Nikki To

How would you describe the 2023 Icebergs experience?
We have worked very hard to maintain the DNA [through] some additions as well as restoring what was broken. The product at Icebergs was not broken, but we needed to attend to the elements in the venue that needed restoring. The experience has perhaps in a way become truer to the original vision: an invisible restaurant … almost like a private beach house for guests to feel something special.

The focus was to improve staff facilities to make service better with a new kitchen, cellar and waiter stations that really help our team serve more efficiently. Highlights [include] a new terrace dining area looking out at the Pacific Ocean and a dedicated seafood ice trough to showcase great produce. Finally, in a step closer to our sustainability program goals, we’ve welcomed the introduction of an induction cooking range in the kitchen.

How has the Italian/Australian food landscape evolved over the years?
I believe my work with Karen Martini at the Melbourne Wine Room and later Icebergs was the beginning of a movement of building an identity for Italo/Oz food. The orecchiette broccoli cavolfiore, the polenta chips, the lamb cutlets with hot feta dressing — these dishes may feel normal now, but they were so ahead of their time back then. We weren’t just breaking the mould, we were creating a whole new one!

Describe your ultimate Icebergs experience
Monty Koludrovic’s incredible selection of crudo followed by Orazio D’Elia’s spaghetti vongole, Alex Prichard’s beautiful lobster pasta and Jaci Koludrovic’s tiramisu. And anything from Karen’s first menu — those early days established Icebergs. The crudo menu sings of seaside dining. In part, it is Japanese inspired, but the simplicity is very Italian. It’s the embodiment of my brief to the chefs (a brief that hasn’t changed in 20 years, except through the eyes of the chef at the helm): flavours my parents would recognise, but food they would never cook.

There is something so special about eating seafood while looking out over the ocean from where it came from. Of course, there’d be wine, something smashable, less alcohol and more fun. I have grown closer to smaller wine lists over the last few years — no one wants to look at a thesis of 10,000 wines! We’d probably drink a chilled red and there’d have to be a gimlet in there somewhere … Lenny Opai is the king of the gimlet.

Where is your favourite place to sit in the restaurant?
I very rarely sit at a window table, they are for guests, so my favourite table has become 60. I am in amongst it all, I can see the staff, the guests and the movement of the restaurant while also having some privacy and a feeling of being protected by those glass waves.