ceilings. And that ceiling is quite a feature in its own right, decorated as it is with a spin on a nautical map. Meanwhile, the bar is burnished and warmly lit, fronted by a geometrically patterned light box.
A comfy, brown leather padded banquette fills one recess whilst another curves under a glass case displaying a model schooner. The seating has clearly been designed to fit the organic shapes of the room and adds to the visual appeal of the space.
Fresh and healthy with a definite Mediterranean slant.
If you hit the Lady of St Kilda for brekkie, you can enjoy a simple Fried Doughnut ($7) and Macchiatto ($3.5) or tuck into something more substantial.
Maybe the Golden Porridge ($14) – Oats, Maple Syrup or Honey, Fresh Fruit, Pumpkin & Chia Seeds and Almonds works for you? Personally, we like the Good Morning Istanbul ($20). This is a ‘Pita Sunrise’ topped with Minced Beef & Lamb, Tahini or Tzatziki and Parsley. It’s like a Mediterranean breakfast pizza.
If lamb and tahini sound a bit too challenging for you first thing in the morning, don’t worry. You can devise your own cooked breakfast from the Extras list at the end of the menu.
Tapas-style sharing plates and an array of Sambousek and chunky Pita Burgers are the go.
Our incredibly engaging waiter recommended opening with a couple of the Home Made Dips, so we went with the Labane and the Olive Tapenade. Both were suitably more-ish.
From there, we tried the Lady’s Bouquet ($16) – a yummy pairing of Fried Cauliflower, Tahini, Parsley & Tomato Salsa. Delicious as it was in its own right, it worked brilliantly with our next selection – the fabulous titled In the Name of the Queen ($22). This was a bowl of bouncy Prawns, cooked in Olive Oil, Tomato, Mushrooms, White Wine, Parsley and just enough of a smack of Garlic to make everything sing.
Entrees happily despatched, we moved on to our Mains.
The Lady of St Kilda does a number of Pizzas and Pasta dishes, as well as a slew of Mediterranean Classics. Pleasingly, there are a good number of vegetarian options along side the Baked Salmon ($35) and the Eye Fillet ($37). The Falafel Feast ($27) – Falafels, Hummus, Tahini & Olives with Fresh Pita and Garden Salad sounds particularly appetising.
However, we’d been told that the must-try dishes were the Sambousek and the Pita Burgers. And who are we to argue?
Sambousek – if you don’t know – are usually a kind of small pie, rather like a samosa. At the Lady of St Kilda, they more closely resemble a large stuffed Pide. Fillings vary from the veggie-focused Mother Earth ($21) – Red Sauce, Olives, Potato, Onion & Zucchini – to the carnivore-friendly Marco Pollo ($26) – Chicken, Mixed Cheese & Pesto. All come with a side salad and make for a pretty robust meal.
As for the Pita Burgers, these are also tailored to both the meat eaters and plant-based devotees.
On the night, we tried the Mediterranean ($20) and the Straccetti ($22). The former arrived stuffed with Minced Beef, Lamb, Onion, Herbs, Lettuce, Tomato and Tzatziki and was delish. The latter came with slithers of Porterhouse, Tomato, Rocket, Aioli, Parsley, Garlic, Parmesan, Balsamic and Herb Sauce. It was a major handful and a perfectly balanced sandwich.
Although there is a smattering of Pots, Pints and Jugs of Beer and a dozen or so Wines on offer, the Lady of St Kilda is, after all as cocktail bar. So why not dive in and go the for prize?
The Spicy Margarita ($18) had just enough Chilli to cause an indrawn breath before the alcohol mellowed the burn. In contrast, the Passionfruit Martini ($19) was zesty and punchy, without being harsh. We had a Negroni affionando in our midst, and he proclaimed the Lady’s take on this classic more than acceptable.
As you can probably see from our choices, the cocktail list at the Lady of St Kilda held few surprises. That said, all the drinks were well-made and full-strength. Never a bad thing.
In a suburb of mixed dining options, the Lady of St Kilda is a star.
She manages to deliver a satisfying menu of Mediterranean treats that veers away from the obvious. The drinks menu, although holding no revelations, is honest and packed with favourites. And the ambience is this chilled bar is warm and welcoming. Largely due to the absolutely lovely staff.
Next time you have tickets to something at the Palais, pop in for a drink and a nibble.