By Jo Rittey


Bar Nonno is just the kind of restaurant you want in your neighbourhood. A thoughtful and delicious menu, vast selection of wine and one of those convivial bricky atmospheres that dining out memories are made from. The kitchen is led by David Murphy who brings a wealth of knowledge on the French classics, fine dining and Modern European cuisine to the Bar Nonno table.


Where did it all start for you?


Basically I left school at 15 and started washing dishes in Camberwell. Then I started doing some prep for the guys and then started working in the larder and really fell in love with the rush of the dockets and the cooking and the service. I started an apprenticeship and did a year in a little Italian restaurant and finished my apprenticeship at the Melbourne Club in the city. That’s when I started to get into French cooking and that’s what we’re doing here, French style cooking.


The Carleis have a beautiful winery up in Beaconsfield and Serge Carlei is the main winemaker there and he did stages in France and lived there, so a lot of the wine we sell here is also French style. It’s just a bit strange that their background is Italian.


It was great working at the Melbourne Club with Fritz (Roth) He was a really hard man but it was a big learning experience. From there I went to Bistro Thierry in Hawksburn and within six months, I was sous-chef there. I was there for 10 years. It was good. The chef there, Paul Dunlop, who was there for most of the time I was there, went to France to do a stage, and I ran the kitchen for 8 months while he was over there. That was another good experience.


I wanted to keep moving forward so I started working for PM24 which is Philippe Mouchel’s old place in Russell Street. I was there for a year and a half and then Paul from Bistro Thierry opened a new place in East Melbourne called GG and that was my first Head Chef job and I was there for two years.


 A place where the locals can come once or twice a week and not blow the budget and not walk out of here feeling hungry.”


How did you arrive at Bar Nonno?


I reconnected with Serge at Gigi because he used to do the house wine at Bistro Thierry. The house red and the house white was Carlei wine. He said he had this place and was struggling with staff and I came in to just have a chat with him but I really fell in love with this place. It’s got a really nice family feeling here. It’s been in the family since 1945. There’s a whole history to it and I thought let’s give it a go, make the best of it and see what happens.


When was that?


Twelve months ago. They had been open for six months before I got here and it had been a slow start. But now we’ve turned it around to the point where over the winter we were just getting busier and busier when other restaurants were starting to taper off a little bit. Now we’re at a point where we can’t physically keep up and so we’re employing new staff and opening the upstairs because there’s a line out the front door on Friday and Saturday nights.


How would you describe your approach to cooking?


For me, it’s an understanding of food and technique; a lot of curing and cooking low and slow and a lot of vegetable preparation. That’s what we’re going for here. A place where the locals can come once or twice a week and not blow the budget and not walk out of here feeling hungry. We want people to come in here and have a nice meal and enjoy it with the wine.


How do you keep your ideas fresh?


A lot of it is seasonal. I love the preparation of the pork belly and the duck, for example, and so we keep that and then change the garnishes and the sauces and play around with it that way.


We do what people want to eat as well. It’s not necessarily about me wanting to put a foam on the dish, but what we as a collective think will work to get the place pumping.


 Working with Philippe Mouchel was a highlight. He’s not only a gentleman, he’s a great honest cook.”


Who has inspired you?


Working with Philippe Mouchel was a highlight. He’s not only a gentleman, he’s a great honest cook and he keeps you guessing as well. He always wants to keep you pushing and changing and evolving and it’s a great way of cooking because one night you’ll be plating it up in this way and then he’ll change it completely. It keeps you really involved and really into it.


Also Paul Dunlop. He was a mentor for me as well. He taught me how important it was to be super organised and on top of freshness.


Jo Rittey is a freelance writer who wants to live in a world where apostrophes are used correctly and smiles are genuine. When she’s not roaming the streets of the northside in search of great food, she likes getting lost in beautiful films and having wildly enthusiastic discussions with her friends.


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