Dishing up the delish

Union Dining, Richmond
Ready, set, eat! Give your tastebuds a workout in Melbourne's newest restaurants.
"DOES she like it?" asks celebrity chef and restaurateur George Calombaris as he hovers at our table with hands clasped, face concerned.

The food critic puckers her lips and spits the spoon out, clean. Yes, George. The 10-month-old baby does like your strained pumpkin. The baby is happy. And George is happy, too.

"My mama is Greek. My baba is Italian. This is my food," reads a large banner in MamaBaba, the newest addition to the Calombaris empire, which includes The Press Club, St Katherine's and the gorgeous Hellenic Republic. This night, MamaBaba is a sea of South Yarra blondes and more than one instance of leopard print but all eyes are on the TV star chef, who orchestrates my tortellini filled with a prawn mousse with prawn saganaki, tomato and feta: a bargain at $26, considering a $45,000 pasta machine had a hand in its creation.

Calombaris's restaurant, opened in January, is one of a battalion of new eating houses to hit Melbourne in the past few months. Last year was a blockbuster for restaurant openings in the southern city, from big, brassy numbers (The Atlantic, Crown complex) to the oh-so-Melbourne phenomenon of a glitzy cocktail bar up the back of what looks like a trashed laneway (EDV, off Malthouse Lane).

And if all these newcomers weren't enough for the hungry hordes, the city is in the midst of its 20-day food orgy, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, where chefs and winemakers from the world's top restaurants indulge us: think great Dane Rene Redzepi from Copenhagen's NOMA, currently the world's top restaurant, or Spanish indigenous wine varietals champion Telmo Rodriguez.

Eating there
Bistro Gitan, mains from $29, 52 Toorak Rd West, South Yarra, (03) 9867 5853,
Chin Chin, mains $17-$33, 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, (03) 8663 2000,
MamaBaba, mains $19-$33, 21 Daly St, South Yarra, (03) 9207 7421,
Middle Fish, breakfast from $13.50, 122-128 Berkeley St, Carlton, (03) 9348 1704
Union Dining, Sunday lunch $55pp plus wine, 270 Swan St, Richmond, (03) 9428 2988,

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