Photography: Juan Castro
We speak with owner ‘Cameron Northway’ and Head Chef ‘Elijah Holland’ from Melbourne’s best new hot spot LOTI.
Cameron Northway – Owner
How did your Journey into hospitality first start?
When I was 18 I suffered an injury that put my sporting dreams on hold. I then got a job in a bar and quickly fell in love with the world of hospitality, spending the next few years working in bars and restaurants in my hometown of Perth. At 24, I moved to London and landed a job at Sweet&Chilli UK, which was a career defining moment for me.
LOTI is Melbourne’s latest hot spot, how did the LOTI dream originate and what do you aim to achieve with LOTI?
The idea for the restaurant was inspired by my travels throughout the Mediterranean. I’ve
always respected Elijah Holland’s cooking, and came to him with the concept for LOTI. He then
developed the style of dishes and food, taking inspiration from nature and the coast.
The aim was to create an amazing restaurant and bar in the St Kilda neighborhood where it feels like an extension of people’s living room. We want our guests to feel like they can come in for a drink and snack, a meal with friends and family, any day and time of the week.
What is the story behind the name LOTI?
In a nod to the sentimentality of the past, LOTI’s name, ‘Lady of the Ice’ pays homage to the heritage and community of the Saint Moritz area, which used to be an ice skating rink.
The design and layout of LOTI is impeccably delicious, please tell us about the design concept and the thought process behind the beautiful restaurant/bar that you have created:
For this question I’ll pass to Samantha Eades, Creative Strategist & CEO, Mitchell & Eades, who we worked with on LOTI’s design.
Inspiration came from the curvaceous design of the St Moritz building which subtly referenced the historic St Moritz ice skating rink from the site’s past as well as a light fresh, sunset palette referencing the seaside location of St Kilda. We used the architectural form to inform the curvaceous bar and bar banquette feature, maximising seating space, while allowing patrons to soak up the sun in the prime window location.
The menu reflects seasonality and local produce, so we incorporated local products into the space to enhance this concept, including stools and chairs from Melbourne Based studio Grazia and Co, and Wall lights from Melbourne based lighting designer, Ross Gardam. The space reflects the seaside location with the textured paint finish to the walls, the fresh marble, the soft pinks and greens throughout and the organic crazy pave tile.
LOTI has a superb and diverse array of wines and cocktails, how did the wine list and cocktail range come to be?
For our cocktails we consulted with Matt Linklater (ex Black Pearl). Our Executive Chef Elijah Holland worked closely with Matt to create the cocktail menu as EJ wanted there to be a harmony between the drinks and food. Many of the aromats and botanicals used in the drinks are ones the team has foraged for and created in the kitchen such as candied saltbush and finger lime sorbet. EJ also dives for sea urchin that’s used in one of our martinis, and we make all the kombuchas in house, too.
Our wine menu has been expertly curated by our Restaurant Manager Dane, who’s chosen to showcase local and international drops and ones you won’t be able to find anywhere else. The wine menu will be ever evolving, and we want our guests to be excited about what they’re trying.
Please give us a sneak peak into what coming up for LOTI now that we are leading into Spring and the almighty Summer:
As the weather warms, we’re excited to activate our alfresco area and really see that space come to life. We want to give people the feeling of being on a European holiday, sitting out there drinking wine and sharing delicious food by the beach in St Kilda.
Elijah Holland – Head Chef
How did you first start cooking?
As a child, my family had a farm growing up, so there was always fresh milk, fruit and vegetables that my mum and grandma would use to make our meals from scratch. I loved food from a young age and was always in the kitchen with my mum cooking with her and learning from her.
I got a job in a bakery with my brother when I was 10 and did that for a few years. I then worked as a dishy at a local restaurant. I remember there was a Perevian chef who worked there who would teach me a few things including how to make ceviche. I loved food and did a good job on the dishes so asked my boss to give me a go at cooking. At around 13 they finally gave me a shot when another chef was sick (or they got sick of my begging and smashed it, and then started my chef’s apprenticeship at the same time.
