MELBOURNE | Captain Baxter St Kilda is located right on the foreshore and delivers Asian fusion cuisine in a waterfront setting. We were recently embarked on an afternoon of checking out bars south of the river so decided that this would be good place to stop in for some lunch at the start of our journey.
Captain Baxter is located within the broader St Kilda Sea Baths complex, and for anyone who has not been down there before (which we hadn’t) actually locating the venue can be a little tricky as it is not particularly well signed and we circled the building a couple of times before working out where to go – hint: if you’re standing in the car park it’s on the left side of the building.
Once inside we found a spacious dining area with a modern feel with a variety of seating arrangements including low tables, booths and high benches which caters for all preferences. The location of the restaurant on the corner of the building facing the water means that there is plenty of natural light and this combined with the internal lighting created a very pleasant atmosphere for our meal. The venue is also very child-friendly – one of our party had a young child and the staff were more than happy to arrange suitable seating for and there was plenty of space for her to wander around.
A location on the foreshore of course also means the potential for some amazing views and Captain Baxter does not disappoint in this regard either.
The drinks list at Captain Baxter is extensive, with a wide selection of Australian wines available both in bottle and by the glass, as well as a similarly impressive cocktail list that included a number which have been designed by the venue and represent twists on established classics – for example the Green Knoll Mojito which is a traditional mojito with watermelon and green tea and was very refreshing indeed. A wide variety of each of the major spirits is also available for those who don’t like to mix drinks. The beer list was short with a focus on lagers which is sensible given the setting, and we also found a few old favourites like the Hargreaves Hill ESB and the Stone and Wood Pacific Ale.
The food menu is designed for sharing, with a range of Asian-inspired food that either comes is multiple pieces or which is assembled by the diner (the so-called ‘DIY’ section). The staff were very knowledgeable and provided very helpful guidance on how many dishes we should order, information about the dishes themselves and dealing with dietary requirements.
Coconut Snapper Ceviche, Toasted Black Rice, Thai Basil & Scud Chilli ($17.00)
We started with the coconut snapper ceviche, which was done with black rice, basil and chilli. This dish was ‘saucier’ than a traditional ceviche, however the fish was prepared well and the coconut, basil and chilli flavours combined well to create a very enjoyable dish.
Fried Chicken & Peanut Spring Rolls With Betel Leaf Wraps ($13.00 for 3)
Our second starter was the fried chicken spring rolls – these were reasonably standard although on the plus side they were quite generously sized relative to spring rolls that you might get at other restaurants. The staff were also very happy to add an extra spring roll for us so that no-one missed out.
Sticky Beef, Steamed Buns, Peanut Sambal & Nashi Pear ($24.50)
Next up were the sticky beef steamed buns, which are Captain Baxter’s take on the Asian bao which is an ‘in food’ at present. The components themselves were excellent – the buns were soft and fluffy, the beef was tender and flavoursome, the sambal had a good amount of kick without being too spicy and the nashi pear salad provided a nice crunch to complete the dish. In terms of the method of service, the advantage of this approach is that individuals can customise the mix of the ingredients to suit their taste preferences – but the downside is that this can result in the the relative quantities of ingredients provided and/or the overall flavour balance being not quite right. On balance, whilst we liked the communal aspect of DIY food we would probably rather that the chef used their experience and knowledge of the ingredients to combine the elements so that the diner can enjoy the dish the way it is ‘supposed to be’.
Glazed Duck Pancakes, Cucumber, Spring Onion & Spicy Plum Sauce ($25.00)
We also ordered the duck pancakes from the DIY menu which were an interpretation of the another Asian classic, Peking Duck. This for us was a little bit of a let-down as the duck was done braised in the Western-style rather than roasted, the flavour and texture of the lettuce didn’t really work in this dish and the flavour of the pancakes was not quite to our liking. Also, unlike the beef which was easy to cut up and distribute, the fact that the duck provided was the drumstick made it a bit inconvenient to cut up so the DIY approach also didn’t really work for this dish.
Glazed Sticky Pork Belly With Mandarin, Chilli, Palm Sugar Caramel & Brown Rice ($34.00)
Next up was the pork belly, which was done with palm sugar caramel and chilli and served with brown rice. This for us was probably the standout dish of the day, the pork belly was tender, not too fatty and cooked perfectly and the caramel glaze added a nice sweetness that didn’t overpower the dish. The chillies were actually reasonably potent which was a nice surprise as often one can find the chillies used in Asian fusion food to be decidedly underwhelming which is usually an attempt to compromise between traditional Asian flavours and the Western palette. The brown rice was a nice addition also which helped to break up the flavour of the pork and avoid the ‘flavour fatigue’ that can arise when eating a very meaty dish.
We really enjoyed our meal at Captain Baxter and our experience there sent us off on our afternoon adventures both well fed and in excellent spirits. The combination of great views, a well-executed Australian interpretation of some classic Asian dishes, excellent service and an extensive drinks list means that we would recommend Captain Baxter to anyone looking for a place for a casual group meal south of the river.
St Kilda Sea Baths
10-18 Jacka Boulevard
Mon – Thu: 6:00pm to late
Fri – Sun: 12:00pm to late