Ben Blowers believes that simplicity can be surprising. When he opened The Grey Smith in April 2016, he knew he could bring something delightfully different to the seriously under-serviced East Melbourne neighbourhood.
Since then, Ben and his brilliant little space have become seamlessly woven into an area thats known for being tight-knit. And surprisingly, the Grey Smiths point of difference is its simplicity. Ben has created a deliberately casual dining environment with a depth that sneaks up on you.
Simplicity shapes how customers interact with The Grey Smith. Ben says, Id like to think that its very democratic in a way. Anyone who walks in should have a good experience or should find something on the menu that they want to eat thats not intimidating. Eating can become complicated in a foodie city, so Ben wanted to make things easy with a straightforward menu.
Callum Parry, the clever cook whos been in The Grey Smith kitchen since the beginning, shares Bens vision. With a background preparing fresh food in London markets, Callum is brilliant at building on natural flavour instead of burying it.
If The Grey Smith menu is comfortable, the wine list likes to throw the occasional curveball. Ben and his sommelier have crafted a wine menu that coaxes people into trying something new and exciting. Have you heard of Gamay Noir? Its a beautifully light, peppery variety from France thats similar to a Pinot Noir. Its hard to find in Australia but its one of the many uncommon drops that have become a popular pick at The Grey Smith.
A stones throw from the MCG, The Grey Smith happily serves Carlton Draught. But the rest of their beer selection is centred around discovery. The beer fridge is fun to look at, with rows of bottles bearing the eclectic labels that characterise craft brews.
Ben gestures to the fridge, I try to do something different. Like, Ive worked with a brewery in Airys Inlet called Rogue Wave. Theyre a little bit mental. He also explains that he likes how the discovery doesnt have to end when a beers been drunk; most of the breweries he works with are in Victoria, so he encourages customers to visit the source if theyre nearby on a weekend away.
All of this is what keeps customers coming back. During the day, The Grey Smith is a machine that keeps local office workers well-fed and topped up with coffee. The team spends the morning looking after tables at full capacity and handing coffees through the takeaway window that allows for convenient sidewalk service.
On game day, this chameleon caf takes on yet another role. Ben says that the Grey Smith team loves being a part of pre-game buzz. I want people to know that there are other options if you are going the football or another event at the MCG. Somewhere like The Grey Smith is very casual dining, very informal, and you can still grab a really nice glass of wine and some really nice food in a chilled environment. If youre a footy fan thats put off by pubs in pre-game chaos, The Grey Smith offers a relaxed game day ritual you may not have thought of.
At first glance, The Grey Smith is unassuming. The interior design is simple, sleek and straightforward. And thats exactly how Ben wants your experience at The Grey Smith to be, trendy and uncomplicated. He looks around the East Melbourne caf thats quickly becoming a local favourite, leans in and grins as he says, I want people to be surprised.
126 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne 3002 |(03) 9939 3206
Open Mon – Fri 7am – 6pm | Sat 8am – 4pm | Sun CLOSED