Have a dinner date to organise or a catch-up with friends? There’s no time to try out a new restaurant like the present. But risks abound… how do you pick the right one?

At Dish Cult, we do the work for you and go undercover to test out some of Melbourne’s hottest restaurants. This week our writer Lauren Dinse headed to Teller for an insider’s scoop on the food, service and that all-important vibe check.

Here’s what she discovered…

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The restaurant

Teller, 81 Lygon St, Brunswick East VIC 3057

The vibe

It was a quiet Thursday night and walking down the Brunswick East end of Lygon St, we spotted Teller right away. Housed within the former State Savings Bank of Victoria (established in the early 1900s), the stately building cuts an imposing silhouette against the sky. A palm tree towers from within the courtyard, a feature Teller has playfully integrated into its logo.

We ambled inside to find a small but sleek bar and dining space. A smiling waitress immediately checked our booking. It was fairly low-key inside but after moving to the courtyard, the vibe picked up over the course of our sitting.

Outside, there were heaters, spacious bench tables and striped umbrellas reminiscent of European beach vacations. I could hear the rumblings of laughter and clinking from yet another space within Teller where a weekly Trivia Night event was taking place.

Teller is very much a pub, bar and beer garden all-in-one, but its slick design and decidedly sophisticated menu encourage you to take it a bit more seriously perhaps. We waited for the food to do the talking.

The food and drink

While my dining partner opted for a crafty pale ale, I started with something called a “clarified pina colada”, which was very refreshing and well-balanced. I was surprised to find I liked the classic cocktail in this new juice-like form, without its original creaminess.

The pina colada at Teller was an update of the classic cocktail. Image credit Lauren Dinse

For drinks, the rest of the night we tried a few glasses of wine each. The list was generous, so it was easy to spot a good-looking Aussie riesling or classic chianti. My favourite was a plush chardonnay from the Watson Family in Margaret River, WA.

The food menu was what you’d expect from a modern gastropub, consisting of a list of smaller dishes for sharing, larger mains, steaks, sides and a few desserts. We selected a few share plates to begin, a grilled whole prawn with finger lime butter and Yurrita anchovies with toasted sourdough and salsa verde. The prawn was rich and savoury, so it was somewhat difficult to detect the subtle finger lime taste, but the texture was perfect. It was fun to pick at with our fingers and lick the butter off. The anchovy toast was loud and garlicky, scattered with pickled onion layers. I could have eaten 20 of them.

Grilled whole prawn with finger lime butter at Teller. Image credit Lauren Dinse
The anchovy on toast was a hit. Image credit Lauren Dinse

Next, we ordered two more share-style plates: buttermilk chicken with fermented chilli sauce, and roasted beetroots, labneh, thyme and pickled shallots. The chicken was juicy, crispy and well-seasoned. No complaints there. The sauce, however, had to be one of the wildest companions to fried chicken I’ve tasted. I was expecting something spicy and savoury. Instead, it tasted a bit like sweet and sour sauce, with an almost floral perfume to it. It wasn’t my favourite pairing in the world but it was definitely fascinating.

The buttermilk chicken was perfectly cooked. Image credit Lauren Dinse

The beetroot dish was gorgeous – both in presentation and taste, but the portion was quite modest for the price. So we decided to share at least one more dish, a main this time: the pappardelle with braised beef cheek, smoked tomato and horseradish. The pasta was delightfully al dente, the sauce was silky, the beef cheek was tender and melt-in-your mouth. I couldn’t really taste a lot of smoked tomato and the balance of flavours wasn’t quite what I expected – leaning towards cheesy and rich rather than smoky and piquant.

The kitchen at Teller isn’t afraid to get creative. It’s a much more interesting pub experience than your average parma-and-chips establishment. If you’re after a unique array of high-quality ingredients prepared in both classic and new and inventive ways, Teller’s worth a visit. 

The beetroot dish was beautifully presented. Image credit Lauren Dinse

The service

The service at Teller was relaxed and genuine. 

We were offered any seating area we liked when we arrived – outside, inside or in the courtyard. Due to the cooler temperature outside, we had an effective heater that kept us warm through the night. I was even offered a blanket! 

Our orders were taken promptly throughout the sitting, though we certainly never felt rushed or clockwatched. Our wait-staff were friendly and knowledgeable enough about the food when we had a question or two. Clearing the bill was easy and fuss-free.

Why should I book Teller?

Teller’s a unique pub experience on Lygon Street – suitable for dates, small group gatherings or family dinners. It’s a sleek, modern vibe with a laid-back atmosphere. 

There’s an attention to detail in terms of quality of ingredients and presentation that proper foodies will appreciate. Each dish will appeal differently to each palate, but this diversity adds to the fun. You can try something new or stick to what you know and love. 

You’ll find your burrata, your oysters mignonette and your charcuterie here – but there’s also simple steaks hot off the grill, pasta dishes and a traditional beef and bacon burger with fries. Add a round of cocktails or a classy bottle of Aussie wine to the mix and the night’s set. 

We noticed there are a lot of weekly meal specials too, if you want to give Teller a taste without worrying your wallet. 

Book it here

The pappardelle with braised beef cheek, smoked tomato and horseradish was rich and cheesy. Image credit Lauren Dinse
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