Supernormal Canteen finds a permanent home in St Kilda
Author: Michael Harden
Nearly four years after Andrew McConnell opened his smash-hit Fitzroy pop-up Supernormal Canteen he's rebooting the concept in St Kilda. The southside version of Canteen will occupy the space recently vacated by McConnell's acclaimed modern French bistro Luxembourg in Fitzroy Street.
The original Canteen was used as a prototype and a menu tester for Supernormal, McConnell's Japanese-Korean-Chinese diner in the city. This new version, he says, will have the same casual good-time vibe but with a distinct - and more permanent - Tokyo aesthetic. Enter architect and designer Zenta Tanaka, owner of Cibi, a Japanese café and homewares store in Collingwood.
"Zenta and I spent some time together in Tokyo recently so that he could show me some of his favourite places in the city," McConnell says. "He took me to a yakitori bar under a train line that was packed and tiny. There was smoke in the air from the grill, the yakitori was really good and the beer was cold. People were having a great time and that's how I want Supernormal Canteen to be."
Related: Andrew McConnell recipes.
Hand-blown glass light fittings, timber furniture and dark indigo selvedge denim used as curtains and to partition off a timber private dining "cube" are part of Tanaka's design plan. And for that authentic under-the-rails Tokyo touch, there'll be smoke from a yakitori grill at the main bar.
Supernormal Canteen will also have a small retail space selling Japanese homewares sourced by Tanaka.
The menu will be "short, sharp, succinct and constantly evolving", says McConnell. There'll be raw fish, buns, yakitori and dumplings, but the ingredients and flavours will change according to availability and season. The lobster roll, which came into being in this space when it was Golden Fields, will be a constant. Chicken skin chicharrón and Chongqing popcorn are also on the agenda, as McConnell and head chef Tim Goegan shape the menu.
"We have lots of ideas," says McConnell. "But the main idea at this stage is to keep the menu small. The beauty of a small menu means that you can be light on your feet and change things up to keep it interesting. Think of it as an izakaya with a twist."
The drinks list, pulled together by Supernormal's Leanne Altmann, will feature a generous selection of wine by the glass, cocktails, sake, Japanese beer and soft drinks, plus a "wine cabinet containing the good and the rare stuff".
Supernormal Canteen is slated to open by mid-July, but will operate on a delivery-only basis two weeks before the denim-curtained doors officially swing open. A small nod, perhaps, to Canteen's pop-up DNA.
Supernormal Canteen, 2/157 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, Vic.