Out on the frontier

Down on Munro St a little patch of blue-green leaves set against a modest hacienda-style entrance says welcome in an industrial frontier land that is changing slowly.

There are great plans afoot for Fishermans Bend but, so far, Adam Wright-Smith is just hanging out not that far from the Charles Grimes Bridge.

There is little passing foot trade in this low-rise district of factories and development sites.

For some that is an attraction. Adam has designed the entrance to his restaurant Half Acre as a lazy reminder of a stopping place on a long journey.

“I lived in New York for seven years,” he said. “One thing I love is how entrances can change the perception of things. The unexpected always creates energy.”

“If you’re walking past on the outside there’s minimal signage. You pop your head in and don’t know what to expect. The first thing you see is a wood stack.”

There are five main areas in this conversion of an old fashion mill – a cosy bar, an open kitchen, the restaurant, a large function room and a courtyard. All have exposed bricks or peeling paint, recycled timbers, arched doorways and original timber-lined ceilings.

Atmosphere is everything. The chefs are on display. “The concept is having friends over and chatting with the chefs. I want people to think of home,” he said.

Adam is planning a Mother’s Day menu and he is thinking of sourcing all of the ingredients from female farmers and growers.

It’s a neat, if not romantic, idea that has emerged from his use of Gippsland produce after the bushfires - porterhouse steak, John Dory from Lakes Entrance, vegetables such as native greens, and cheeses.

The menu features single vegetable dishes as mains – roasted carrots with myrtle, whole roasted cauliflower and grilled cabbage, natural elements of an earthy approach to hospitality.

“I couldn’t speak the language of the high-end swishy place,” Adam said.

He did concede that even though Half Acre was not that far from the city, it was quite difficult to get to the restaurant by foot.

You have to cross the river on the Charles Grimes Bridge then duck under flyovers to the Westgate freeway with trucks hurtling down at you from every direction.

On arrival in the Montague St area you pass vast empty spaces due for development, an electricity sub-station and the Port Phillip depot.

The untamed quality has a certain allure after the pampered parts of town. “A lot of people are happy to get out of the hustle and bustle.”

This is Adam’s first hospitality venture: “it’s definitely a challenge. You don’t always get a second chance.”

He’s confident about the future of this new food and beverage precinct.

“The area has a lot of hidden gems. You don’t know that a building’s occupied. You open the door and there’s a media agency. A renowned whisky distillery is nearby and Colonial breweries.”

You can also buy tools across the road, engage pest control specialists and find a parking spot •

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