Ever wondered how restaurants get their names? Tenpin, the fun, modern south-east Asian kitchen opened by business partners Lyndal Barnes, Nick Savage, Matt Thurley and chef Ashley Richey in the dilapidated two-storey shell that was once home to R Bar in Port Melbourne was named after a giant bowling pin from the long defunct Mentone Bowls that Barnes found in a collectibles store on the Mornington Peninsula. I don’t usually link bowling with beachside dining, but hey – why not.
The partners are making their mark on Port Melbourne; first rejuvenating the London and finding success with Middle Eastern fare at Mr Lawrence and now with Tenpin Kitchen. When the decrepit site of the old R Bar that Richey would pass on his way to work became available, the team saw an opportunity to bring life back to the once vibrant beachside location and play to Richey’s other strength: South East Asian – his CV includes stints at both Mecca Bah and Chin Chin.
From golden mustard velvet banquettes to the large marble communal table, the interior is inviting and chic. Designed by Barnes, the warm upmarket ambiance of the polished pale timber and an exposed industrial-style roof matches the welcome of the staff and service that strikes the right balance between friendly and professional. They are happy to guide you with menu choices and quantities but without over loading you with advice or food.
On the menu you’ll find honest, punchy southeast Asian flavours that strike all the right notes. There’s no set course structure and the dishes made for sharing come out as they’re ready. This suits the relaxed vibe and gives you a chance to try a bit of everything, well maybe not quite everything. We tried the Port Arlington mussels wok fried with chilli jam and basil and loved them. I need to eat more mussels like these. Next up a fiery duck larb served with chilli, mint, lime, roast rice, cucumber and lettuce. This dish is not for the faint of heart or mild of spice but it delivered the balance that you need in southeast Asian cuisine and got our tastebuds really going. The Tenpin version of Beef Rendang with toasted coconut, wombok and carrot pickles was as tender as it was aromatic.
The wine list leans toward natural small-parcel wines sourced both internationally and locally. However it was the Asian beach-inspired cocktails that we loved. There was appeal in all of them but we couldn’t go past the Hidden Mule. According to the Tenpin team, “This mule is found in the tall lemongrass infused vodka, amongst a hint of Spanish vanilla liqueur. Add a splash of citrus, some fresh ginger, an artisanal ginger beer and you have a perfect summer day.”
It wasn’t quite the perfect summer day when we tried it, but the perfection was found in its match to the flavour heroes of spicy, salty, sweet and sour in the menu.
Head upstairs for a drink whilst you watch the sunset or settle in to a banquette to try the fare.
You’ll find Tenpin Kitchen at