Melbourne is well known for its ability to serve up incredible food. To be hatted in the Good Food Guide is an accolade reserved for the best in the culinary business. Yet there is one team of food professionals who are showing what it takes to make a great restaurant. With two hatted restaurants to their names Adam D'Sylva, Mykal Bartholomew and Kate Bartholomew are ruling the food scene in Melbourne.
Adam D'Sylva is co-owner and head chef of both Coda and Tonka in Melbourne. His culinary skills have previously been recognised when he was awarded the title of Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year in 2008. He's also twice been the recipient of the Lexus Victorian Young Chef of the Year.
D'Sylva began cooking at a very early age and says his mother was a great influence on his chosen career path. Food was very much at the heart of his Indian/Italian family and it made sense for him to share his passion with others. D'Sylva describes one of his earliest memories as watching his Nonna make gnocchi.
His first taste in a commercial kitchen was as an apprentice at Hilton on the Park, before he took on a role at celebrity hangout Cosi in South Yarra. D'Sylva then left Australia to explore the food that Europe and Asia had to offer, cooking in restaurants in Italy and Hong Kong. Once back on Australian soil, he worked as head chef at Pearl Restaurant, one of Melbourne's most respected establishments. He also became head chef at Longrain Melbourne for Martin Boetz.
D'Sylva's style of cooking is all about allowing good quality ingredients to shine, without having to modify or manipulate them. He is passionate about finding the best quality produce and changes his menu to best suit what is available seasonally. He explained, "All our produce is sourced from good suppliers who have free range or organic produce, with the majority of it coming from Victoria."
Co-owner of Coda and Tonka, Mykal Bartholomew knows what it takes to create a great bar atmosphere. He believes good eating bars are an attractive proposition, especially for those content to people watch or to simply enjoy a glass of wine and a bite in peace. It's a notion that Bartholomew seems to have spot on – Coda's bar is always packed to the rafters with a crowd.
Prior to opening Coda and then Tonka, Bartholomew was the man behind the popular bar at MoVida and MoVida Next Door. For five years, he ran the bar side of what is two of Melbourne's most well known eating places. Throughout, he witnessed the changing face of Australian dining to something more casual in style. This has equipped him for his mercurial role at both Coda and Tonka. Bartholomew understands that the business model of pub/wine bar/casual diner/serious eatery is exactly what Australians are looking for right now. With his partnership with D'Sylva and his wife Kate, the trio have created such a dining venue that appeals to the masses on Melbourne's food scene.
General Manager and co-owner of Coda and Tonka, Mykal's wife Kate Bartholomew knows her way around the restaurant scene. She began working in hospitality at just 14 years of age and was previously the floor supervisor at Taxi, Federation Square's popular dining room. Kate Bartholomew has an intense love of interior design and at 25, she put this love to good use. She worked with designers when creating the Flinders Lane restaurant Coda in 2009. Since then she has channelled her energy into the design of the trio's new restaurant Tonka. Kate Bartholomew believes that a clever and unique fit out is the cornerstone to every successful restaurant.
When Coda opened its doors in 2009 among a flurry of media hype, it took just weeks for it to cement itself as one of Melbourne's best places to eat. Coda is exciting, innovative and the perfect addition to Melbourne's culinary world, located in the iconic city laneway of Flinders Lane.
Coda's minimalist design is ingeniously split between sit down restaurant and a no-reservations bar. Its aluminium-framed windows and wire mesh light fittings give Coda an uber cool industrial feel that people can't get enough of. Its menu is a diverse range of Asian-inspired share plates and French classics. It's an eclectic menu that works well with the 30-something crowd and you will often find diners sitting down to sugar cane prawns alongside baked snails.
Coda has a relaxed approach to dining, meaning diners frequent for a variety of occasions. Whether a business lunch, drinks and nibbles with friends or a sit down meal, Coda caters for it all. While it's not the new kid on the block anymore, Coda is and will remain one of the hottest food hangouts in Melbourne.
With the success of Coda behind them, D'Sylva and Mykal and Kate Bartholomew started on a new project. This switched on trio has a knack for picking location and once again, they found the perfect location for their second restaurant, Tonka. Set in the iconic Duckboard Place, Tonka was once home to nightclub Honky Tonks. It was a cool place to be, and judging by the response since Tonka opened its doors earlier this year, the building's new restaurant is set to be just as trendy.
Tonka is Melbourne's hottest new Indian restaurant and with dishes such as soft shell pakora with highly addictive seasoning, it's not hard to see why. They even have the dessert side down pat, with a mouth watering baked saffron meringue. According to Good Food, Tonka is finally the Indian restaurant that Melbourne deserves. Seating 100, it's split like Coda into a sit down dining room and a bar in the front. Its design of blue and pink is complimented perfectly with Naomi Troski art and dining here makes you feel like you're in the "magic of India".
Within just two months of opening, Tonka has been awarded a Chef Hat to stand beside sister restaurant Coda. With exquisite food and a sleek atmosphere, the future for Tonka looks bright.
The success of both Coda and Tonka is a testament to this power trio. With their combined experience and skills, D'Sylva, Mykal Bartholomew and Kate Bartholomew know exactly what it takes to create a truly special dining experience – one that's not just about the food, but the atmosphere too. As experts on the dining scene, these three have the recipe for success and Melburnians can't seem to get enough.
As both Coda and Tonka are participating restaurants in the Good Food Gift Card, a night at one of these top dining venues is something you can gift to the Melbourne foodie you know.
Mireille Kilgour has been an entrepreneur for 35 years in the hospitality sector. French born, she has been an accomplished business owner and operator for a number of Sydney venues. Leading the industry with high profile institutions such as Lamrock Café Bondi, she has endless passion for the industry, and now has the pleasure of supporting restaurants to fill their tables with the new Good Food Gift Card program.