What do, textiles, warehouses and Buddhas have in common?

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Well, perhaps nothing other than that they are part of the history behind the funky restaurant and bar establishment known as Seamstress and Sweatshop.

When I started planning my recent visit to Melbourne high on my list of priorities was of course checking out some new restaurants, bars and cafes. What caught my eye was Seamstress Restaurant & Bar located in Melbourne’s historic Chinatown district. It wasn’t just the fact that it is “housed in a 115 yr-old former textile factory, warehouse and one-time Buddhist monastery” but the description that patrons “Climb the rickety stairs escaping the bustle of the city street to a 50 seater dining room celebrating the merging of traditional Pan-Asian ingredients with modern kitchen techniques” that had me intrigued. Seamstress, which has been operating since 2007, is all about a shared dining experience.

A delicious menu awaits - love the varied portion sizes!
A delicious menu awaits – love the varied portion sizes!
Caramelised eggplant and crispy tofu
Caramelised eggplant and crispy tofu
Fluffy steamed rice
Fluffy steamed rice
Crepe Duck Moneybags
Crepe Duck Moneybags
Honey soy braised Wagyu shin
Honey soy braised Wagyu shin
Elderflower and white chocolate pot de creme
Elderflower and white chocolate pot de creme
The meals come in small, medium and large serving sizes so that you can mix and match according to your appetite. We had a large serve of Duck rice crepe money bag, roast duck breast, black garlic & fried water chestnuts, medium Caramelised eggplant with red miso & silken tofu sauce, crispy spice crusted firm tofu & toasted sesame seeds, and, small Honey soy braised Wagyu shin, vanilla parsnip puree. We even managed to squeeze in a dessert sharing the Elderflower and white chocolate pot de creme, coco nib tuile, honeycomb & coconut icecream. The flavours were intense and delicious. At one point Mr Iced Vovo jokingly asked if it was too crass to lick the plate! 😉
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The dining room features draped fabric and, on this night hanging flowers all varieties in white
The dining room features draped fabric and, on this night hanging flowers all varieties in white
Old stairs and decorative fans
Old stairs and decorative fans

A dark and moody atmosphere (in a good way!) in the Seamstress Cocktail bar
A dark and moody atmosphere (in a good way!) in the Seamstress Cocktail bar
Mirrors create a nice feature
Mirrors create a nice feature

DryStore Espresso on the ground floor
DryStore Espresso on the ground floor
But, don’t just stop at the restaurant venture up the stairs further to their multi-award winning cocktail bar for a pre or post beverage where the vibe is inspired by the clubs of yesteryear with a soundtrack of jazz & blues. I was looking for the old Speakeasy style bars that are currently popping back up in New York etc and both Seamstress and Sweatshop are certainly reminiscent of that.
We stopped by for prior to our meal and I had a Gin Gin Mule – Fresh and spicy. Gin, fresh lime & their homemade spicy ginger syrup shaken and charged with dry ginger ale. Served over ice with mint and cucumber. Deliciously refreshing it was! Whilst it was a little too darkly lit to get some great pictures, the atmosphere is lovely with colourful Chinese cheongsams, pj’s etc hanging from the ceiling and comfy lounge chairs and few booths at the back to relax and while away the time.

If you aren’t looking for a full dining experience the Seamstress cocktail bar also offers a light dinner menu available late in to the evening with treats such as spiced roast nuts, schichimi oysters, venison mini-burgers and Malay corn fritters.

But the fun doesn’t stop there Sweatshop is a “hidden den below Seamstress offering straight up bar service, DJ’s late in to the night and a courtyard out the back”. After our meal we wandered down the stairs, past a stock room to a inconspicuous door but it was chock-a-block full that we didn’t bother pushing our way through to the bar. I would however like to check it out at another time.

There is also a DryStore Espresso coffee stop at ground level that operates during the day between 7.30-4pm. So, no matter what your food and beverage needs Seamstress has you covered!

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