Restaurant Reviews | Page 2 of 39 | Dani Valent

Restaurant Reviews

We’ve all got to eat so it might as well be good! I’ve been a restaurant critic for almost 20 years, and have been writing a weekly restaurant column in Melbourne’s Sunday Age since 2006.

My approach is to always take a restaurant on its own terms: there’s no point slamming a burger joint because it doesn’t have white tablecloths. I try to be constructive in my criticism and I’ve always got the diner in mind: there are many places you could choose to go. Why should it be here?

Henry Sugar

There's an important metric of success for a neighbourhood wine bar. If visitors from afar fantasise about moving within walking distance, then it's on song. Henry Sugar sails through the "real estate dreams" test: it welcomes and satisfies in such a way that you want to return, preferably on foot.

Bar Carolina

Let's start with the salt dispensers, because they say as much about Bar Carolina as the silky pappardelle tangled with rabbit ragu, the gay divorcees gossiping over prosecco, even the designer dogs in the rear outdoor nook helping their owners decide between wood-roasted eye fillet and lamb rump with sweetbreads.


Brae has three Good Food Guide hats. It was named 44th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Its owner Dan Hunter could fill a barn with ‘chef of the year’ awards. So, you would expect this five-year-old country restaurant, two hours west of Melbourne, to be very, very good. What you might not anticipate is how great it makes you feel.


Two years is often a sweet spot in the life of a restaurant: the mania of opening is long past, wrinkles have been ironed out once, twice, probably thrice and, best of all, there's a settling of identity which means more attention can be focused on the diner experience. In short, it's less "look at me" and more "how are you?".

Whitehorse Chloe cafe

Is this Melbourne's most avant-garde smashed avocado? It's art on a plate: I see a splash of impressionism, a stroke of cubism, a dollop of pluralist 2018. Not just a lively breakfast, it's a considered study that places two-tone green arcs in a verdant colour field. There's the icy cool of sliced green tomatoes, bright circles of nasturtium leaves, the emerald pop of fresh edamame, snow-white splotches of cashew cream, and an underpinning wash of smooth mashed avocado.

© Dani Valent 2019