Originally published on Broadsheet.
East meets West at this new southside restaurant.
“Our mums are always picky,” says co-owner of Workshop Brothers, Joe La. Pickiness is one thing, but when your parents have extensive experience in the hospitality industry – as owners of bakeries, restaurants and catering companies – you’ve got a serious challenge on your hands. So, understandably, when he opened the Workshop Brothers for family and friends as a preview, the pressure was on to please the elders.
La, with brothers Nolan and Brian Taing, has opened a new Asian-inspired restaurant in Glen Waverley, their fourth business venture together. The new Workshop is significantly different from the others – their CBD location, for instance, only serves coffee and pastries, and the Glen Huntly site operates as a modern Australian cafe. The Glen Waverley eatery, on the other hand, serves breakfast through to dinner, “offering a new level of sophistication to the area”, says La.
The menu is a nostalgic and light-hearted tip of the hat to their heritage. “A lot of our recipes are from our parents,” says La. “We’re all of Chinese background so grew up eating Asian food.”
Crowd (and parental) favourites thus far include the Keep It 100; rice congee with caramelised pork belly and fried doughnut sticks, and the Sweet Hong Kong Waffle paired with a chocolate parfait and pumpkin caramel. “It’s ordered on almost every table,” says La.
There is also kimchi risotto and grilled barramundi for lunch. And a green duck curry or sticky star-anise-glazed lamb ribs for dinner.
The partners worked with Studio Esteta to ensure the space could easily transition from day to night. Circles, present in many old-style Chinese restaurants, are incorporated through Workshop Brothers’ plywood arch structures, which divide the space. The establishment is covered, floor to ceiling, in blush-pink paint, all lifted with sophisticated gold-fixture lighting to create a bright, lively space.
“The design celebrates playful clichés of retro-styled Asian restaurants coupled with our own memories of these places,” says director of Studio Esteta, Sarah Cosentino. “That includes plum accents and pink hues.”
Whether Glen Waverley takes to the new Workshop Brothers venue is yet to be seen. But the first, and arguably most important, battle has already been won. “All of our parents love the food and are extremely supportive,” says La, laughing. “So we know we’re doing something right.”
97 Kingsway, Glen Waverley
Image credit: Ben Mulligan