St. Cloud may sit on a dilapidated part of Burwood Road, but with neon pink graffiti wall art and an industrial-style outdoor deck, it's by no means a difficult task to find. And it's lucky that it isn't, as this particular culinary cloud boasts some of the best contemporary Vietnamese food in Melbourne's east.
Inside, it's all old-school rustic dark timber, raw concrete, plants and low-hanging lightbulbs. The rooftop garden (available for private functions) features a vast amount of greenery and pale, summery timber. Add these two spaces together, and St Cloud is one of the finest looking eating houses in the east.
The venue comes from trio James Klapanis (owner of Toorak's Quaff), Franky Pham (who's worked in Vietnam for two years) and Shaunn Anderson (ex-Feast of Merit). In its past life, it was a furniture store, meaning that everything from infrastructure to the brickwork and painting needed to be redone — and everyone was involved.
"We're all very hands-on people. We all helped out painting walls — even though we probably made more of a mess for the painter than anything," Pham jokes. "We know every nook and cranny of this place."
The menu at the Eating House is split between between lightning fast lunch meals and share-style dinner plates. It's a mix of bright, bold dishes and quieter meals that may not stay in your memory for long, so if it's your first visit, snag a friendly waitress to point you in the right direction.
The banh khot, or mini Vietnamese pancakes ($12-20), are a biting combination of turmeric and coconut with spring onion oil, herbs and nuoc mam (a salty-sweet Vietnamese dipping sauce made from fish sauce). For something heartier, their caramel pork belly with soft egg, pickled chilli, spring onion, black pepper and crackling ($38) is a surefire stomach satisfier.
However, if you're swinging by for lunch, pair a delectably light and well-seasoned Vietnamese slaw ($8) with some charred grass-fed beef, lemongrass, honey and sesame ($8) for a fresh feed. St Cloud's warm space means that, whether you're running on a 30-minute lunch break at the bar or are in need of a table for ten, you'll be well looked after — and well fed.
Images: Kate Shanasy