Freyja, the flagship restaurant of Collins Street’s distinctive Olderfleet building, opens tomorrow, unveiling a maritime look and a menu of ultra-local ingredients given the New Nordic treatment.
This means more than just using ferments and pickles, says chef Jae Bang, who was born in Seoul and comes to Melbourne from Norway’s Re-naa restaurant. Seasonality, low-waste techniques and the team’s varied backgrounds will instead drive Freyja’s menus.
In one dish, duck from Milla’s Farm in Macedon is dry-aged for 10 days, cooked slowly over an open fire until it’s smoky, then glazed with house-made mostarda. A mix of poached and salt-baked Ramarro Farm beetroots garnished with dried finger lime peel and coriander seeds finish the dish.
Another plate involves cauliflower three ways: grilled florets, a puree of cauli offcuts, and a sauce made with the blanching liquid and koji. “I don’t like throwing things away,” says Bang. “If you know how to use it, you should.”
A blackcurrant oil that enhances kingfish crudo was made not with the fruit or leaves, but with the branches pruned at the end of the season. Three team members split 100 kilograms of branches with hammers, a two-day job but one that utilised a waste product.
Despite these intricate processes, the venue will close on both Saturday and Sunday in a tilt at better work-life balance. Bang hopes other restaurants will follow the example.
“Very often, the hospitality industry is reflected to other people as being intense in terms of work.
Hopefully the younger generation will notice these small changes and they could maybe come back [to hospitality].”
A deep blue basement seats 65 while a brighter ground-level dining room accommodates 69, with generous Gothic Revival windows overlooking Collins Street. A seven-seat chef’s counter is the best spot for enthusiasts. Cocktails before or after dinner are a no-brainer, with sister venue Valhalla accessed by a discreet doorway downstairs.
Breakfast is not part of the offer, but weekday lunches will start mid-June. Think smorrebrod – open-faced sandwiches – topped with beef tartare and nasturtium, perhaps, and seasonal salads that Bang promises are more than just green leaves, as well as more substantial dishes.
Open Mon-Fri 5pm-11pm. Lunch noon-3pm from mid-June.
477 Collins Street, Melbourne, 03 8688 7141, freyjarestaurant.com