What do you get when you cross three fine dining heroes with decades of combined experience that spans pretty much the entire world? Although this sounds a lot like a punchline that would force you to unfollow a close friend, the real answer is Etta, the new home for Hayden McMillan, Hannah Green, and Dominique Fourie McMillan. The trio, who have an insane resume that includes Cutler & Co, The Roving Marrow (which won a hat under Hayden's charge), Attica and Neil Perry's Rosetta, opened up their new joint on March 23 at the Brunswick East end of Lygon Street.
With restaurants all over the place trending towards a more healthy-meets-delicious selection of dishes, it's no surprise to see the trio's newest venture taking up the mantle of the balanced yet tasty diet. When we met Hayden back in 2013, when he was killing it in the kitchen at Auckland's TriBeCa, he told us that his dish of choice at home was a "massive bowl of vegetables and sweetcorn with sliced almonds and butter". Whether or not that's still the case, this focus on vegetables is key to the menu at Etta. It's not a case of a strictly vegetarian joint, but he says to expect "a heavy representation of produce over protein".
While it's easy to give in to our inner child and assume that everything that is good for you tastes rubbish, Hayden is aiming to blast that notion back into the past — where it belongs. "It's the kind of eating that makes people feel good," he says. "And it's delicious." So expect dishes like mozzarella pasta with peas and broccoli, King George whiting with lentils and lemon, and a rich charcoal lamb dish with goats' cheese.
The 80-seat restaurant is a 'contemporary neighbourhood bistro', and the wine list, curated by Hannah, shares that focus on locality, too, championing small producers and family-owned operations from both at home and abroad. The fit-out has been crafted by IF Architecture (the folks responsible for Gertrude Street's Marion), and will feature a botanical mural by local artist Robert Bowers.
As well as lending the bistro her name, blues legend Etta James once said that "the two things you can't fake are good food and good music". With a track record like the one belonging to the trio behind Etta, you'd best believe that they ain't faking.