Higher Ground

Flying High

Words by Olivia Finlayson
Pictures by Guy Lavoipierre

The undisputed kings and queens of Melbourne’s hospitality scene, Nathan Toleman, Ben Clark, Sam Slattery and Diamond Rozakeas – along with Nate Wilkins and Kim Sheridan for this venture – unveiled Higher Ground in mid-2016, a suave and handsome sibling to widely adored The Kettle Black and Top Paddock.

With its ambitious design and early morning into late evening hours, the striking space dances somewhere between go-to brunch spot, refined restaurant, boutique hotel and first-class lounge – a refreshing offering in a saturated scene.

In collaboration with Melbourne-based architectural firm DesignOffice, Toleman crafted a fit-out that consumes three levels and climbs to 15 metres. Exposed brick, subtle gleams of gold, bursts of leafy greenery, black leather, light timber and olive-green lounges make for a spectacular, beautifully balanced space. So much so that Eat Drink Design Awards fastened first place for Best Café Design 2016 to Higher Ground’s elegant lapel.


As Head Chef, Wilkins offers a menu that complements the city’s shift towards hatted-restaurant worthy breakfasts. A flavourful heap of minced lamb with fried eggs, pickled rhubarb and smoked yogurt mightn’t scream ‘morning feed’ to many, but rewards those who take a leap. The sweet inclined will likely settle on the ricotta hotcake (a star of Top Paddock’s menu, undoubtedly replicated here for its made-for-Insta presentation: a plump and golden cushion dressed with a garden of fruit and flowers, a smattering of crunchy seeds and a fat dollop of cream).

Once full and sufficiently caffeinated – with the group’s own Square One coffee, served from the mammoth ground-floor coffee counter – retire to level three, where low-slung lounges, coffee tables, cushy armchairs and bench desks for the laptoppers invite diners to linger for as long as they please. The area’s own coffee kiosk caters to second-wind coffee and pastry hankerings.

Words by Olivia Finlayson
Pictures by Guy Lavoipierre

Higher Ground
650 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
T. 03 8899 6219

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