The Lorne Hotel has stood along the shores of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria for more than 145 years. When Merivale acquired the venue in 2021, there was much anticipation around how the group would change the historic landmark.
The answer was a welcome surprise: the first interstate Totti’s, a concept that is synonymous on the Sydney dining scene for its puffy bread and pared-back approach to Italian cuisine.
Executive Chef Mike Eggert speaks to Hospitality in the lead up to the launch and runs us through the Lorne-only dishes that will highlight produce plucked straight from the waters in front of the restaurant.
Mike Eggert opened the first Totti’s inside the Royal Bondi back in 2018. The venue was an instant hit among Sydneysiders, who appreciated its laidback Italian-style fare and breezy alfresco dining area. The restaurant has remained one of the go-to eateries in the city, with three additional locations opening in the CBD, Three Weeds Rozelle and Allianz Stadium.
When Merivale purchased the Lorne Hotel in Victoria, the sale provided an opportunity for Eggert to get out of Sydney and explore a new market. “Justin [Hemmes] has got a great mind and knows what will work in certain areas,” says the chef. “He thought Totti’s would be successful and I think it’s a no-brainer. If you look at the way we do our food (that simple, minimal kind of thing) and the standard we set — and you think about this place as a holiday destination — it ticks a lot of boxes.”
The hotel’s location formed a key pillar of inspiration for the venue’s culinary direction. “We’re on one of the greatest coastlines in Australia with some of the best seafood, so we’re going to have a much stronger seafood offering,” says Eggert. “It will be the same old Totti’s everyone loves with the classics, but with a Mediterranean, coastal-Italian feel.”
Eggert is collaborating with the Lorne’s Executive Chef Matt Germanchis (former Movida) to develop the menu. The regional seaside location has given the pair the opportunity to work with local producers who reel in daily catches. “Most restaurants in large cities would struggle to have close connections with small producers,” says Eggert. “One of the advantages of being out on the coastline or further out from town is working where the produce is grown and where the fish is caught, so we’re directly
linked to our locality.”
The chef is looking to use a range of seafood including albacore tuna, snapper, oysters, crab and different kinds of shellfish. Grilled seafood items are expected to be a hit among diners. “The real banging dishes will be the ones using seafood from the beach that will go over the coals and straight to the plate,” says Eggert. “That’s what’s really exciting for me and it’s what our customers will get excited about as well.”
Although the Lorne menu will look a little different to its Sydney siblings, some familiar dishes will make an appearance. The offering encompasses pasta, antipasti, mains, desserts, sides and of course the restaurant’s signature puffy bread which is fermented for 48 hours before being cooked in a wood-fired oven.
“We want people — it doesn’t matter if they’re in Bondi or Lorne — to be able to come and feel a sense of comfort and reassurance that they’re still able to order tiramisu or lamb pappardelle; they’re signature dishes for a reason,” says Eggert. “I’ve had the brand running for four years now and the top 10 dishes are always the same. We are absolutely bringing what we know the general public wants, but making sure it has its own Lorne voice.”
Totti’s is slated to open in late February and marks the first Victorian concept for Merivale, with Eggert keen to contribute to the state’s acclaimed culinary landscape. “It is our first foray in Victoria and we’ve employed 100 Victorians,” says the chef. “They are born-and-bred hospitality people, so they know how to cook, pour drinks and wait tables. We’re stoked to be working with them.