Melbourne by Menu by Rita Erlich

The story of Melbourne's restaurant revolution

By Laura McKinnon
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Melbourne by Menu - by Rita Erlich

Melbourne by Menu - by Rita Erlich

Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, Victoria
Melbourne skyline and Yarra River, Melbourne, Victoria
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, Victoria


One of my first jobs in the wine industry was processing orders for a wine wholesaler. Each day I would take orders from wine reps who would stress that the restaurant they were ordering for was one of the founding members of the Melbourne restaurant scene and as such I should be extra careful with their order. Still wet behind the ears I couldn’t understand how one restaurant could be so important.

In Melbourne by Menu acclaimed food writer Rita Erlich charts Melbourne's burgeoning restaurant scene during the eighties in a collection of menus, wine lists and recipes.

With essays spanning the decade, Melbourne by Menu provides a behind-the-scenes look at some of the industry's triumphs and failures, movers and shakers and why such restaurants were so significant. Featured restaurants and chefs include Richard Frank, Iain Hewitson, Jacques Reymond, Florentino (now Grossi Florentino), Two Faces owner Hermann Schneider, and Gilbert Lau.

Rita Erlich is best known for her food writing, which includes cookbooks and restaurant reviews. In addition to restaurants, Erlich’s food interests extend to cooking, wine, history, culture, education, agriculture, and nutrition. She was co-editor of The Age Good Food Guide for 15 years. She travels extensively, gathering menus as she goes. Her work has appeared in books, journals, newspapers, magazines and online.

Each chapter focuses on a restaurant and is made up of an essay written in 2012 and a menu from the eighties. Many of them also have a review or an interview written during the eighties and a recipe from the era.

While not all the restaurants of the time are included, those that are will be familiar to foodies familiar with the era or those that worked in the hospitality industry then or in the two decades that followed. It is these two groups that will get the most out of this book.

As someone whose career was directly affected by the Melbourne restaurant scene, I enjoyed reading the reviews and comments Rita made about them in the eighties and then comparing these to my own experiences decades later.

This process was facilitated through the essays written in 2012 that outline how the restaurants, owners or chefs transformed their piece of the restaurant industry and the ongoing influence they had.

The recipes included complement the essays beautifully as they are representative of the dishes of the time, not necessarily anything I would attempt to cook but interesting none the less.

Overall Melbourne by the Menu will provide the reader with insight of a time that had a large influence on the Melbourne restaurant scene today. Having each chapter discuss a separate restaurant means you can read just about restaurants that particularly interest you if you are time poor.

A great read for those interested in this specific field.

Melbourne by Menu is published by The Slattery Media Group (2012, Melbourne, Vic; sc, 288 pp) and retails in Australia for RRP A$634.95. and WinePros Archive subscribers can purchase Melbourne by Menu from our book partners Seekbooks at 12.5% off RRP here (postage extra) »

It is also available from here  »


  • Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
  • Melbourne (VIC)

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February 15th, 2013
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