What or who influences your style of cooking?
Nature how things are. I love to leave produce raw or in as natural form as they can be, while taking a fun and creative spin on it.
I get inspiration from René Redzepi, who’s a Danish chef and co-owner of the three-Michelin star restaurant Noma. He uses one or two ingredients and creates the most incredible dishes.
How did your journey with LOTI come about?
I’ve been living in Elwood and St Kilda for a while now and met Cameron through friends. Back
in December 2021 we started chatting and Cam filled me in on the project and what his
vision was. We got on really well, had a lot in common and shared similar values, and so I officially came on board in February this year.
What did you initially aim to achieve with your menu at LOTI and how has the menu developed since the recent opening?
We want people to have an incredible meal and experience at LOTI and come back time and time again. Our aim is for guests to leave feeling inspired and happy and to want to bring their friends and family back here.
Not only that, we want to create an environment for the whole team and staff, so they feel supported and continue to grow and love what we do.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Wild and untamed. I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing.
I like to do things that are unexpected and create memorable dishes that have a point of difference.
What inspires you when plating a dish?
All structures of the produce and how it came to be. When working with fish I like to think about its surroundings and pair with ingredients that may be found around it and from the same area such as types of seaweed and succulents. I’m also obsessed with salts, the team calls me a ‘salt nerd’, as I have all different salts for fish, vegetables and meats made with ingredients that are from the same area. There’s a harmony to the dish and it tastes great.
Please tell us about the flavours, textures and aromas that your menu at LOTI offers?
The menu is inspired by nature and the coast – the history of St Kilda, the oceans
and surrounding terrier, utilising local, wild, native and naturalised botanicals, paired with
beautiful produce from local farmers and suppliers from around Australia. There is an emphasis
on food cooked over fire, and I strive to make everything from scratch using ancient techniques
of fermentation, preserving, curing and serving food in the freshest and purest form.
Flavours, textures and aromas are so important, so I always make sure there are some kind of botanics in each dish to offer flavour, aroma and texture. Botanicals are plants, flowers, trees, herbs, shrubs, seaweeds, barks and wood, and all offer a dish something different and interesting. They also add seasoning, too. Our tuna cornetto is topped with three types of succulents that give it texture, salt, flavour and a floral aroma and provide an interesting mouthfeel.
How and where do you source the produce used within LOTI and why do you take this approach?
Everything we use is about trying to use products and ingredients that are
completely sustainable – and also seen through our foraging and collecting of local ingredients.
We collect our produce from different areas, to limit the impact on the environment. Even if
produce grows closer around St Kilda, Brighton and Elwood – we’ll go out along the coast and
spread out where we take it from, so it can continue to grow for years to come. We also try to
source from smaller farmers if possible, to lower our carbon footprint and environmental
What can a customer at LOTI expect, whether being a few drinks at the bar or a lunch or dinner within the restaurant?
To have an amazing experience, including the food to the drinks and how people put things together. They can also expect to find a passionate and dedicated team who love what they do.
At this point in time, which chefs on a global scale do you admire and why?
I get inspired from chefs all around the world, especially those who are living and working in remote communities and create beautiful dishes from what’s around them. I also get inspiration from those working with Indigenous ingredients. Here in Australia we have one of the highest diversity in food and plants in the world but much of it is untouched.
Rodolfo Guzman from Borago in Santiago, Virgilio Martínez who is the chef at Central in Lima and Alexandra Gauthier who has this incredible restaurant in France where he cooks food straight out of nature, all inspire me as they are doing innovative things with food but creating it in an approachable way.
What’s planned for the remainder of 2022 going into 2023?
We want to continue to build, explore, grow and get better at what we do and hone in on everything we are doing great to create the best possible experience for our guests and our team.
We also have a few fun new dishes in store – you’ll have to come in and check it out for yourself.