by James Ridenour
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Gail and Kevin Donovan met while working at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne back in the 1980’s and a match made in restaurant heaven was born.  Years later Gail and Kevin harnessed their passion for food, wine and hospitality and to the benefit of all Melburnians Donovans was born.

Donovans has been at the top of Melbourne’s restaurant game for 18 years, which is no small feat in our super competitive restaurant scene.  The secret to their success is a passion for hospitality.  It’s so evident when you meet them.  They are such genuinely wonderful people.  Best of all they love sharing their passion for fine food and wine and that in essence is the secret of how they can consistently provide one of the best dining experiences in Melbourne.  In fact they are so passionate about hospitality you’ll regularly see them in the restaurant involved in service.

Donovans is situated on St Kilda beach, prime real estate for people watching and a great spot to get a feel for the vibe of Melbourne; relaxed, fun, unpretentious and yet so very cosmopolitan and chic.  The restaurant gets a feng shui makeover every six months as Gail changes the decor from spring/summer to autumn/winter.  No matter when you visit you’ll feel that you are being entertained as a guest in a private vacation home and in a way you are.  A number of the decorations move between the Donovan’s private home and their restaurant.  One of the restaurants best features is a lounge which is prominently located just off centre of the dining room.  The lounge is perfect for pre or post dinner drinks and it features a stone fireplace which gives the room a chalet feel in winter before the beach takes centre stage in summer.

So what about the food?  Donovans is my go to restaurant for any guests who are looking for the highest quality seafood in Melbourne.  In fact I recently booked Donovans for a very fussy world travelled guest.  He returned to the hotel raving that the whole baby snapper was the best fish he had anywhere in the world!  I regularly get amazing feedback from my guests and my recent experience reconfirmed Donovans status as one of my all time favourites.  My dining companion, who is an ex restaurateur, is one of the toughest people I know to impress with restaurants.  He was absolutely thrilled with the meal, service and wine pairings stating that he will return again and again as this was his new favourite restaurant.  Kevin by the way has an intuitive skill which enables him to choose wines which provide dramatic pairings with food.  I was impressed with his selections for us and I would highly recommend that you ask his advice on wine when you visit.

I love Donovans extensive menu which is teeming with choices from the barbecue, to seafood, pasta, and salads.  There are even romantic dishes for two, perfect for that special occasion.  The menu is well balanced and has a flair that is sure to impress.  One of the things I love about Gail and Kevin is that each year when they holiday somewhere in the world they set out to investigate what’s new in the restaurant scene.  When dining out they introduce themselves as fellow restauranteurs and engage with like minded professionals.  They then take these ideas home and implement them in their restaurant in a uniquely Australian way.  This brings a wonderful sophistication to menu and keeps Donovans and the forefront of fine dining.

Our dining experience started with crab and tomato consommé with Western Australian crabmeat, spring vegetables and golden jewels.  We also tried a pasta dish with local Moreton Bay bug meat tossed with crustacean velouté, cavatelli pasta and pangrattato.  Both dishes had delicate flavours that were balanced to perfection.  For our mains we tried oven roasted Chatham Island cod with ‘panzanella’ flavours, golden olive oil mash,crispy jamon and lemon basil sauce.  The cod was light, wonderfully flakey and tender.  It was much more delicate than most other cod dishes I have tried.  My dining companion had new season’s lamb rump with sweet green peas three ways, velvety mash and old fashioned mint sauce which was beautifully executed.  For dessert we let the waiter choose and tasting menu was presented with creme brûlée and chocolate torte along with four small ice cream cones each filled with a sublime delicacy.

To finish off the evening we were presented with a “doggie bag dessert” for my dog Maxibillion.  Gail and Kevin are dog lovers (you will see photos of Wallis and Red around the restaurant) and Gail had remembered from one of my previous lunch visits that I have a French Bulldog.  They were so thoughtful in presenting this personalised treat.  This is the kind of attention to detail and from the heart hospitality you will find at Donovans.  This service ethic flows through to each of their team who are genuine professionals making the service at Donovans seamless from beginning to end.

Donovans is perfect for lunch, dinner or a special occasion and I can’t wait to return to enjoy world class hospitality and such an exemplary dining experience.

Donovans is located at 40 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda and can be contacted on (Tel) 03 9534 8221.

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