Busbys Restaurant, Highett

Japanese Scallops, braised pork belly, pistachio, carrot puree, caviar - Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett

There was a time in the not too distant past, when restaurant dining at motels were the order of the day. As a young girl, I remember driving past all the motel restaurants along a particular stretch of the Hume Highway, trying to get a glimpse of all the activity inside and longing to enter through the canopied entrance into the captivating world beyond.

Some may say that that style of dining is of a bygone era. Big named hotels with celebrated chefs have now become the preferred platform for showcasing culinary creations. Yet beneath the glitter and contrived opulence, the art and enjoyment of fine dining can often play second fiddle to the ambivalent mood of wait staff and time-bound sitting arrangements.

Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett
Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett

However in the suburb of Highett, Busbys offers a dining experience that could easily rival that of the famous hotel chain bearing the same name, but won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Go beyond the retro façade and you will find a modern refurbished interior and an inspired interpretation of French bistro dining, but without the high-end price tag.


Executive Chef Jack Chan, who has had considerable experience working in luxury hotels across Asia, is behind this transformation. With an acute awareness of the local dining scene, Jack saw an opportunity to offer a style of dining and cuisine not readily available in the Moorabbin area.

Relaxing into the club-style chairs in the bar area for a pre-dinner drink, Wilson who is our maître d’ for the evening, takes meticulous care to ensure that the wine selected is fresh and up to a particular standard. The wine list is current and reflects a small but excellent selection from both local and international producers. And believe it or not, Busbys is one of those rare establishments where you could actually order a bottle of wine and still have enough change from a $50 note to still buy one more glass.

Old-fashioned name. Old-fashioned service. Old-fashioned prices.

Seated in the dining room, Wilson presented us with the dinner menu which is presented in a style similar to that of a French bistro. Not only is the menu both eclectic and enticing, with each dish in the just the entrée section alone sounded delectable in its own right. I must admit that it’s incredibly hard to choose just one. Just as well my dining companion was in a sharing mood!

Japanese Scallops, braised pork belly, pistachio, carrot puree, caviar - Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett
Japanese Scallops, braised pork belly, pistachio, carrot puree, caviar – Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett

It’s not too hard to imagine my expression when the food arrived at our table … Like. OMG. Wow. Each dish resembled a work of art in its own right and certainly worthy of a barrage of photos before even attempting to try and eat each dish.

One of Jack’s signature dishes is undoubtedly the Japanese Scallops, braised pork belly, pistachio, carrot puree and caviar. Jack prides himself on sourcing only the best and freshest produce available and Japanese scallops (which I must admit doesn’t sound particularly French) are noted for their quality and taste. Everything about this dish is a class act. You could also call this meal ‘luxury on a plate’. The texture, the taste and the presentation alone is worth every cent and you would be almost crazy not to order it.

Vodka and Beetroot Cured Kingfish, cucumber, fennel, citrus junos - Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett
Vodka and Beetroot Cured Kingfish, cucumber, fennel, citrus junos – Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett

Similarly, the Vodka and Beetroot Cured Kingfish with cucumber, fennel, citrus junos is also stunning in its simplicity and design. Beneath the funnel of thickly-cut kingfish slices, is a hidden treasure of thinly shaved fennel remoulade on a bed of fresh cucumber. The light smattering of dill across the top also adds subtle fresh flavour to a classic dish.

Goat cheese souffle, champagne salad, Grana Padano, raspberry vinaigrette - Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett
Goat cheese soufflé, champagne salad, Grana Padano, raspberry vinaigrette – Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett

The Goat cheese soufflé, champagne salad, Grana Padano, raspberry vinaigrette was served in a elegant ceramic bowl and artfully arranged across the plate. After dissecting through the exotic flavours and layers of the salad, the one thing that stood out for me was the extremely light, fluffy and fresh (and tasty) texture of the soufflé, which is everything it should be.

Good hospitality can be really hard to find but when you encounter great service, the kind that is attentive and client-driven, your whole evening is transformed into a magical and memorable experience.

We had a lot of fun chatting with Wilson throughout our evening about the food and potential wine matches. Somehow during the course of our conversation, our smooth-talking maître d’ talked us into ordering main dishes as well. What could possibly be more classique French than bouillabaisse and duck?

I have a particular fondness for duck at the best of times and the presentation of the Duo of duck, breast and confit of leg, orange glaze, julienne vegetables reaffirmed my love for this type of dish. The vibrancy of colour was stunning to behold, let alone its elegant presentation. The duck is deliciously moist, not overwhelmed by its accompaniments, and the fresh segmented orange wedges are a perfect foil for the rich flavour of the jus.

Bouillabaisse, prawns, calamari, fresh fish pieces, mussel, tomato confit - Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett
Bouillabaisse, prawns, calamari, fresh fish pieces, mussel, tomato confit – Busbys Restaurant and Bar, Highett

I’m not usually a victim of food envy yet when the Bouillabaisse, prawns, calamari, fresh fish pieces, mussel, tomato confit dish was placed in front of my friend, it took a lot of restraint for me not to immediately reach across the table and start helping myself to her meal. It was spectacular in every aspect – the seafood is fresh, tender and full of flavour.

