Stepping inside the the Ovolo Inchcolm feels like stepping back in time, and that's completely by design. Eating at the onsite restaurant and bar, however, feels a little like leaping into the future. There's a thoroughly old-school vibe about Salon de Co, which is true of the hotel that its housed within — but the restaurant's menu is all about surprising hungry diners.
Perusing Salon de Co's culinary lineup resembles playing a guessing game, with chef Andy Ashby (previously of Sydney's Nel) keeping customers on their toes. Only the scantest of descriptions are offered for each dish, from a range that spans bites ($3–5), entrees to share ($13–24), mains ($36–40) and desserts ($9–16). Armed with only a two- or three-ingredient rundown of each item on the menu, you take your pick.
Does the combination of chickpea, beetroot and coriander ($4) whet your appetite? Or lamb, eel and desiree potato ($24), perhaps? Maybe you'd like pork, daikon and sesame ($38) — and fejoah, cream cheese and cinnamon ($16) to finish?
There are safe choices and there are adventurous choices, although they all have their charms, with rich flavours and a creative mix of textures featuring heavily. The restaurant's attentive waitstaff will explain what each option on the minimalist list actually entails, should you like a bit more certainty about what you're ordering — and if you need to cater for any allergies. But if you're happy to receive a surprise on your plate, then really do prepare to be surprised. Dishes such as beef, cabbage and horseradish ($38) and barramundi, turnip and charred broccolini ($36) serve up what you think they will in some ways, but not in others.
To wash it all down, you can opt for wine by the glass or by the bottle, all hailing from Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain and Italy. The cocktail list is small but worth delving into, especially if you like martinis of the lemon, rosemary or coffee variety. Beverages on the rocks come with a taste of orange (courtesy of Buffalo Trace bourbon and orange bitters), ginger (pairing Gosling Black Seal rum with pineapple and lemon as well) or salt (thanks to a blend of Don Julio Tequila, agave, lime and grapefruit).
That's dinner taken care of and a few tipples with it, but a night at Salon de Co is really a pre- and post-drinks affair. A broader range of cocktails are available in the bar, which also doubles as the hotel's reception desk, although you can be forgiven for not realising that's the case.
Velvet couches, lush floral wallpaper, and jars filled with free musk sticks and Fantales aren't what you'd expect to find in a hotel lobby-slash-watering hole, after all, nor are cabinets filled with David Bowie and Prince-themed crockery, old rotary phone handsets and cassette tapes — or a soundtrack of 70s and 80s tracks. In a revamped 1920s-era building, going retro works a treat. You'll get cosy, and you'll maybe even want to check-in afterwards.
Salon de Co is open for dinner from 6–9pm seven days a week, with the bar staying open afterwards. It also serves breakfast from Monday–Friday between 6–10am, and on weekends between 7–11am.