Dining out at The Bay Tree

The stylish restaurant area

The stylish restaurant area - Credit: Archant

New World cuisine impresses our reviewer on a lunchtime visit to Melbourne

Drop scones

Drop scones - Credit: Archant

The Bay Tree restaurant in Melbourne certainly has an impressive pedigree. Often topping many of the county’s top food guides and winning a host of well-deserved awards, it has become renowned for its modern British menu devised by head chef and joint proprietor Rex Howell.

Pan-Asian belly pork

Pan-Asian belly pork - Credit: Archant

Incredibly, Malaysian-born Rex is self-taught and together with Victoria Talbott, who offers warmth and knowledge in her front of house role, they’ve created an establishment that achieves the tricky balancing act of being relaxed, intimate and personal, whilst delivering the sort of first class service and sophisticated cuisine found in only the finest establishments.

The Bay Tree, Melbourne

The Bay Tree, Melbourne - Credit: Archant

Located on the corner of Melbourne’s charming Potter Street, the frosted glass windows of the red brick restaurant create a sense of intrigue as to what you’ll find inside. Once through the door diners can relax in well designed comfort with tasteful décor, soft lighting and smart seating in the split level dining area.

Salmon and potato fishcakes

Salmon and potato fishcakes - Credit: Archant

The menu focuses on local produce but Rex draws his inspiration from across the world, especially the Far East. Eager to get a feel for the scope of his New World culinary style, we were drawn in by the dazzling ‘Three Course Luncheon’. There are four choices including tomato broth with vegetable paysanne and grilled prawns, or Parma ham with melon and black pepper dressing to begin, while main courses vary from pan-seared escalope of Loch Duart salmon, Jerusalem artichoke purée, lime and herb dressing and sautéed girolles to pan-roasted breast of corn-fed chicken with homemade gnocchi, baby broad beans and chorizo oil. Liquorice parfait, lime syrup, lime cheeks and mango sorbet; liquid centre chocolate pudding; and yoghurt and vanilla panna cotta with an apple glaze and rhubarb ice-cream will satisfy any sweet cravings. Accompanying all of this is a well chosen wine list featuring a huge variety of choices by the bottle or glass.

Seamless service delivered homemade bread before the arrival of two beautifully presented first courses. My colleague’s choice of duck and chicken liver parfait (£7.95) arrived as a neat wedge surrounded by cutlets of poached pear. Crispy toast was a great vehicle for the sharp meaty undertones whilst a chocolate port dressing proved an ideal match to the fruit.

The commitment to using only the finest freshest ingredients was evident in my salmon and potato fish cake (£7.95). Its flavour was testimony to its freshness and the pear and fennel relish slaw, surrounded by slivers of red pepper coulis, was a well executed combination.

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Second courses were even more robustly flavoured. Tomato, yoghurt and mustard, and apple chutneys accompanied my colleague’s spicy Malyasian style beef Rendang (£16.50). The curried mix, which could include prawns if prefered, was crowned with a poppadom and served alongside ghee rice and a pot of tiny fried fish – a flavoursome and salty surprise.

My choice of pan-Asian belly pork (£17.95) was the ultimate showcase for the kitchen team’s talent. The meat – juicy and tender with a sensational flavour – was topped with a sheet of crackling and served on a bed of tangy pineapple and sweetcorn relish. Rich Chinese black vinegar and rocket dressed with sweet chilli sauce tied the components together perfectly.

Warm drop scones, lemon curd, clotted cream and fresh berries ended a flawless meal, and one that had been delivered with great care and real artistic flair.

The Bay Tree’s Luncheon menu offers three courses for £25, two for £22.50 and a choice of light lunches. I’ve heard colleagues wax lyrical about the Champagne Breakfasts and if you’re visiting Melbourne to enjoy the festivities in September, dining here would certainly top off any day of festival fun.

The Bay Tree, 4 Potter Street, Melbourne DE73 8HW Tel: 01332 863 358 baytreerestaurant.com