Meet the Chef: Hayden McMillan, Head Chef at Neptune

Chef Hayden McMillan has had a rich and successful career in the lead-up to his appointment as Head Chef at Windsor’s Neptune in mid-2019.


The New Zealand-born chef has been cooking since the age of 16, his formative years spent training under celebrated chefs, including Geoff Scott and David Griffiths at Vinnie’s, Michael Meredith at Meredith’s and Simon Wright at The French Café.


At 25, McMillan was appointed head chef at TriBeCa, an award-winning fine diner in Auckland, New Zealand. His unique, innovative style saw TriBeCa regain its place in the Cuisine Top 50 Restaurants in New Zealand, an accolade McMillan maintained until his departure in 2013. That same year, McMillan was runner-up Best Chef in New Zealand at the Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards.


From TriBeCa, McMillan was headhunted to lead the 15-strong kitchen at the Waiheke Island Yacht Club, an upmarket New Zealand restaurant established in the heart of San Francisco for the duration of the America’s Cup. Renowned Auckland restaurateur Tony Stewart of Clooney oversaw this enormous project, and the food was so well received that the restaurant remained open well after the Cup was won.


After relocating to Melbourne in 2014, Hayden was quickly appointed Head Chef of the Astor Hotel in Carlton. From concept to realisation, Hayden established the menu at the Astor’s restaurant, The Roving Marrow, which saw the restaurant winning awards that same year, just over three months after opening.


McMillan’s more recent celebrated achievement is Etta, his own 80-seat bistro located in the heart of Melbourne, opened in early 2017 to much ovation. An upmarket bistro and wine bar, his menu saw a strong focus on plant-based dishes and McMillan used only ingredients grown organically and farmed sustainably.


Now, his timely arrival at Neptune marks two years since the venue launched on High Street in 2017 and will see the restaurant stamp its mark as a southside local serious about food.


Embracing Neptune’s coastal-Italian leanings, McMillan’s new winter menu sees fresh seafood shine, alongside handmade pasta and protein-heavy dishes cooked over the grill.


Highlights include:

●   Bonito crudo, fennel pollen

●   Charred octopus, potato aioli and ‘nduja dressing

●   Spanner crab spaghetti, parsley, saltbush

●   Artichoke à la greque, rigatoni and stracciatella

●   Pan-roasted snapper, cime di rapa, verjus broth


“To me, good food is all about letting simple ingredients sing. I want our diners tasting the quality of produce we are putting on the plate,” says McMillan.


“Exploring regional Victoria through a coastal-Italian lens, the new menu is approachable, pared back and showcases fewer ingredients.”


Bringing with him experience, direction and clarity, McMillan is particularly looking forward to exploring his culinary creativity in the south, providing locals and beyond with a reliable dining destination beyond Melbourne CBD.



212 High Street

Windsor   VIC   3181

03 9533 2827

Image credit: Parker Blain