1983 Iain Hewitson opens Fleurie

Iain Hewittson

Described by Iain Hewitson as “the last BYO in Melbourne”, Fleurie, in a Toorak side street, offered superb food, attentive staff and a great dining experience. The menu was fixed price, and the offerings were generous. My most memorable dish was Peach Melba – a  perfectly poached white peach with intense raspberry coulis and house-made ice cream. Simple but ambrosial.

Now most famous as a television personality, Iain Hewitson has run a series of restaurants in Melbourne, all very different from each other. His first venture, in 1972, was the dining room at the Lemon Tree Hotel in Carlton. His next was Clichy, in Collingwood, opened with Sigmund Jorgensen in 1977, where he pioneered the fixed price menu.

Although Clichy was licensed, Hewitson opened Fleurie as a BYO. Despite this, the wine you brought along was treated with respect and served in fine glassware.  The tiny restaurant had only 44 seats and was booked out a month in advance.  Again, the menu was fixed price with around four options for each of the three courses. The menus, written by hand each day, reflected a move from traditional French food to a more eclectic approach, influenced by Asian flavours. Each dish was described in detail on the hand-written menu.

The menu for Saturday 28 March 1987 included Atlantic Smoked Salmon in 4 ways.  This was described as follows:

From Tasmania: on a pizza with sour cream, capers & salmon caviar; with scrambled eggs in a buckwheat blini; rolled in sushi with wasabi & omelette; sliced with avocado and a salmon mousse

The other entrees were a Salad Nicoise Revisited, Carpaccio of Raw Porterhouse and 3 Japanese Salads with 2 dipping sauces. For mains, the choices were Marinated Fresh Young Quails, Trio of Ocean Fish, Warm Salad of Rare Beef or A Malasian [sic] Spicy Stuffed Chicken Breast. Dessert options were cheese, “Le Grand Dessert” (a selection of desserts), lemon tart, or “the last of the season’s berries”  served several ways.

The whole meal at Fleurie would set you back $44 – a significant sum at that time. As a consolation, you would be untroubled by pipe or cigar smoke until after 10pm, although cigarettes were permissible at any time.

In 1987/88 Fleurie was awarded three hats in the eighth edition of The Age Good Food Guide – around the same time, Hewitson departed to open the Great Aussie Fishcaf in South Melbourne.

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