Dexter Kim.

We’ve all been in a position where you lose track of time and the food options dwindle — if not completely disappear. But more venues are catering to those looking for a meal as the clock strikes midnight.

In Sydney, Merivale’s Mumu has launched a late-night menu serving up a combination of tasty, familiar eats and options from its usual South-East Asian-influenced offering. Rekōdo at Barangaroo House has also opted for a late-night, snack-style offering for guests to order from during live music sets. And down in Melbourne, Gimlet has always run a supper menu since opening.

Hospitality speaks to Mumu Head Chef Oliver Hua, Barangaroo House General Manager Phoebe Barter, and Gimlet Venue Manager Shane Lazzo to find out what’s on the menu and why more venues should consider cooking well into the evening.

Merivale’s South-East Asian street-food eatery Mumu launched a late-night menu a few months ago. Led by Head Chef Oliver Hua, the menu continues the fun, vibrant offering of the venue.

“We wanted to extend our offering and give people a venue they can go to late at night to have a bit of fun, have a drink, and enjoy some delicious food,” says the chef. The menu runs from midnight until late on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, often finishing up around the 2am mark.

For Hua and his team, the menu is about offering dishes that deliver on flavour. “People at that time are looking for something familiar rather than something new,”
he says. “Sometimes we put nasi goreng on and people don’t know what that is … so we try to do a combination of things that are familiar.”

Mumu’s late-night menu features a few staple dishes from the restaurant’s standard menu alongside late-night classics with a South-East Asian twist. “It’s bits and bobs from the actual menu, but then we have our Mumu fried chicken sandwich which is essentially a fried chicken burger done like Taiwanese-style chicken.”

There are also waffle fries with chilli mayonnaise, fried chicken wings with curry
butter, and other more traditional dishes. “We have our classics such as fried egg noodles. We also do a selection of sambal which is a play on chips and dip.”

Working late at night isn’t for everyone, but Hua says it hasn’t been an issue for the team at Mumu. “I wouldn’t say we struggled to find staff,” he says. “Finding people who were willing to do those shifts wasn’t that hard … there are people who go to school or university in the daytime and can only work at night, which they prefer. It’s about offering them a schedule that works best for them.”

The restaurant has had a positive reception to the late-night menu, which has the added bonus of seeing fellow hospo workers drop in. “What we’re finding is there are five, six different restaurants for late night and everyone knows each other and mingles,” says Hua. “It is really good to see the hospitality crowd come in after service, enjoy a drink, have food, and meet new people.”

The community aspect is at the core of the late-night offering for Hua and his team. “I think that’s what it’s all about, whether it’s hospitality or not,” he says. “It’s about bringing people together at all times of the day.” Hua admits he’s always updating the menu as he learns more about what diners are looking for at that time.

“As the late-night market expands, I think we need to expand with it,” he says. “We’re never going to stop developing the menu and giving people what they want.” The chef also hopes more venues will consider launching late-night food options moving ahead. “Having a lot of industry people go to late-night venues encourages them to bring it back to their venues and hopefully inspires them to do something.”

Nikki To.

Rekōdo in Barangaroo House has also ushered in a late-night option to pair with its live music roster. General Manager Phoebe Barter says the inspiration came from the restaurant scene in New York. “It’s quite common to see restaurants flip into bars and dancefloors in New York but not so much in Sydney,” she says. “We wanted to bring this experience to Sydney and offer something different to our guests.”

The late-night menu is available from 10pm until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights and consists of snack-style dishes. Options include Sydney Rock oysters,
edamame, prawn gyoza with kimchi, pork belly bao, shoestring fries, and a selection of market sashimi. “The menu is a condensed version of our snack menu and it’s all
the things you can just pick up with your fingers — no fuss and all fun,” says Barter.

Along with the food menu, the venue also transforms for the night, with tables moved to create a dancefloor and encourage patrons to let their hair down. “Guests can order their own way at the bar, have a boogie, or settle in for a chat outside on our balcony with some epic tunes in the background,” says Barter.

The Rekōdo team have had a positive response from patrons since the offering has gone live. “People like the idea of coming in and not being tied to a table or a menu,” says Barter. “It’s a ‘come as you are, enjoy a drink, and dance the night away’ vibe!”

She’s also noticed a new market of diners attending the venue, which also encourages those already dining to stay on for the late-night offering. “It allows our dinner guests to not worry about ‘what’s next’ and is also an option for those venturing down to Barangaroo later in the night. The best part is the people in the restaurant watching the room evolve and then getting involved themselves.”

Since opening on Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD in 2020, a supper menu has always been part of Gimlet’s offering alongside the usual à la carte and seasonal share-style offering. According to Venue Manager Shane Lazzo, the late-night offering is a nod to Gimlet’s versatility as a restaurant and a bar. “While Gimlet is a restaurant with guests reserving tables to dine, it is also a bar where we love to see our guests spontaneously pop in for a cocktail and a bite to eat,” he says.

The supper menu is available on Friday and Saturday evenings from 10pm until 1am and is designed to cater to a range of occasions and appetites. “It’s a dedicated late-night menu which includes some of the favourites from our lunch and dinner offerings with a few special additions,” says Lazzo. “We’ve really considered what dishes work best for that time of night be it after the theatre or a show or as part of a night out with friends exploring the many great activities available in Melbourne.”

Some of the dishes on the menu include bite-sized items such as oysters, San José saucisson with olives, and the venue’s Gimlet gilda with smoked tuna and pickled mussel. Caviar service is also part of the supper menu, which sees Gimlet’s house caviar and Giaveri Beluga served with traditional accompaniments.

For those searching for something larger, there are mains available including the venue’s famed cheeseburger along with pipe rigate with blue swimmer crab, and a 200g Blackmore Wagyu sirloin with jus gras. To finish, there’s a selection of cheese and desserts.

Lazzo believes serving a versatile, late-night menu has complemented Gimlet as a
venue and has always been well-received by diners. “Guests seem to appreciate enjoying Gimlet in various forms and we see the same guests dining in different ways depending on the occasion — a long celebratory lunch or a cheeseburger and a martini at the bar — both are equally encouraged!” Lazzo and the team have
also noticed it helps bring people to the venue on an impromptu, unplanned basis, too.

Jo McGann.

The common hope shared by the aforementioned venues is that other operators will look at joining the late-night crusade as the industry moves ahead. “You only have to look at New York City to see how huge it can be — it’s only a matter of time,” says Barter. “Welcome the partying to restaurants. We encourage the industry to think bigger when it comes to restaurants, break the mould for late night, and make it fun.”
“I think it’s the way forward and I really hope other groups follow suit as they grow,” adds Hua.

Lazzo agrees venues that stay open late into the night play an important role in a city’s nightlife. “Melbourne has always had some great late-night venues and we think this will continue to be a part of the city’s fabric,” he says. “The city is alive with exhibitions, sport, festivals, comedy shows, and theatre — it just makes sense there are great venues for people to eat and drink at before and after they attend something.”