In the elbow of Duckboard Place – one of Melbourne’s grungy CBD laneways – there is a steely grey wall will a luminous neon sign that reads ‘Tonka’. It’s akin to a post-modern gallery installation.
On the surrounding walls, a rainbow of urban graffiti screams for attention in this gallery space, and yet it is the beaming ‘Tonka’ that captures and invites the gallery viewer to enter through the discrete door below.
The restaurant is soothing; it’s muted industrial hues calm and there is a an exotic scent of warmed spices in the air. A cloud-like ceiling sculpture draws you along the length of the narrow dining room which opens at the far end with a floor to ceiling window showcasing Melbourne’s twilight.
As we are guided to our table we are greeted by each of the staff with a “welcome in”.
We discuss our drinks selection in detail with the sommelier and agree to let her guide us with a few matching glasses of wine throughout our meal. We start with champagne which rolls into our entree of Kakori Lamb Kebab and Soft Shell Crab Pakora. Both delicious. We then move on to a Riesling with our Rajasthani Duck and steamed rice. The serving is generous and the curry unctuous. The duck fan approves. Our final course is Hunter Valley Beef Rib Vindaloo which is not as melt in the mouth as we had anticipated – it seems a bit tough – but the flavours are rich and not over spiced. We enjoy the beef with beans foogath and light and papery roti charred by the tandoor oven.
Our overall dining experience was excellent and our sommelier made the evening entirely memorable. In her hands we enjoyed some fabulous and varied local and international wines made by small producing vintners – it was a privilege to taste such blends.
As we venture back into the Melbourne’s CBD laneways we are once again assaulted by the laneway landscape. Is it too late to go back in for dessert?