Jana Langhorst

Sydney-based hospitality group Esca has made its first foray into Melbourne with its Surry Hills charcoal chicken concept Henrietta.

The group secured a site on Chapel Street in Windsor, which will officially open to the public on 7 July.

“We knew the next step for Esca would be to expand to Melbourne and become a part of their vibrant dining scene, it only made sense that Henrietta was the first venue to do so,” says Co-Founder Ibrahim Moubadder.

“This new Henrietta is a little different to the one Sydneysiders know and love, and leans more into the refined palates of Melbourne’s elaborate food scene.

“We found there was a lack of charcoal chicken, and we wanted to share the love, but this time in a more elevated way.”

The 80-seat restaurant revolves around the kitchen’s charcoal rotisserie, but has expanded its menu to showcase a range of Middle Eastern dishes. Ollie Hughes has been appointed executive chef of the Melbourne location, and says cooking over coals is an intrinsic part of the culinary offering.

“Using charcoal and fire as a core component of every dish creates an explosion of flavours that just can’t be replicated, all the way from cauliflower to octopus to our iconic Lebanese hummus, that smokey flavour is what makes it so memorable,” says the chef.

“It’s Middle Eastern done differently and so much more than the humble chicken and chips you’d expect with a touch of Australian.”

Highlights include kingfish with baharat and rhubarb, falafel with tahini and house pickles, carob-glazed lamb shoulder with mujadara and smoked labneh and duck koftas with lettuce and cacik.

Henrietta’s chickens are grain-fed and available to order whole or half, with both sizes served with Lebanese bread and house condiments, and best accompanied by a side of sumac chips with za’atar toum and a fattoush salad.

Esca Group Bar Manager Mark Anderson is behind the drinks offering that covers local wines as well as those sourced from the Middle East and Levantine coastline as well as house cocktails – think an arak highball teamed with Four Pillars gin, cucumber, spices, and pear.

Henrietta Melbourne is open for lunch Friday to Sunday from 12pm; dinner Thursday to Sunday, and for takeaway Thursday to Sunday.