Colt Dining has unfortunately been involved in a large fire on the Mornington Peninsula’s Main Street.
Co-owner and Head Chef Matti Fallon and business partner Paul Goddard have thanked their Colt Dining team via a social media statement.
“Words cannot express the devastation we feel. However, we are profoundly grateful for our community and patrons that have overwhelmingly embraced Colt in our initial weeks,” it reads.
“Thank you to our all-star staff who have handled the situation with
professionalism and grace. You are our family. Our thoughts are also with our neighbours who are also suffering. Thank you to the emergency services and responders. Thankfully no one was harmed.”
Fallon and Goddard say the plan is to rebuild the existing site when possible, and in the meantime begun working on pop-up, partnership opportunities with venues for the summer.
Hospitality profiled Fallon for the November edition two weeks out from the opening of Colt Dining.
The New Zealand-born chef chose to launch Colt Dining in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula where he grew up and began his career in the
industry at the Portsea Hotel in Port Phillip Bay.
“I started off as a dishwasher and fell in love with it from day one,” he says.
Fallon worked across front and back of house before he moved to Melbourne to further his cheffing career. His first big role was opening
Ponyfish Island in Southbank before he joined Longrain and then Mamasita.
He tried his hand at pop-ups before taking some time off, but was soon drawn back to service to lead the team at Du Nord Kitchen. “I just fell in love with it [the cuisine] straight away,” says the chef. “I grew up on a property with fruit trees and veggie patches, and have always been into fishing and hunting, so [new-Nordic cuisine] tied into the naturalist side of cooking I was into.”
After Du Nord Kitchen, Fallon worked at the one-hatted Huxtable on Smith Street before opening his CBD pie shop Princes Pies. The move came from the desire to get out of a service environment and was inspired by a trip to New Zealand that gave the chef a new perspective on the pastry.
Princes Pies served an ever-changing menu of Kiwi essentials alongside some more creative flavour combinations. “We served a few Kiwi classics
like mince and cheese, steak and cheese, and a Shepherd’s pie,” says Fallon. “I had a couple of other chefs and friends of mine jump in the kitchen and we got creative.”
Slow-cooked lamb with goat’s cheese and truffle was one of the bestsellers. “From the moment we opened at about 11am, we’d have a line out the door every day until we ran out of pies.”
Fallon then joined Broadsheet Kitchen as the resident chef of retro Chinese takeaway eatery Saint Crispin. The plan was to expand the concept into a permanent venue, but Fallon was diagnosed with a serious illness. “I had AVMs which is arteriovenous malformation — it’s something you usually find out you’ve got in the morgue,” he explains. “Everything came to a screaming halt, and I had three major brain surgeries. I had to put everything on hiatus for a while.”
The recovery process was about a year-and-a-half, with Fallon relocating to Byron Bay with his wife and three-month-old daughter. He later joined
St Elmo after his surgeries, a move that would culminate in the restaurant securing its first hat. “I was lucky enough to get them a hat, which was
quite the achievement coming back after being off for so long with surgery,” he says.
Fallon worked with the St Elmo team to transform the former Spanish, tapas-style offering into something more aligned with his own style of
cooking. “I said, ‘Can we take it in a different direction?’, and they were more than happy to do it and we ended up doing — for lack of a better term — contemporary Australian.”
But when Fallon learned his wife was pregnant with twins, they decided to move to the Mornington Peninsula to be closer to family. He began cooking at Rare Hare before the idea of Colt Dining was born.
Fallon’s culinary direction at Colt Dining is led by his surrounds. “I would say it’s a nature-forward, produce-forward style of cooking,” the chef explains. “We’ve let nature decide for us and then come up with the recipes from there according to what’s in abundance and what’s going
out of season.” In line with the focus, Colt Dining prioritises locality, fermenting in-house and sourcing beach herbs from the coast.
It’s also a family business, with seafood supplied by Fallon’s brother Andrew who has a commercial fishing licence, and foraged herbs
and fruit sourced from his parent’s property in nearby Langwarrin.
Naturally, Colt Dining’s offering will move with the seasons, which is something Fallon is very eager about. “Everything will change a lot
and we’re not holding ourselves hostage to the idea of signature dishes,” he says. “It’s not our thing. We’ll adapt, create, and collaborate as it’s
what we’re all about.”
While signatures are off the menu, there are a few plates Fallon and his team are excited about. One of those being yabbie toast with native
pepper, Szechuan-style dipping sauce, and dried bonito. “It’s almost like the prawn toast you’d get at a takeaway Chinese shop,” he says. “You still
get the fishy, earthy, natural flavour from it and then you’ve got native pepper and the Szechuan to give it more bite.”
Fallon names deep-fried oysters with fermented chilli and caviar as a tongue-in-cheek take on the “fanciness” around ordering a dozen oysters. “It’s trying to demystify the idea of ordering oysters and it being super fancy,” he laughs.
The dish is also a display of Fallon’s commitment to low-waste cooking due to the oysters being deep-fried and not needing to be as fresh as they are when served raw. “When I was in Byron Bay, I watched people throw out oysters daily and I was like, ‘Why are we doing this?’.
It’s one of those products that just doesn’t last long unless you use them quickly. People don’t understand the impact it has on small farmers.”
Colt Dining is equipped with an open fire, which means plenty of produce cooked over flames — think grilled shishito peppers, lamb, and smoked, slow-cooked brisket.
Something Colt Dining is also equipped with? A ‘Cheeto machine’. According to the chef, the gadget is like a pasta extruder and makes what Fallon describes as a “30cm-long Cheeto” for guests to snack on while ordering. “It’s super fun and is one of those things that hits the table as soon as you get here, so you can have a snack while you look at the drinks menu,” he explains. The plan is to make different flavours, with the first
being truffle and a saltbush and vinegar combo to follow.
The bar team is led by Zac Abbot who is working very closely with Fallon and the kitchen. “The bar is doing a lot of molecular-esque creations [a rhubarb and home-made lemon curd Gimlet plus a French oak-aged Sazerac] and is also doing fermenting on-site,” says the chef. “There’s a lot of we’ll be working on together including some food and drink pairings.”
Colt Dining also ties in Fallon’s other love: music. “We’ve got a little DJ booth and we’ve got more vinyl coming — I’ve got a big collection,” he says. “My business partners all owned a bunch of live music venues as well, so it’s all our passions in one place.”
For Fallon, opening his own venue in the area he grew up in is a full-circle moment. “It feels amazing to be here,” he says. “It’s great to be back around people who I’ve known forever, and everyone’s come on board collectively and helped in some way.”
Fallon is hopeful Colt Dining will fill the hole of casual, yet refined dining in the area as both a spot to enjoy a special-occasion meal at or spend an afternoon grazing away on snacks and cocktails. No matter the reason, the chef’s approach is sure to catch the attention of both locals and tourists alike.