After four years off the scene, The Espy — St Kilda's legendary waterside music pub — flung open its doors in November 2018. But, rather than giving us everything at once, new owners Sand Hill Road opened it in stages. Which is fair, considering the sprawling establishment has 12 bars, two restaurants and three live music stages spread across six levels.
The first eatery to open was the 450-seater Espy Kitchen, which is serving up pub classics and share plates, overseen by Executive Chef Ash Hicks (Circa, Garden State). Next, Cantonese Restaurant Mya Tiger and its accompanying cocktail bar joined the action. Located on The Espy's fifth floor, this warm, welcoming space has dazzling vistas of Port Phillip Bay.
The design — a collaboration between Sand Hill Road, Techne Architects and stylist Eleisha Gray — takes inspiration from two sources: St Kilda's 1850s Chinese cook-shops and the airy colonial architecture of Singapore's Raffles Hotel. Think plush gold and green velvet, lots of tassels, dark timbers and old-school fans. Expansive windows make the most of the watery views and, in warm weather, coastal breezes.
Hicks put together the menu with Head Chef Sarah Chan (Longrain and Lotus Dining). At its heart is traditional Cantonese cooking, designed for sharing. Start out with sesame prawn toast and ginger chicken dumplings, then move onto roast duck and crispy pork belly, with a generous side of veggies, such as honey caramel eggplant or fried green beans with chilli and cashews. It's also a bit hard to go past the super-fresh seafood, be it XO pipis or typhoon king prawns. On the dessert menu you'll find mango coconut pudding, red bean pancake and an ice cream sandwich.
These sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavours are well matched with the wine list, put together by sommelier Matt Skinner. It's big on fragrant whites and light reds, with a particular focus on riesling and pinot noir made by local producers.
Following suit is the cocktail list, created by bar manager Kevin Peters in collaboration with Chan. On a summery evening, try the Beijing Peach, a heady concoction of Jasmine-infused vodka, lime and peach. Or, if you're in the mood for a harder hitter, there's the Chinese 5 Spice Highball, infused Havana Especial, Pepsi and citrus. Or help yourself to a craft brew from the self-serve beer fridge.
Images: Simon Shiff.