Pop culture : Dine with Dari : Pope Joan

With her finger very much on the pulse of city culture, Dari shares her take on the dining scene. This time, Pope Joan is on her radar, and she filed this report.

Restaurants inside a hotel are generally a big no-no. Ordinarily, adjoining eateries to an expensive and large-scale international hotel are typically lifeless, dull and exorbitantly overpriced. Pope Joan, the gorgeous sweet restaurant nestled on the outskirts of the Sofitel is an exception. 


The much-adored Brunswick local shifted from its original location to make way for high-rise apartments. Indeed, Brunswick’s loss is the city dwellers’ gain. The European-style restaurant, with an English chef, is elegant enough to bring an international crowd but not too snotty or pretentious to put you off.


Whisk away with a martini to the wooden tables, neatly set with crisp linen or sprawl along a comfy leather booth and you’re made to feel like you’re not just sitting at the Paris end of town but – for a moment – you’re actually there. 


Rainbow trout

The menu is short, concise but sharp. Clever brekky options for an early work meeting include devilled eggs on sourdough or the ‘all day Turkish’ with harissa carrots, hummus and shanklish (white sheep’s milk cheese). Lunch includes ‘The Reuben’ – Warialda Belted Galloway pastrami, mozzarella and red kraut. For dinner, a delightful bowl of local mussels with a smoked tomato romesco sauce go sublimely well with thick-cut chunky chips and a dollop of creamy aioli. As appealing to the eye as it is to the palate is the rainbow trout. A fillet with tail intact is topped with prettily placed escabeche vegetables and a rich orange saffron emulsion, each bite is balanced and precise. Likewise, wine options are brief but on point, and boast the region’s finest – a stunning Yarra Valley chardy and an earthy Gippsland pinot noir.


Bottom line: Charmingly sophisticated. Fabulously chic. Welcome to the city Pope Joan, you’re a keeper.


Pope Joan

45 Collins Street, Melbourne (enter via the Sofitel driveway)

(03) 9654 8545

Open Mon–Fri, 7am–late