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You can't call yourself a foodie in Melbourne if you haven't been to Cookie. Lauded as one of Melbourne's most iconic dining experiences, Cookie is a quirky little place, in the heart of the city.
It may not have received a Hat from The Age Good Food Guide but booking a table at Cookie is harder than getting into Harvard. It was so difficult, in fact, that I booked a table for 5.30pm. On a Sunday. Feeling like I had gone into early retirement, I arrived at the Swanston Street destination as the sun was just beginning to set. Located on the first floor of a renovated 1920s building known as Curtin House, with sister venues' The Toff and Choo Choos' just upstairs, Cookie combines the quirky with a sophisticated edge.
Rather than walking into an empty restaurant, I was surprised to see large groups of tables excitedly flicking through menus, tossing around options and giggling to one another. Clearly, there are a few small prices you pay to experience one of Melbourne's most sought-after locations. Partitioned off into sections, Cookie somehow manages to combine a disco, eating house and beer hall in the one space. Unlike the beer hall, the eating house is open and spacious. The walls are lined with old photographs of Swanston Street and inner city Melbourne and the tables are set with white lace doilies and floral crockery. Large Victorian windows open out onto Swanston Street, while an open bar runs along the opposite wall, stocking over 350 wines, many of which can be ordered by the glass. Chef Karen Batson (who also heads the kitchen at Choo Choo's and Prahran's Colonel Tan's) has created a modern Thai menu that matches well to a long dinner with family or friends. While it is nice for two, a night at Cookie is far more fun with a big group –when you can share a range of dishes. Standout dishes include rice noodle rolls with bamboo shoots, prawns and pickled chilli soy, drunken noodles with minced pork and green chillies and and deep fried snapper with bok choi tamarind and crispy shallots. In keeping with the kitsch theme, at the end of our meal the bill is delivered in a vintage children's book, a great touch.
Childhood nostalgia, machismo, plus a dash of Melbourne eccentricism: this sums up the atmosphere at Melbourne sweetheart, Cookie.