11 Oct Nick Coulter: The Duke Of Windsor.
Nick Coulter, part owner of Hanoi Hannah, Tokyo Tina and Saigon Sally, and part responsible for Windsor’s claim to having the best food in Melbourne, is our host for Windsor’s Hood Food Guide, and a quality one at that.
Coulter is a long standing Windsor local, a veteran who’s fought through the neighbourhood’s grittier times to its current state. Love Melbourne food? Feel his venues do the best food in Windsor? Find out how he started and how he’s going now.
It’s not hard to catch a glimpse of Nick Coulter out and about in Windsor. He’s a longtime local who loves his home so much, he didn’t want to have to leave it even for work. He could probably regale you with stories of what his side of Chapel Street was like a few years ago, back when it got down and dirty. Windsor still has that bit of grungy charm, but now because of go-getters like Nick, the hood is steadily climbing to the top of the Melbourne restaurant and nightlife world. There seems to be a never ending scene of bars, quality cheap eats, late night options and authentic multicultural cuisines, and Coulter’s got three of them in his pocket.
Coulter is a co-owner of Hanoi Hannah, Saigon Sally and Tokyo Tina. They are definitely among the best dining options in Windsor, and Nick’s proud of that. When he wasn’t exploring his own palate at some of his favourite Windsor joints (which you can check out by watching Hood Food Guide, episode 1) or just kicking about, drinking cheap beers while playing barefoot bowls at the local club, he was busting his backside to make these restaurants successful. One might go as far as to say that they are more than successful restaurants, but perfect representatives of the vibe of his hood; individual and accessible with music-driven culture and flamboyant cocktails, all three spots are exactly what a Windsor local wants out of a place. And obviously, Coulter would know.
A charismatic dude with adventurous taste buds who loves to laugh, it’s no surprise this Southside guy made his way to hospitality. He dipped his feet into the scene in 2006 as a bussie at bar/nightclub The Saint Hotel, but working the floor seemed more his style, taking the plunge into the restaurant world a few years later with Sarti. As if you could keep that boyish charm and good looks away from guests. Then his mates from The Saint, Simon and Paulie, approached him to open a place of their own in 2012.
“I was studying nutrition and natural medicine and fell into the hospo lifestyle,” said Coulter. “The best food, great drinks and partying. If you don’t get in and out in a certain amount of years, it sucks you in, and I clearly stayed in.”
The gang decided to bring some proper Vietnamese food to their side of the Yarra so neither they nor any other southsider would have to hike up to Richmond’s Victoria Street for the best pho or rice paper rolls. Hanoi Hannah, Coulter’s “first baby and first venture into the hospitality world as an owner,” dishes it out on High Street off of Chapel. The name was inspired by a Vietnamese broadcaster during the Vietnam War who was famous for her English language anti-war propaganda on Radio Hanoi. The US troops nicknamed her… “Hanoi Hannah”.
As her tagline suggests, she offers “Sex, drugs and rice paper rolls.” Ok, maybe just the rice paper rolls, but, hey, it’s still in Windsor if anyone wanted to go for the first two. But the food was the most important, and Coulter wanted to make sure that it was not only a good feed, but also an affordable one. The most you’ll spend on a plate is $13. Hannah’s a pretty cheap date, unless you start to trying to get her drunk. And why wouldn’t you, when she’s pouring the IndoChina Margarita, and the hip hop works as well with the pho as the Sriracha does.
Now, Coulter is also co-owner of Saigon Sally, and most recently, Tokyo Tina. Saigon Sally opened due to the success of Hanoi Hannah, and it is a slightly more refined, classier version of its trendy Asian sister. They offer small, medium and large plates, which is perfect for the average Melbourne foodie who wants a bite of everything. Shared plates are in season at the moment, especially when you put Ban Xeo (Vietnamese DIY tacos), Wagyu Tartare and Crayfish Curry on them. Wash it all down with the Cu Chi Den, a smoked black tea infused Glenmorangie cocktail that’s mixed with more whiskey, some high class vermouth, Dom Benedictine and bitters.
Tokyo Tina was inspired by a recent trip Coulter made to Japan. The food and decor aren’t Japanese to a tee, although the facade does sort of look like it was ripped from a Tokyo alley. The place is Japanese-inspired, combining bits of popular culture like anime and Nintendo characters along the way with tasty creations by chef Adrian Li. The food is adventurous and filled with the best Japanese and Asian-fusion flavours. Customers go nuts for the Pork Gyoza, the DIY Bao and the big bowls of ramen. And that’s all Coulter wants, for his customers to enjoy themselves.
Catch Coulter waltzing from venue to venue, be it his own or some of his faves, like Journeyman or Colonel Tan’s. You’ll notice he’ll stop along the way to chat with other residents or restaurant/shop owners whom he calls friends. It’s inevitable when you’ve worked your backside off to make the Windsor end of Chapel Street the biggest turnaround street in Melbourne. He’s an owner-operator, and most of the Windsor spots can relate and find in Coulter a neighbourhood camaraderie.
“Windsor always used to be the shitty end, but now it’s up and coming with some of the best food Melbourne’s seen. It’s the restaurant hub of Chapel Street, and I’m very happy to be a part of that.”
Words by Rebecca Bellan.