Bentleigh’s restaurants

Zagarellis (Italian, Centre Road, Bentleigh) — Essentially over-priced for what it was: big serves of fairly ordinary (but edible) food. Companion’s dish arrived with the wrong type of pasta, and I’d have preferred smaller serves of nicer food.Thumbs down

I hope there’s some better restaurants in Bentleigh, concealed in the sidestreets or something. At first glance it’s looking a bit more barren than Carnegie. There’s plenty of daytime coffee shops, and a couple of pizza and other fast food places, but how about some nice restaurants?

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

9 replies on “Bentleigh’s restaurants”

I think I read a while back about a really great deli/cafe in McKinnon which isn’t that far from Bentleigh and it got rave reviews. If I can remember the name I will let you know but a google search may locate better for you.

Me personally, I am going to have to work up the guts to venture from Yarraville into Footscray to test out the local vietnamise restaurants. I must admit I am a bit scared of Footscray given its bad drug reputation but I may be doing it a disservice. Luckily I have lots of cafes and restaurants nearby for outings.

The Indian restaurant in Ormond is supposed to be very good.

Lyn: Footscray does look scary, but I’ve never seen problems there (up to 11:30pm). Food poisoning could be the biggest worry.

Footscray is especially scary on a Sunday morning when one gets a machete waved in one’s face. That was bunches o’ fun. However, there’s a noodle bar there that is TRES BON. Langs something… Same street as the last tram stop. Been ages since I’ve been there so they probably haven’t been there for a while knowing my luck.

As for Bentleigh, sorry Daniel! Not my part of town unfortunately.

Peter, if you’re thinking of Bombay By Night, yes it’s excellent, though a little on the pricey side. By my standards, more of a special occasion restaurant than an every Friday night restaurant.

I can’t say I’ve had any scary experiences in Footscray. My perception is that for the most part the riff-raff only bother the other riff-raff. The Vietnamese place on the corner of Droop St is good. I also like Tall Poppies (or is it Small Poppies?!), above the railway line.

footscray is to be avoided at all costs.

especially droop st.

some very shady characters live there.

make sure you put your wallet in your y fronts when walking around there.

I don’t know about Bentleigh restaurants, but I know a bit about Footscray. Drugs, murders, stabbings, heroin overdoses. Where? Not in the day time when I have been there (all the scary people got off the train at the Broadmeadows line interchange) and not in the night time when I have been there. Someone has a vested interest in keeping property values down in the Footscray area.

I was told the Indian in Patterson has a good rep and apparently you’ll get free rice when you dine in. It’s probably the only one in walking distance.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly bad in East Bentleigh. The Indian was good (but quiet) last Wednesday, Fongs enjoyably air conditioned this Wednesday. Seven Stars is worth going but beware the service and the Thai is worth a try. River Kwai (Thai & Burmese) has Sunday nights 2 for 1 mains and it’s only 10 minutes up Centre Road.

The McKinnon has a new menu and a new chef. I’ll be there tonight.

By the way, Oakleigh is cheaper that Bentleigh, has better eateries, cafes, markets and food shops.

Have fun exploring.

No need to roam Bentleigh’s side streets, Daniel: I can recommend Japanese fully licensed restaurant Ajisai, right across the road from Zagarellis, at 377 Centre Rd. It’s been there a few years now and always seems well patronised on the week’s main nights, so it must be doing something right.

I went to this place a year or so ago & I had the downloaded the review from Epicure in the Age so here it is. For what it’s worth I loved the place.

