Beachside dining really can go either way — you might end up with something good, or you might end up with a place where the only thing worth serving up is the view. Captain Baxter, located in St. Kilda, a beachside community just a stone's throw from Melbourne's city center, luckily, hails from the former camp and not the latter.
Located in the site of the former St. Kilda Sea Baths, Captain Baxter is literally a step up from its rowdy (but fun) neighbor on the ground floor, Republica, which hosts volleyball games open to the public Tuesdays through Thursdays during the summer and has raucous after-parties. Think sun, skin, and sweat. In contrast, Captain Baxter has a sophisticated yet still welcoming feel; think South Beach minus the attitude. This is a place where you can feel just as comfortable walking in dressed up for a night on the town as you can with just a pair of shorts, a polo, and a pair of thongs (Australian for flip-flops). This is a place to sip a few cocktails, brush elbows with some locals and tourists alike, and share some tapas-style new Australian fare. And the view, overlooking the beach of course, is to die for — at its best at high noon or at sunset, depending on your preferences.
Notable items on the menu include the Roast Quail with Salted Ricotta, Grapes, and Candied Walnut (AUD 19/$19.76), seasoned and cooked to perfection; Grilled Octopus with Potato, Paprika, and Green Olive (AUD 18/$18.72), a well-executed classic combination of flavors; and Seared Scallops with Cucumber, Lime, and Prawn Floss, which gives the whole dish a burst of concentrated shrimp flavor (AUD 18/$18.72). Portion sizes are geared toward sharing; the menu follows a small plate/large plate format, and groups will want to order accordingly. Figure on about four to six small plates and about three to five large plates for a group of six.
Captain Baxter is not without its flaws, however. The noise level can be a bit much at times, making it difficult to hear diners sitting across the table. For the same reason, ordering is also a challenge. Service could be a bit quicker, although dinner is packed on weekends. So, it's not a date place, perhaps. Still, if you're around with a group of friends from out of town at St. Kilda's and you're looking to impress, Captain Baxter should make the list.
Closest tram stop is Alfred Square/The Esplanade (3a, 16, 96).