Shannon Bennett has injected colour and vibrance into the Royal Botanic Gardens' once tired Observatory cafe, reviving the large space as Jardin Tan to create the perfect spot for families, joggers, tourists and Melburnians alike.
With prime position overlooking the Shrine of Remembrance, Jardin Tan sets out to please with its multiple dining areas. Grab a snack from the front-of-house kiosk to keep you going as you stroll the gardens, get down to business in the glassed atrium, or sit out the back near the blossoming fig tree on the sun-drenched deck. Any way you decide, it's clear that the space has been designed to maximise the location. It's a stunning space that glistens with colour, glass and a bit of neon — for good measure.
With a menu that calls upon a little bit of history and is inspired by the fusion of cuisines created by France's colonisation of Vietnam, Jardin Tan's food offering is just as dynamic. Depending on the time of day, sink your teeth into carefully crafted small and large plates that are bursting with clever combinations. Consider the banana blossom salad, with prawn, papaya, tofu and green mango ($16.50) or the banh cuon, with noodle wrapped pork mince, mint and fish sauce ($14). At breakfast, don't miss the banh xeo (crispy pancake with pork and shrimp; $18) washed down with a Vietnamese iced coffee ($6) for an authentic start to the day.
Fresh cakes and croissants litter the main counter, courtesy of Burnham Beeches bakery in the Dandenongs – another of Bennett's newest ventures – as well as a wide variety of daily salads. Recently extended hours also mean that Jardin Tan is now open for dinner seven nights a week, bar menu included. Given summer in Melbourne, it couldn't be better timed.
Jardin Tan probably isn’t the cheapest Vietnamese in the city, but it comes close to ticking all the boxes: fresh produce, great location, and decent coffee. If you're after a welcoming space that provides just enough exoticism in its Melbourne roots, this is it.