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Kate’s Week in Food: Melbourne’s most difficult to find restaurant + your new favourite wine bar

PARK IT

The iconic Middle Park Hotel has undergone a renovation and this weekend will unveil exciting changes including a new dining space, menu and two-level beer garden. Feeding and watering the locals for over 130 years, operators are promising a reinvention that pays homage to the pub’s roots, plus room for the whole family including four-legged members (there’ll be puppy parmas served in the beer garden daily for $5). All this weekend there’ll be free food and drink sessions, and look out for a a huge Grand Prix Street party event next weekend (13th-15th March). More info on this weekend’s offers: middleparkhotel.com.au

SUGAR SUGAR

Gorgeous North Carlton restaurant Henry Sugar is collaborating with local vermouth producer and winemaker, Gilles Lapalus of MAiDENii and Maison Lapalus, in a dinner exploring the transformation of wine to vermouth. The menu from chef Mike Baker will complement Maidenii’s native ingredients, including dry vermouth-cured kingfish with grapefruit and succulents, and duck breast smoked over wormwood and lemon myrtle. Each course will of course have a drinks match. Bookings through: henrysugar.com.au

ISHI-WHERE?

I think I’ve officially found Melbourne’s most difficult-to-find restaurant, but believe me, it’s worth it. Ishizuka is hidden down an alley, behind a security door, down a lift, inside a basement just off Bourke Street. Given we have no idea if the Olympics will go ahead in July, I figured I better get my taste of stunning kaiseki cuisine right here. Seating only sixteen guests, this is a stunning, serene experience. Chef Hitoshi Miyazawa has come from Tokyo via Singapore, and is serving up a refined 10 course menu of classic Japanese dishes and ingredients. I had a preview of the new Autumn menu, and am still dreaming of the intricate “autumn delicacies” dish; and the grilled Kagoshima A5 Wagyu with Hoba Miso. Certainly a special occasion restaurant, but it really is special. ishizuka.com.au

LITTLE PRINCE

Well the Prince Public Bar is back and it’s a cracker, now get ready for a boutique wine bar and store in Little Prince Wine. Coming in late March, this 60-person space will boast an underground cellar with access to some of the world’s most hard-to-come-by wines. It’ll complement the existing restaurant Prince Dining Room and the public bar with a more intimate dining experience, plus an impressive retail offering, and even conveniently packaged home-style meals. theprince.com.au

GRAZING WITH GRADI

As part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Gradi will hold an Italian Festival at Crown Melbourne’s riverwalk from Friday 20 – Sunday 22nd March. Entry is free, so head along and see world-famous pizzaioli Johnny Di Franceso and culinary craftsmen delivering authentic flavours of the homeland, from pizza and pasta to gelato and cannoli. There’ll be activities for the kids and pop-up bars in the evening for adults. It’ll be open 12pm-9pm each day.

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