Previously an electrical transformer warehouse, the team behind Panama Dining, Rice Queen and Melbourne’s beloved Vegie Bar have transformed (forgive the pun) this huge space into Melbourne’s latest and best all-vegetarian restaurant, Transformer.
Situated just behind Vegie Bar on Rose St, Fitzroy, the design combines simplistic modern with endearing vintage touches. You immediately feel as if you’ve walked into a farmhouse with timber, exposed beams, and plants climbing up cyclone fences. However, the dark furniture, dim lighting, individual hanging lamps and beautiful cutlery and crockery make it clear that the kitchen isn’t going to be serving up simple farm-style cooking.
The menu is elegant, bold and just the right amount of trendy. Many restaurants create menus for sharing, however here this is done very specifically. We were encouraged to order everything in one go, so that the chefs can stagger the plates they send out based of which dishes complement each other. We were also given extra communal cutlery. Clearly, we had to share. But there was no way I was sharing my Aperol Dill Spritz!
Possibly my favourite thing about this restaurant is the physical menus. They were pristine manila folders, with the food and drinks menu printed on file paper, even the date stamped at the top, and the dessert menu on a cue card in a separate pocket. Gorgeous.
But after oo-ing and ah-ing over the decor, it was time to get down to business. The food. My group of four ordered an inspiring array of food, from Grilled and compressed watermelon salad with almond feta, cherry tomatoes, chilli and pistachio oil, to Ricotta and rye gnocchi with organic sprouted lentils, pumpkin mousse and blueberry compote. Each dish was more refined, attractive, impressive and delicious than the last.
When it came down to it, I am slightly ashamed to say that my favourite dish of the night was the good ol’ grilled corncob. Basically every restaurant in Melbourne these days serves up their interpretation of a cool corn cob, and you may say my tastes are provincial, but this was no ordinary corn. What made this dish was the kimchi mayo smeared around the plate for the corn to be dipped in. It was everything you want in a mouthful: smokey, sweet, slightly spicy and sharp and ever so creamy. The beautiful sweet and sour pickle flavour from the kimchi was perfectly balanced with the corn and the creaminess of the mayo. My friends and I ended up eating the leftover mayo off the plate with our forks.
So thats an impressive fit out, impressive drinks, and an even more impressive menu. And the organic, air-dried, compressed cherry on top was the staff. So unbelievably accommodating and warm; they made the experience truly personal.
When you can’t even remember the restaurant only serves vegetarian food, you know this is proper food, done properly.
99 Rose Street, Fitzroy VIC 9419 2022
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 8:30am – late