All things are relative. If you think you know the meaning of hospitality, a visit to Epocha may force you to reconsider. You probably weren't aware that a weeknight restaurant reservation could leave you with such elation; a feeling of having been hugged by the walls, filled with liquid gold and gently guided through a journey of passion and indulgence isn't a regular occurrence. It's special stuff.
When I first walked into Epocha I had no idea what it was. I hadn't read any reviews; I hadn't looked at the menu online and semi-decided what to order. I had no expectations, which is perhaps what made the whole experience glimmer in the way that it did. Epocha — located on the city fringe on Carlton's garden-facing Rathdowne Street — is unassuming and brilliant. From the Victorian terrace facade to the dim and demure dining room, there's something stately about this restaurant. Its high, homely ceilings, the elegantly mismatched glassware and cosy capacity has sentiments in European dinner parties, but, from both the service and the offering, this is no novice operation.
First, the service. Both owners, Angie Giannakodakis (ex Press Club) and Guy Holder, are hospo old hands, bringing with them years of experience to Epocha. And it shows. Both Angie and Guy are fixtures of the dining room — offering a back-story to any dish, divulging the preparation process and effortlessly flitting between conversation and a service so personal it's a rarity even in fine dining. Mention you're driving home and Angie will remember to fill your wine glass sparingly; ask how to fillet a fish and Guy will possibly do it at your table. Along with sommelier Danny Gibson, you're in bona fide hospitality hands.
Like all good European meals, everything at Epocha is made to share. Mini crumpets with honeycomb ($7.50) come fresh out of the oven, as does the moreish dark rye bread that is plonked on your table in a cloth bag next to a hunk of butter. The paper-thin swordfish carpaccio is right on and the chicken liver pate ($10) is outstanding — you'll be hard-pressed not to lick your fingers of every purple smear.
The light-as-air sliced Scotch fillet with bone marrow sauce will melt in your mouth like nothing else ($80 for 1kg), while the whole baked fish with lemon and dill is perfect for a table of seafood fiends (in fact, these two work best together). Sides are ordered separately; ergo, the duck fat roast potatoes must be ordered.
Wine is available by the glass and on recommendation; you're best to trust the experts and let them choose. Maybe you want a liqueur? All you have to do is mention ouzo and Angie will be pouring you a glass before you can hesitate. Oh, and the dessert trolley will be rolling around — just try and resist the rotating sweet selections when they are practically on your plate.
Even without the dessert trolley clouding my judgement, Epocha is an anomaly in hospitality. Exceeding the norm in both excellent service and incredible cuisine, the personification of the restaurant in Angie and Guy make this a place you won't fleetingly forget. It's one to cherish.