It’s a Friday night. One would assume that the streets of Melbourne would be alive and kicking. But not on Munro Street, South Melbourne. Yet, this quiet, unassuming neighbourhood boasts one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets; Half Acre.
Upon entrance, you will be greeted by a naked brick wall; mysterious yet inviting. Walk past the pile of firewood through to the archway and there opens Half Acre’s multi-faceted dining space, featuring a cocktail bar, open kitchen restaurant, and event space.
“I wanted to create something that was a mystery from the outside, but a pleasant surprise on the inside,” explains Adam Wright-Smith, owner and founder of Half Acre and ex-The Fat Radish, Silkstone NYC.
“As you walk through the door, you don’t know exactly what to expect. But it’s the reveal that excited me the most; the journey of the senses that our guests will experience along the way.”
Visually, the fit-out is outstanding. The aroma from the open wood-fire and coal grills is tantalising, and the taste of the food is heavenly; it’s a culinary experience of all the senses to say the least.
From humble beginnings
Wright-Smith never considered a career in hospitality. After studying investment property at RMIT, a move to New York City saw him take on an opportunity as an artist manager (remember that little ol’ band Ben Folds Five?). From there, a coincidental encounter with the owners of an up and coming restaurant, The Fat Radish, would ultimately shape the career path in hospitality he is now on.
“I connected with The Fat Radish guys who, at the time, were looking for back-of-house operations; that’s where my passion for the hospitality scene ignited. We were managing a restaurant which was quite different for that time, and I guess one thing just led to another,” says Wright-Smith.
From managing its Lower East Side residence to activating pop-ups in Israel and Brazil for the World Cup, Wright-Smith experienced the highs and lows of running a successful restaurant business.
“You need to differentiate yourself from other businesses, and your environment or atmosphere has to resonate with your guests,” explains Wright-Smith.
“I love connecting with people and having an influence on their night; it is a fantastic feeling, and that’s what we were doing, nightly, at The Fat Radish.”
NYC to Melbourne
After spending 7-years in New York City, Wright-Smith decided to return to Melbourne with the aim to run his own restaurant.
Through many discussions with Leigh Worcester and Asaf Smoli (of catering company food&desire, and venues Carousel, Aerial, Harbour Room, and White Lane), what amalgamated was Half Acre; named after the acreage on which it sits on.
Just 4-months after opening, Half Acre has become a favourite haunt for Melbournians thanks to its unpretentious offerings; it’s the perfect place for those looking for a casual tipple or a hearty feed.
“We’re so spoilt for choice here in Melbourne when it comes to dining out; it’s second to none,” says Wright-Smith.
“But with that comes knowledge; Melbournians really do know good food, so you need to believe in the product you’re serving, 100%.”
Knowing that the market in Melbourne completely differs from that in New York City, Half Acre came to fruition from the idea of a design-driven, explorative dining experience that would boast delicious food to be shared.
“I want Half Acre to be a memorable dining experience for all,” says Wright-Smith.
“It’s designed to be a place where conversations are stimulated as you pass around our sharing plates. I want it to feel warm and inviting for all. It’s about creating that experience which is extremely important.”
There’s no denying that the design fit-out of Half Acre is well-thought-out. What was once an old fabric mill is now a multi-faceted space utilised in multiple ways; it’s cleverly Melbourne.
From its lively public bar and courtyard (perfect for a pre-dinner drink) to its 85-seat restaurant housed under a light-diffusing rood, there’s even a Chimney House which is reserved for private dining groups of up to 16.
“The design of Half Acre was a challenging process but we are super happy with the outcome,” says Wright-Smith.
“But design only takes you so far; you need substance. That’s why we avoided the notion of ‘design-first, food second’ which is seen a lot in this space – there has to be that balance.”
At the helm of the open kitchen is head chef Eitan Doron, who hails from Tel Aviv. Working with Doron, the team at Half Acre have created a menu that is not only thoughtful but intentionally comforting.
Dishes vary but are mainly inspired by modern Australian cuisine; think crispy skin barramundi; grilled chicken; and Scotch fillet, with an array of delicious sides to complement.
“The style of food, served on our big tables, are intended to be shared and are dishes you would prepare at home,” explains Wright-Smith.
“That notion is something I love; cooking for people. To do that on a larger scale is something very special to me.”
To book a table at Half Acre, visit the website HERE
112 Munro Street,