What do you get when you cross an ex-nightclub owner turned designer with a French-trained chef with a penchant for southern-style fried food? Anything other than ordinary, that’s for sure.
Forget pared-back Scandinavian chic, subway tiles, polished concrete floors or any other colour-by-number restaurant design cues; Natural History Bar & Grill is the maximalist brainchild of Mike Delaney (Honky Tonks, Sorry Grandma) and ultimate insider chef Morgan McGlone (Belle’s Hot Chicken) and it’s here to shake up your expectations of restaurant dining in Melbourne.
A 1940s bank site has been transformed into one of Melbourne’s newest attractions, driven by big personalities and even bigger dreams. Natural History is a sprawling bar and restaurant that seats 350 and borrows its design aesthetic from big city Americana meets nature. Think the Oyster Bar at NYC’s Grand Central Station with its bustling, cavernous, multi-station offering, fused with The Smithsonian Institute.
Yes, that means your meal comes complete with taxidermy dioramas depicting scenes from the great north.
All you really need to know, though, is that it’s a classic bar and grill – just tweaked a little to suit its place in the world. It’s simple, generous and produce-driven food, with a little nuanced technique from McGlone that hints at his considerable culinary chops.
More than just a restaurant, there are multiple touch points throughout the space such as Porchetta Bar Café, which caters to day walkers with coffee and fast eats (pastries, porchetta sambos) from 7am. There’s ample bar space for leaning and lurking in the evening, and of course, there’s the restaurant itself.
“We wanted to pay homage to the great bar and grills of America, like Peter Luger Steakhouse in NYC, and of course [a little closer to home], the man who really set the benchmark here in Australia for what a great bar and grill can be – Neil Perry and his Rockpool Bar & Grill,” says McGlone.
It’s not all carnivorous delights (although these are clearly worth a look in - the steaks in particular); Natural History is testament to the very modern understanding that vegetables deserve as much of a spotlight in a bar and grill setting as the pleasures of the flesh. McGlone’s love of natural wine shines through on the liquid menu side of things, so expect less classic big reds and more left of centre drops.
It’s a time when opening a restaurant, let alone one that caters for up to 450 standing, is a brave move, but we wouldn’t expect any less from some of the boldest personalities in the Australian restaurant industry today.
It’s a night at the museum, just not as you know it.
Tues - Fri 7am - 1am; Sat 5pm - 1am
401 Collins St, Melbourne VIC