When Chris McPherson and chef Chris Rendell first met at Public a few years back, they found quickly that they had one thing in common: “We’re both from Melbourne,” says McPherson. “And we both miss home; we wanted to bring it here to New York City.” The pair began to plot a restaurant that would do just that, an homage to modern Australian food called Flinders Lane (162 Avenue A, 212-228-6900), which opens tonight in Alphabet City.
“Most of the Australian restaurants in the city are like Outback Steakhouse or the Crocodile Dundee sort of vision,” McPherson explains. “We wanted to bring back what’s actually there,” a unique cross-section of many different cultures and cuisines including Greek, Italian, British, Indian, and Asian. Many of the dishes sport an Asian element — it’s easy to get Asian ingredients in Australia, after all — but McPherson is clear that this is not, say, a Chinese restaurant.
Menu highlights, he says, include the tandoori rabbit, the chicken san chou bau — which wraps chicken and water chestnuts in lettuce — the curry laksa, the hamachi with sweet potato, and the steamed snapper in sesame broth. “It’s not heavy food; it’s light and balanced,” McPherson says.
In the front of the house, McPherson will also stay away from the big heavy Shirazes that characterize many American’s perceptions of Australian wine, favoring producers from lesser known regions and rounding out his list with international selections. The restaurant will also keep three beers on tap — including Cooper’s Green, an Australian pale ale — and four cocktails, which might expand in the coming weeks.
The small 40-seat restaurant boasts a massive photo of Flinders Lane on the back wall; the namesake Melbourne street is rife with culture and history.
Flinders opens for dinner tonight, and McPherson says it will add breakfast in the coming weeks. After that, the team will think about opening for lunch, too.