You'll find a secret bar, a courtyard and an ex-Vue de Monde chef at this Mediterranean bistro.
Has a year without travel left you craving a sun-drenched jaunt to the other side of the world? Well, you might not be able to enjoy the real deal just yet, but you can indulge in a pretty convincing make-believe session at South Yarra bar and bistro Vesper. Since opening its doors in late January 2021, this restaurant has been transporting diners to the sparkling islands of the Mediterranean, with the help of a seafood-heavy menu spiked with a variety of regional flavours.
Italian chef Francesco Castellana (Vue de Monde, New York's Per Se) is heading up the kitchen, where he's sating those travel yearnings with elegant plates — including almond gazpacho with olive oil-poached mackerel ($25), plus Sardinian-style fregola with pecorino and saffron-braised abalone ($33). There's an expansive raw bar selection, showcasing bites like house-cured swordfish finished with pickled grape and baby fennel ($19.50), and marinated vegetables teamed with a buffalo yoghurt tzatziki ($15). The red snapper fillet ($36.50) comes with a side of preserved lemon salmoriglio, as well as potato and caper purée, while the lamb cutlet ($39.50) is crusted in pistachio and mustard, served alongside an artichoke skordalia.
On arrival at Vesper, Melburnians will be greeted by a front dining space that's both warm and lively, with rich brown banquettes, mirrored accents and striking floral walls. Hidden beyond, however, is a secret bar and dining room that beckons for pre- and post-dinner drinks, complete with an adjacent leafy courtyard.
In the venue's back space, you'll be able to escape the rush with a secluded tipple or two from the classic-leaning cocktail lineup — a tight selection featuring a range of summery spritzes and a nod to the vesper martini crafted on Four Pillars olive leaf gin. There's also a curation of boutique wines sourced from across Europe and Australia, and a mix of local and Mediterranean beers in the fridge.