by James Ridenour
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Epocha & Hannah’s Bar

Epocha is the newest jewel in Melbourne’s culinary crown.  Housed in an elegant terraced Victorian home on Rathdowne Street, Carlton Epocha quintessentially defines Melbourne’s unique restaurant style.  The restaurant and bar perfectly capture the spirit of Melbourne hospitality and will impress locals and visitors alike.

Epocha is owned by one of my all time favourite front of house professionals Angie Giannakodakis (ex La Boucherie Pariseinne and The Press Club) and her charming business partner Guy Holder (ex Two Fish Port Douglas, The Press Club, Momo’s and Rockpool).  When you get two exceptional restaurant professionals striking out for the first time on their own you know you are in for a special experience.

From the moment you arrive Epocha oozes a modern yet old world charm with a laid back sophistication.  The beautiful Victorian terrace home has been modernised without loosing its heritage which is exactly what you will find with the menu, European with a new world flair.

Angie and Guy’s attention to detail is inspiring and the first hint of this was my Negroni, served with a generous citrus peel and old-fashioned block cut ice.  Our welcome drink was served upstairs in Hannah’s bar, named for the original owner of the building Hannah Maybelle.  Here you will find a gloriously flirtatious mural of Hannah which would have caused quite a stir in Victorian times.  From the stories I was told about Hannah I think she would have loved it.  Part of the experience of Epocha is the history of the building so make sure you ask the team to tell you a tale or two about Hannah and Victorian Melbourne.  Another great feature in the bar are the tables which are fitted with backgammon boards allowing you to while away the afternoon or evening playing board games, as was popular in Victorian times.  My pick though is to take a seat on the balcony and enjoy the leafy views of Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Buildings.

We headed downstairs to the main dining room for lunch and I was struck with a few impressive design elements.  A large ‘Epocha’ clock towers over the dining room which also features a lovely old wood stove and a dumb-waiter.  The service areas blend incredibly well with the dining room and its clear that the design aim is to ensure you feel like a guest in someone’s home.  The best feature of the dining room is the avant-garde chandelier which was custom-made.  Each of the lights which hang from multiple arms can be individually moved, raised and lowered to suit.   It’s sort of an impressionist twister chandelier which blends incredibly well with the Victorian room even though it is so modern.

Our party was treated to the Sunday roast lunch menu and we started off with house made bread and a very impressive addition of  house churned butter.  I can’t recall the last time I had home-made bread and butter of this quality.  Our party sheepishly asked for replenishments it was so good.  The bread was accompanied by silky smooth pâté and crisp bread along with a bowl of olives.  Next was unusual but delicious combination of fish with a light gorgonzola sauce followed by tender skewers of lamb.  Our main was roast chicken, with roast onion, carrot, beans and stuffing.  The meal was Sunday roast perfection.

Chef Mick Bolam has created an interesting and creative sharing menu that puts a Melbourne spin on a European inspired menu.   The list of shared plates is inspired with offerings such as pork and sage faggots, bubble and squeak or whole market fish, fruit rub, dill, lemon and salsa verde.   Some other great enticements are venison carpaccio, mushrooms ‘a la Greque’ and hazelnuts or baby carrots, honey, goat’s curd and beetroot.

The wine list has been hand-picked from Europe and you will not find one wine on the list that is not exceptional.  Epocha is my pick for next year’s short wine list of the year and you will find it is well priced providing great wines at great value.  I would also highly recommend that cheese lovers take note as Angie is a serious cheese connoisseur and has created a superb cheese board.

What I can guarantee is you will notice is the service.  Most of the team has worked together in other establishments and has been hand-picked by Angie and Guy guaranteeing you an exceptional service experience.

One last thing, the washrooms are divine.  I mentioned this to Angie and her face lit up.  Angie explained that she wanted something really special (as if the rest of the restaurant was not enough) and my goodness she’s done it.  The washrooms are elegant without being over the top featuring a black and white colour palette with a gold leaf mirror and beautiful toiletries.  Elegance personified.  So many establishments miss out on this crucial element, it just goes to show you the amount of thought and care that has gone into this restaurant.

Epocha is out to impress and wow did they ever!  My advice, get in while you can because very soon there will be line ups out the door!

Epocha is located at 49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton and can be contacted on (Tel 03 9036 4949) or Twitter @EpochaCarlton

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