Fine Dining’s Enfant Terrible
Claim to fame: The wild child of Victorian dining
Reason to go: Catch an up-and-coming Filipino-Australian star
Look out for: A cocktail program that’s an attraction in itself
Pardon me, waiter, but there’s Kalamata olives distilled into my Martini. From the (gratuitous) accents on the name to the unusual choice (for Australia, at least), to insist on Tock for bookings, Lûmé has never been a restaurant shy of advertising its ambitions to go its own way. Tables in the main dining room are arrayed facing the very open kitchen––dinner and a show––while a walk further into the building might take a guest past a rotary evaporator. It was original chef-patron Shaun Quade who launched Lûmé on this trajectory, but after putting his name on several years’ worth of provocative menus, Quade stepped away from the restaurant, and it’s now John Rivera calling the shots.
Habitués of ambitious restaurants of the last decade may feel accustomed to many of techniques and ideas that underpin proceedings; the plate of snacks, the carefully tweezed sea-succulents, petals and tiny leaves, the freeze-drying and dusting. But Rivera’s savvy sampling of Filipino flavors reanimates these familiar tropes, investing them with new interest. Black banana and sweet potato provide unexpected zest against elements of prawn and pork among the opening snacks. A dark crescent of toasted coconut underlines the tropical leanings of melty-tender calamari in a clear cucumber consommé. Burnt tamarind is the pleasing plot-twist in a fillet of dry-aged blue-eye trevalla swathed in sorrel leaves and perilla, while avocado makes its way into a custard-apple “milkshake” at dessert. Is the room the prettiest in town? Are the aesthetic transitions always seamless? Is the service consistently at the diner’s service above all? Perhaps not. But then Lûmé has never seemed that concerned with pleasing all comers - it’s a place more for anyone who shares its particular spirit of exploration.