I have never been into jogging but I’m not exactly sure why. It could be the rational fear of being left in the dust by a runner who holds more senior citizen discount cards than I have shoes, or not wanting to wear those running shorts. You know those shorts, too much information and not enough material. Or maybe it’s even just the idea of running without a clear destination in mind. Well, I’m happy to say that this issue has at last been resolved; now I can happily get out there and run a lap of Melbourne’s iconic running track solely in order to arrive parched and ready to eat at Jardin Tan.

Nestled inside the Royal Botanical gardens near the observatory, Jardin Tan is another shining jewel in the culinary crown of iconic chef Shannon Bennett. The main theme here is Vietnamese and the menu offers up a creative mix of traditional and French fusion, inspired by dishes born out of France’s colonization of Vietnam. This is an interesting direction given Vue De Monde’s renowned French-inspired fare.

As the name suggests, “garden” is the other main theme here and the two are integrated in the design and flow of the space. Birdfeeders, wind chimes and gorgeous floating string garden plants are cleverly placed throughout the venue. The large space, which can seat hundreds, doesn’t feel cavernous. Instead it has many little nooks, levels and quieter pockets in the mix which give that feeling of being in an urban garden retreat. The kitchen garden (which grows herbs for the restaurant) is a great snapshot of all these themes intertwining, as well as being a nod to the sustainability ethos that is prevalent through all of Shannon Bennett’s venues.

Situated as it is on a key tourist thoroughfare which includes a combination of theatre and movie goers, families dropping into the delightful children’s garden and visitors to the Shrine of Remembrance, Jardin Tan has quite an eclectic customer base, all of whom are catered for. Jardin Tan takes advantage of its unique location via a slick takeaway kiosk located at the front entrance. The kiosk offers up a selection of the easier “grab and go” menu items (Báhn Mì, salads, rice paper rolls etc.) and is also a functional bar serving amazing ales, as well as being an ideal first port of call for a smashing coffee.

A slick black powder-coated two group Synesso Hydra adorns the bench top here with a stylish matching wood kit which means it blends beautifully into its garden backdrop. The Vue De Monde house blend will be on offer alongside a rotating monthly single origin, currently the fresh and vibrant La Florencia from Nicaragua. The inside coffee bar features a more classic looking stainless steel Synesso Sabre which is beautifully complemented by the Mazzer Robur and Kony E’s. Filtered brew is definitely not a secondary consideration here and the Marco Jet 6 sitting on the back bar is testament to this fact. With the ever present possibility of five hungry tourist busses turning up out of nowhere, the Jet 6 has the ability to deliver an amazing batch brew (up to 6 litres!) on demand to please the masses. Adding to the crowd pleasing kit is the Vietnamese drip filter. Nestled atop a glass with sweetened condensed milk and coconut cream laying in wait at the bottom, it is the very picture of sweet coffee indulgence. Paired with a tall glass of ice on the side should you wish to go the chilled route, expect to see these on plenty of tables come the warmer months. Or you could try the more adult version with Patron XO for those wanting to up the ante a little further.

The authentic Vietnamese food brings creativity to the table. Don’t freak out though, the much sought after avocado or porridge breakfast are still on the menu, they just come with a clever Vietnamese twist. Avocado is paired with Yarra Valley Dairy feta in Bahn Mi form and the porridge has caramelised banana, macadamia and palm sugar caramel with shavings of toasted coconut. I can still smell it now. As a self-confessed chilli fanatic, I am always aware that not everyone likes their food as fiery, and the menu here uses heat with a considerable restraint. But for those of you wanting to climb higher up the Scoville scale, a house-made firecracker sauce and nuoc mam cham await you at your table; just feel the burn.

Themed food bikes are another of the quirky features on offer here and they are out in force along the Tan. Serving either Báhn Mì, ice cream or (my personal favourite) icy cold Moo Brew craft beer, these peddle-powered marvels will be out in full force over the warmer months, so head on down. Now if I could just get that beer bike to do a continuous lap of the Tan, I might have a shot at a personal best on the track.

Jardin Tan
Royal Botanical Gardens,
Birdwood Ave & Dallas Brooks Dr,
South Yarra, Vic, 3141

Opening hours
Monday — Sunday 8:00am — 4:00pm
(open later in the warmer months)

Instagram: @jardintan
Facebook: jardintanbotanic
Twitter: @JardinTan

© Photos provided with permission by Emily Bartlett. All rights reserved by photographer

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