A new restaurant has sprouted on the Hampden Road strip – Mel and Co Garden in Nedlands. You may be familiar with the name. The original, brunch spot Mel and Co Kitchen, is found in Cottesloe. We’ve dined at this venue before, in its previous incarnation as The Wild Duck. What we find at Mel and Co Garden is a different offering altogether.
Service is prompt and friendly. The space has been livened up from its stuffy fine dining days and lush foliage is everywhere, even on the ceiling. Vibrant murals of black cockatoos and green leaves adorn the walls, making it a lovely spot to sit.
At Mel and Co the garden themed concept is a little left of centre. The Asian fusion menu resembles a theme park brochure, including a map of dishes, taking you through different Asian cuisines as well as the “Cactus Garden” (Mexican) and “BBQ Area” (US).
In an age where we eat with our eyes more than ever, this restaurant pulls out all the stops to create Instagram-worthy dishes. Even marking dishes on the map as “photo opportunities” and “points of interest” (signature dishes). A clever move which is sure to appeal to millennials.
The short and sweet wine list is overshadowed by Mel and Co’s quirky cocktail offering. I just can’t go past one of the cloche covered concoctions. A fairy-tale inspired “poison apple” martini arrives shrouded in mystery, under the cover of a glass dome, full with smoke infused with apple woodchips. Our waitress whips off the cloche and our senses are hit with the fragrant apple smoke. The vanilla vodka, apple, egg white foam and lemon cocktail is as scrumptious as a lemon meringue.
At the waitress’s suggestion, we order five share dishes, which all arrive at once. I would have preferred that the kitchen staggered the dishes. We start with delicate lotus chips ($6) loaded with tangy pineapple salsa. The bite size appetisers make for a delicious start to our lunch.
Pork belly poppers ($12), aka cubed and skewered roasted pork belly bites, are smothered in smoky bbq sauce. These meaty morsels are topped with salsa, and dipped into an irresistible crackling dust for extra crunch.
Next up, three brioche sliders ($16) are bulging with an Indonesian rendang spiced beef brisket and slaw. A jalapeno dressing gives even more kick. One slider is served on a black charcoal bun, which doesn’t add a smoky flavour as you’d expect, but does add a striking aesthetic to the humble burger.
I’m tucking into the pork poppers when a waitress theatrically spoons candy pink pomegranate foam onto a salmon dish ($30). While the plate of food is pretty as a picture, I find the salmon tasteless. The green pea puree, broccolini, apple and fennel salad add fresh and crisp flavours to this dish.
We’re quickly running out of room on our table. A metal frame is placed in the middle, where a long wooden platter brimming with pork ribs ($42) is served, along with a squirt of apple from a spray bottle. Marinated in a house-made dry rub, the moist and meaty American-style smoky bbq ribs are finger licking delicious. A generous potato salad is on the side.
Intrigued with what dessert may hold, I squeeze in a cherry and blackcurrant Pavlova ($12). This is no ordinary pav – shaped like little mushrooms and surrounded by lashings of double cream, rose petals and fresh berries.
Your mother may have told you not to play with your food – but that is encouraged with the zen garden ($14). The Japanese inspired rock garden features miso cheesecake, chocolate and salted caramel “rocks”, on a shortbread soil and a white chocolate rake. This tasty dessert is a textural treat.
Though it’s not an assault on the senses like the infamous Barton G restaurants in the US, which serve their food in toasters, wheelbarrows and on mannequins – Mel and Co Garden still has that weird and wonderful factor.
Mel and Co Garden has all the table theatre and pizazz of a high end restaurant, though there are many casual, value for money dining options here. This spot may not be for you, if you’re a traditionalist. If you like a little fun with your food, and don’t mind fussy foams and sprays, then head down to Mel and Co Garden Nedlands for an unexpected culinary adventure!
Mel & Co Garden – At a Glance
■ Mel and Co Garden
35 Hampden Road
Phone – 9386 2428
■ Opening times
Sun to Thurs – 7am to 9pm
Fri & Sat – 7am to 10pm
value for money 4
■ style – Asian Fusion
■ wine – Mainly Australian wines,
with a few international drops
and interesting cocktail offering.
■ Chef – Kevin Senjaya
■ Owners – Lina Young
■ feel – fresh and vibrant
■ wheelchair access – yes
Share – $6 to $150
Dessert – $12 to $45
■ all in all – This botanic themed
restaurant provides many
unexpected treats for your tastebuds.