Orient East, Melbourne
Orient East is the restaurant attached to the Seasons Botanic Gardens Hotel on St Kilda Road, opposite the Shrine of Remembrance, easy to get to by tram from the city. We went for a leisurely late breakfast on a Thursday morning. After months of drooling over their pictures posted on Twitter and Facebook, this was the meal I looked forward to the most on our Melbourne trip.
This isn’t your typical Melbourne hotel restaurant – the menu at Orient East is inspired by British Malaya. There are a small number of Western dishes on the menu, mainly to cater to hotel guests and more conservative diners who’d prefer bacon and eggs for breakfast or the classic hotel standby of a club sandwich for lunch. Me, I only had eyes and tummy for Orient East’s modern Malaysian ‘Shop House’ breakfast.
We shared three dishes from the Shop House breakfast menu. First, Orient East’s version of the traditional Chinese pancake, the Jian Bing crepe, which was loaded with sunny side-up eggs, pork floss, slices of Chinese doughnut and fresh red chilli, all drizzled with hoi sin sauce and finished with fresh sprigs of coriander. This dish includes a serving of sourdough toast, but we didn’t need it (with all this amazing food on the table, I wouldn’t waste valuable stomach space on plain toast!).
Next, the kaya toast, a modern interpretation of this simple breakfast favourite. On the plate was a sandwich spread thickly with pandan kaya, made with macho thick-cut Texas toast, crusts intact, drizzled with sweet soy. Sitting on top was a jiggly gooey slow cooked egg. Eaten all together, it was sweet yet savoury, delicate yet hefty, silky soft yet satisfyingly chewy.
The pork mince and spring onion congee (rice porridge) was so flavoursome on its own that adding soy sauce was almost unnecessary, but the housemade mustard pickle gave the magic taste from my childhood. I had forgotten this dish came with a slow cooked egg and was thrilled to ‘discover’ it hidden in the centre of the porridge. The Chinese doughnut was served on the side so we could decide how crunchy or soggy we wanted it to be.
I’d been conversing with Orient East General Manager Li Teoh on Twitter in the lead-up to our Melbourne trip (what do we tweet about? Malaysian food, of course!) and she dropped by for a chat, as well as to deliver a complimentary taste from the kitchen, Penang char kway teow, with prawns, clams, egg, bean sprouts and smoked pork fat crisps. The pork crisps and charry ‘wok hei’ flavour gave the dish a proper char kway teow taste. Lots of ‘mmm’s from us. It’s a dish from the lunch/dinner menu, but I reckon a good char kway teow is fantastic any time of day. We said hi (and thank you) to Executive Chef Damian Snell too – I’ve been enjoying the pictures from his Penang travels on Instagram.
The multilevel restaurant has a breezy summer holiday feel, with high ceilings, brightly painted wall panels, retro signage and nostalgic images of Penang girls and bathing beauties, among them, a photo of Li’s aunties, taken in George Town in the 1950s.
Breakfast starts nice and early (6.30am on weekdays, 7am on weekends) and on weekends, it runs until 2.30pm so you can amble in after a sleep-in. The restaurant menu’s changed a little for the new year, but the Shop House breakfast dishes featured in this post and Penang char kway teow are all still available.
Orient East has created a unique style, character and experience that’s fun and appealing. Purists may question the authenticity and contemporary presentation of the dishes, but Orient East is an unusual hotel restaurant, not a posh hawker stall. For me, breakfast was surprising, yet familiar and comforting – it made me feel happy. And how I wish I lived closer!
348 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Telephone: (03) 9685 2900
Breakfast: Monday to Friday 6.30am to 10.30am; Saturday and Sunday 7am to 2.30pm
Lunch: Daily 12pm to 2.30pm
Dinner: Daily 5.30pm to 10pm
The char kway teow was compliments of Orient East; we paid for everything else ourselves.
About this series
In December 2013, my partner Jac and I went on holiday – Melbourne (3 nights), then 3 nights in Launceston (Jac, to stay with a friend) and King Island (me, for a photographic safari with a couple of friends), and finally, Hobart, where we spent Christmas (6 nights). This trip was not sponsored in any way.
The complete set of Melbourne posts
Not bad for three nights’ ‘work’, eh? Hope you’ve enjoyed the series.
- Cumulus Inc, Melbourne
- Queen Victoria Wednesday Night Market, Melbourne
- MoVida, Melbourne
- Orient East, Melbourne – this post
- LuxBite, South Yarra
- China Red, Chinatown
- N2 Extreme Gelato, Fitzroy
- Cafe Gaia, South Yarra
- Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, South Yarra
- Steer Bar & Grill, South Yarra
- Brunetti at Myer Melbourne and Lygon Street, Carlton
For a preview of some of the stories to come, see Holiday sneak peek. There’s a lot more to come.