03 December, 2008

Venue challenge;Tiamo 2

Tiamo 2: 305 Lygon St, Carlton; 9347 0911

I recently found myself challenged for a suitable dining location: friends from out of town, looking for somewhere in easy reach of the city, not too pricey, not too adventurous, not too loud. Does anywhere spring to your mind immediately? My additional criteria were that Hardware Lane and the bottom end of Lygon St were both out. It was for a Saturday night too, which can wipe out some suitable weekday options, and the first couple of phone calls I made to book somewhere made it clear that we'd also be in for an early dinner.

The challenge, as I see it, is that within the city, most restaurants fall into one of two categories: $10 noodle bars, or $30+ serious restaurants. That is a generalisation, but given we wanted a Sit-down Talk on a Saturday night many of Melbourne's signature venues - ie the bar-cum-restaurant and restaurant-cum-bar - were excluded from the search. I'm also always anxious to give interstaters a Melbourne Experience: preferably the restaurant should be unlike anything readily available to them in their hometown. When I don't know their tastes very well, though, it can be doubly hard to find a restaurant that serves immediately interpretable food. I'm not knocking the food scene - all the things I excluded from this search are in fact exactly what I love about eating in Melbourne.

Maybe I was making things harder for myself than they needed to be. Interestingly, after putting the challenge to a couple of friends, the three of us independently came up with the same options: Tiamo 2 (on the less-scary stretch of Lygon St, between Elgin and Faraday Sts) and the Hotel Lincoln (on Cardigan St). I haven't been back to the Lincoln since the unfortunate whiting/whitebait incident, and wasn't sure how pubby it would get on a Saturday, so Tiamo 2 it was.

It turned out to be a great choice, suiting all concerned, and having the earlier meal meant we had plenty of space and atmosphere in which to catch up on the last couple of years. Given this was also the night Melbourne decided to hit 10C in November, it was great to be cosied up inside and upstairs, with dishes like lamb shank on the specials board.

The dining and aesthetic highlight was this tiramisu, a generous serve to say the least!
Afterwards, we realised another advantage to our eventual dining location of choice: it's proximity to Percy's Bar. I've only written up a cheap pub meal on quiz night from this venue (also known as Astor Hotel), but it is a fine establishment. Beers are truly cheap, and it's a takeaway alternative to entering the bowels of the nearby shopping centre to go to Safeway. It's got a proper English pub feel of conviviality and homeliness and, without doubt, the tallest barstools in Melbourne.


  1. For the 'Melbourne experience' try Houndstooth on Johnston St Fitzroy - it fits the niche you mention and has atmosphere and charm too.

  2. It's a good tip, Fitz, cheers.

    I did think of Houndstooth, actually, but I'm pretty sure it's only open for dinner Mon-Fri. You're spot on though, during the week it'd be the perfect place.

  3. That tiramisu looks fantastic!!!