The fifth member of our family is Esposito Restaurant in Carlton. A small 60-seater that focusses on sustainable seafood, certified Black Angus beef, organic vegetables wherever possible and a succinct, sexy wine list.
Restaurant families are a breed of their own and as I worked in restaurants for 15 years before children and studying to become a writer, I understand Maurice’s focus, drive, love and ambition. He’s home one night a week – the life of a chef – he works 18 hours a day, 5 days a week and 12 hours on the 6th – the life of a chef. By the end of this year this will calm down and he will step back but this gorgeous white space with paintings by Tom Samek, Sarfartti Chandeliers and crisp white cloths is our home away from home and a place that over the last 18 months other people have come to call their home away from home.
A good sign for a restaurant is the fact that people come back, again and again and again – at Esposito they do. Regulars call to see what’s happening with the duck or how the John Dory is being cooked; locals saunter in with a bottle of wine under their arm (it’s byo) to tuck into a tender cut of beef or a homey beer-battered King George Whiting and chips.
For me, at the moment, it’s about the wild Barramundi, grilled with crisp skin, dressed with pan-tossed vongole and served over fleshy braised fennel – it’s a treat of a dish and it’s a restaurant that balances quality, relaxation and elegance in equal measure.