Although I was lucky enough to have a taste of the Bouillabaisse, I’ve quietly resolved to go back to Busbys soon and order it on my return visit, which I envisage will happen very soon. The restaurant hosts weekend high-tea events for $39 per head (almost half the price of its contemporary hotel equivalents) and there are also live music and degustation dining events planned within the next few months.

So when you next think of the Hyatt, think Highett instead. Same style of dining experience yet considerably cheaper and infinitely more enjoyable.

Everything old is definitely new again.


Busbys Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Grab-A-Yabby, Melbourne CBD

One of my favourite memories from my childhood is eating the yabbies that my uncle caught with his traps from a nearby dam or river. Believe it or not, one lucky yabby escaped his fate and managed to live around our pool for a year or two, showing up in the most unusual places and often giving me a fright in the process.

When a friend of mine told me about a new restaurant that had recently opened in The Causeway (near the Bourke Street Mall) called Grab-A-Yabby, the promise of freshly cooked yabbies served with a spicy sauce was more than enough to persuade me to leave my warm home in search of a different source of heat.

Aside from finding deliciously cooked seafood and crustaceans in the CBD locale, the novel thing that I discovered about this restaurant is that while it only operates from Wednesday evenings through to Sunday nights, another café business with different owners and staff occupies the same premises during the daytime hours.

So when I arrived at Grab-A-Yabby in the early evening, the whole space had completely transformed into an elegant restaurant and was already hosting a busy evening trade. Seated and perfectly relaxed listening to a great techno soundtrack and glass of the house red wine in hand (only $6 and absolutely drinkable!) I decided to start the evening with one of the restaurant’s more popular appetisers – Soft Shell Crab Sliders (2) for $12.

Presented on wooden boards, the sliders were generous in both proportion and composition – soft white buns, mayo, lightly battered crab, lettuce and special sauce. Wonderfully succulent and wholeheartedly delicious, it’s little wonder that they are a crowd pleaser.

Bec Truong, who started the restaurant with her husband Phil, after becoming inspired to create her own blend of seafood specialty sauces following a recent trip to the United States, kindly joined me for dinner. Thankfully Bec was on my wavelength and was more then happy to share the couple of items on the menu that I had wanted to try.

Ordering is a relatively simple process – you select what type of seafood you would like, the accompanying sauce (choose from the Grab-A-Yabby Special with Cajun flavours, an Asian-inspired XO sauce, the fiery Moroccan-infused Inferno or a robust Garlic Butter) and your desired heat level. We naturally ordered a serve of yabbies with Grab-A-Yabby sauce with a bit of a kick in the heat stakes. There are a couple of main dishes and combos available on the menu as well. It’s been a while since I have been able to indulge in a Surf’n’Turf (Scotch Fillet Steak seasoned in special spices accompanied with a Lobster tail in a chosen sauce and served with chips – $49) so we ordered a serve with a milder version of the Moroccan-inspired sauce.

One of the precepts behind Grab-A-Yabby is that its a fun dining experience where friends and family can come together and share food in a relaxed atmosphere and by just looking around the restaurant, it was clearly evident that this vision has come to fruition.

I was a bit reticent about getting down and dirty with seafood in my best Saturday-night attire but all my fears were allayed with the provision of a sizeable plastic bib, disposable gloves and my own selection of tools to safely tackle all those claws and tails that were about to come my way. So no need to fear about lingering smells on the way to the footy!

Surf'N'Turf - Grab-A-Yabby, Melbourne CBD
Surf’N’Turf – Grab-A-Yabby, Melbourne CBD

The Surf’n’Turf was the first dish to arrive at our table. Beautifully presented on a large wooden board with a fresh salad, side of crisp fries and a seared steak topped with specialty sauce and caramelised onion, the meat was both moist and tender. A steamed corn cob in the chilli and herb-infused Moroccan sauce propped up the large Lobster tail in a side bowl. The seafood was quite generous in size, quantity and flavour.

Not long after the steak had been served, the long-awaited yabbies were brought to the table. I can’t tell you how many years it has been since I’ve had fresh yabbies but the wait was worthwhile. Smothered in spicy Cajun flavoured sauce, and served with segments of orange and corn, these beauties were again larger than I had anticipated. All those Body Pump classes seem to be paying off as I found it quite easy to extract the meat from the shells without using too many of the weapons of mass destruction that I had been equipped with! The accompanying sauce was both plentiful and delicious and paired nicely with the moist meat from the yabbies.

Looking around the busy restaurant, all the diners looked like they were having fun with their bibs and wooden hammers, eating together and thoroughly enjoying the experience. In truth, the food was delectable and given the fun I was having tearing into freshly cooked yabbies covered in a scrumptious sauce, I was beginning to plan in my mind’s eye which friends and family I could bring with me to Grab-A-Yabby for a return visit.

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I dined as a guest of Grab-A-Yabby, however this blog entry reflects my own opinions formed during my dining experience.