MELBOURNE | Laurus is a new Chinese restaurant in Carlton. I was recently invited in to take a look. Its mission is to introduce Melburnian taste buds to a different take on the cuisine. The Alta Architecture designed, sleek and modern space is hidden up a set of stairs in a new skyscraper on Victoria street, across the road from the CBD. Concrete, marble, leather, and floor to ceiling windows dominate the multi-layered interior.
In the kitchen, you’ll find head chef Roger Lu. It’s his first head chef gig, with his experience at restaurants like Sezar and The Atlantic setting him up well for the opportunity. Roger grew up in Nanjing, China, and comes from a family that’s been involved in food and hospitality for generations. At Laurus, his blends the food of his culture with skills and techniques learned working in European kitchens.
The result is a contemporary Chinese menu that focuses on Southern Chinese cooking, using premium Australian ingredients. Dishes range from the familiar to the unfamiliar, each with Lu’s unique spin. I opted for the tasting menu, which features a diverse selection of dishes that the team feel give diners the full experience of what Laurus has to offer.
It’s early days, but there’s already a lot to like, and a lot of potential. Crispy red-vinegar-caramel-glazed eggplant is lightly fried with a tapioca and rice flour batter. It’s a favourite of the staff, and one of the highlights. Chow mein with smoky chargrilled octopus and house made XO sauce is another must order dish.
Thinly sliced kingfish, served with aged soy and hai zao (seaweed extract) is another winner, breathing new life into the familiar raw kingfish. For dessert, the red bean ice-cream with brandy snap and crumble is a must.
For drinks, general manager and sommelier Quentin Ferguson has put together a list that’s mostly Australia. There’s a selection of cocktails aligned with the philosophy of the food, beer, wine, and spirits, and an impressive non-alcoholic selection. I appreciated the offering of not just a wine match for the tasting menu, but also a non-alcoholic match option, and a tea option. Unlike many places that aim higher with the wine pairing, the Laurus option focuses on the more accessible end of the scale, and is great value at $42.
Laurus is an exciting addition to Melbourne’s dining scene, showcasing regional dishes and flavours less common in this city. A great concept, with a lot of potential.
160 Victoria Street
Wed – Sat: 12:00pm to 10:00pm