This city has its fair share of restaurants and bars where you can sit between two of our icons and take in the scenery whilst you nosh and splosh at high-brow venues. White table cloths, polished glassware, the whole package. Along comes Joost Bakker, a passionate Melbourne-based Dutch-born artist with recycling skills that put us all to shame.
With the current success of his Greenhouse in Perth and previous ’08/’09 Greenhouse pop-up at Melbournes Fed Square, the concept has ecologically plonked itself down on the lapping shores of Campbells Cove, a stones throw from the Opera House and in the shadow of our belovedly congested Harbour Bridge.
From the outside it all looks like a living piece of art. The shipping containers from which most of this came are vividly painted with butterflies, the walls are veiled with terracotta pots of wild strawberries and the roof is literally alive with herbs growing in composted waste from organic scraps produced by the restaurant below. Inside, as you step onto the herringbone patterned floor constructed from recycled conveyor belts, your eyes are immediately drawn to the endless wording on the walls and ceiling. The space is light-filled and airy and takes advantage of the external harbourside scenery.
Coming down to the edibles, I decided to drop by one morning for a potential breakfast but was informed that no food would be available until midday. I settle for one of the iced coffees (4) served in a recycled glass jar and sit back to take in the prime position this Greenhouse will be calling home over the next two months.
Second visit has me tucking into a number of things. As I nibble on my fig, prosciutto and walnut salad (18) using wooden cutlery I sip on a blend of sangiovese and cabernet from local wine makers Natural Selection Theory. The salad comes served on a plywood tablet smeared with mild goats curd and the delicious vino ($9) is in nothing more than a lidless glass jar. Soon to follow is a glass of Little Creatures brew (complimentary), nicely chilled in a sawn-off beer bottle. Don’t worry, the cut edge is smoothed off.
My next request of fried spiced cauliflower is sadly denied due to its popularity. None left, I’m afraid. The wagyu beef (25), however, is a perfectly cooked piece of topside leaning on a beautiful romesco (roasted tomato, capsicum, onion, garlic & ground nuts) topped with a glossy roasted baby leek. It’s a great collection of flavours and the only let-down is that wooden cutlery. Not only does it grate on the teeth but it struggles like buggery to cut through the fibrous meat. Where is there an unecological steak knife when you need one? OK, maybe another let-down. The mould growing on the plywood due to it not drying properly after washing. I guess that makes it organic?
The wheat in the pizza base is stone-milled onsite and makes for a very wholemeal pork & fennel-topped pizza (15), providing a slight crunch and grainy bite. It’s quite good even if it is on the petit side.
As the sun sets and the city lights are switched on, it was only then that I looked up and noticed no lighting in the structure other than the kitchen. Of course. We’re in the Greenhouse. A blanket of romantic (for some) candle light flickers and glows throughout the restaurant shell as the ferries scurry across the harbour and that Bridge and Opera House chew through electricity to make themselves beautiful at night.