SOMEWHERE around Oakleigh, it dawns we are no longer in Kansas. The likelihood of finding the smart little bistro I’ve been promised at the end of this particular Yellow Brick Road – Centre Road – seems to diminish with every set of traffic lights.
We’re looking for Bistro 1404. So please tell me the assumption we were heading for 1404 Centre Road is not an entirely ridiculous one. Well, it made sense to me. A U-turn later, we find Bistro 1404, at 309 Centre Road, in the heart of Bentleigh’s shopping centre.
This is middle Melbourne at its most middle. Secure suburbia. And an interesting location for an accomplished chef to put down his roots. Andrew Roscouet was last heard of cooking at the ill-fated Carters, in Toorak. Before that, the Briton had added his name to the lengthy honour roll of one-time head chefs of Matteo’s, in North Fitzroy.
Roscouet apparently opened his own place, the mysteriously named Bistro 1404, last September.
It’s not an area thick with restaurants, which undoubtedly affected the choice of location. On a Wednesday night the small restaurant is doing a good trade, filled mostly with people in their 30s who can spot a bargain. You see, Bistro 1404 is a very reasonably priced restaurant. Very.
Wine enthusiasts, who will no doubt take a shine to Roscouet’s European-inspired food, will want to exploit a modest $3 a bottle corkage at Bistro 1404, because the wine list provides the greatest incentive for temperance I’ve seen in a long time. In the vernacular of current world events, it needs sexing-up.
But let’s focus on the positives. Bistro 1404 is a pleasantly refurbished high-street shop front. It is flanked by upholstered banquettes with a pair of matching oil-on-canvas floral statements on the walls. Tables are linen-free composite-board, each set with good cutlery, herbed sea-salt crystals, a little tea-light and a good quality white napkin. Timber bistro chairs surround each. It’s all pleasant and inoffensive. So is the waiter, who tries hard and giggles nervously, and seems unduly fazed by the pressure of business this particular evening.
OK. So this is not a place to chat with staff about wine or talk about the geography of oyster farming. The chef knows his oysters, and that’s what counts. We order a dozen, from a list of perhaps four verbally delivered specials. They are pale Tasmanian Pacifics, encrusted with tiny barnacles, and seriously good. They arrive covered in sea salt, with lemon wedges on standby, and their lids back in place. Lifting each reveals a not-too-sweet salsa of orange (the chef likes orange), mango and coriander, and I thought lemon juice improved matters. We never did find out exactly where they were from, but at $27 (or $2.25 each), they are far and away the most expensive things on offer, indicative of an impressive standard.
It’s a menu that won’t scare anyone, nor is it dumbed down, and Roscouet’s cooking is sharp. With a third party present, we get to try a reasonable selection of dishes.
There’s a generous dish of house-made tagliatelle tossed with good shelled prawns, a little diced tomato flesh, tarragon, baby spinach and a creamy champagne sauce peppered with chives ($12). It looks quite bland but the quality of the prawns and pasta is obvious with the first mouthful.
There’s a pressed terrine of slow-cooked duck ($12): a tile of shredded meat wrapped with prosciutto – more like rillettes in texture – and, again, very generous. A light orange-zest dressing smears the plate and a little salad of different leaves, red onion and pecans, dressed in olive oil, balances thing up. Very pleasant.
There’s an OK twice-baked cheese souffle, too, a golden-brown cylinder popped out of its mould on to a salad of mixed leaves, green apple batons and walnuts, a red wine and cinnamon reduction forming a fruity, blood-red moat ($10). I thought the souffle a bit cakey and firm, but the dish has merit, its fresh and fruity elements matching up against the hot, cheesy star of the show.
Another entree special is a salad of rocket, cucumber crescents, radish slices, chives and creme fraiche piled on decent smoked salmon, with a seed-mustard cream circumnavigating the plate. On top, a soft-poached egg ($12). Simple and good.
Mains? The list is sensibly brief, surely the way to go in a small restaurant. Fish of the day, today a nice piece of dhufish fillet, has been scored, seared and finished in the oven then dropped in the middle of a very good Marseilles-inspired broth of fennel, braised cherry tomatoes and saffron. The tomatoes’ obvious orange characteristic made the whole thing seem delightfully Mediterranean on a cold night in Bentleigh. At $20, a terrific dish.
And there’s another beauty, the scotch fillet ($22). The menu says it’s aged yearling; I can only say it’s excellent, tasty meat, cooked very well. I always ask the chef to cook steak as he reckons it should be, and this is medium-rare, with a dark, caramelised exterior and a pink centre. A good 200-250g portion comes on a mound of cauliflower mash. There’s a lake of tasty, light red wine sauce and a jumble of roasted mushrooms, garlic, bacon, cherry tomatoes and herbs.
A warm orange and almond pudding with an orange syrup (I told you he loves orange) comes with acceptable vanilla ice cream ($10). It’s fine, without sweeping us off our feet. And, working on the basis that the most expensive must surely be acceptable, and that Western Australia is the place to blend semillon and sauvignon blanc, we get through a bottle of something branded Wise, from 2002, at $24, without pain.
But rarely have I seen a wine list that so actively avoids both reliable, high-volume commercial wines and would-be cult boutique product for brands I’ve never heard of and grape varieties from regions they’re not noted for thriving in.
Bistro 1404 is, therefore, on its way. Not to Oakleigh, but to being something well worth travelling a few kilometres for. Just get the address right.
• The name Bistro 1404 is a reference to the owner’s birthday.
THE SCORE: 13.5/20
Terrific value-for-money small suburban bistro with a few rough edges but plenty of potential.
WHERE: 309 Centre Road, Bentleigh, 9557 0808
FOOD: Modern/European
BILL: about $66 for two (two courses and coffee) plus drinks
OPEN: lunch Wed-Sun midday-3pm; dinner Tues-Sun 6pm-10.30pm

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