THE IN-TRAY

Style and grooming advice for men from a dapper restaurateur

THE INGREDIENTS OF STELLAR STYLE FROM NIC COULTER, CO-OWNER OF SEVERAL BUZZY MELBOURNE EATERIES.

With his chandelier smile, affable manner and deep knowledge of food and wine, Nic Coulter is the ultimate host. The lanky restaurateur is a co-owner of the Commune Group, one of Melbourne’s most dynamic hospitality crews. Hanoi Hannah, Tokyo Tina and Neptune are among the group’s cluster of eateries, which have effectively kickstarted the evolution of Windsor from sleepy locale to buzzy hood. “You can eat very well in Melbourne, and not just at the top end but at cafes and casual diners too,” says Coulter, who can usually be found darting between his crowd-pleasing venues. We sought out the tastemaker at Neptune, a Mediterranean-themed wine bar, for his advice on style, grooming and eating out.

TM: How did the Commune group come together? You seem like a close-knit gang.
NC: “We all met working in the industry around 2008. We became friends and stayed in touch as we pursued other interests. Then, in 2012, we all got back together to open Hanoi Hannah. Along the way, we have expanded to six venues and attracted an amazing team of chefs, designers, partners and management staff. We are very close, we spend five or six days a week together in and out of the restaurants.”

What are the ingredients for a successful restaurant?
“It’s more than just the food. It’s about the customer experience. Sure, the food has to be excellent but so do the staff and inherently the service. Music, lighting, mood and ambience all come into play to create a space that makes people feel comfortable.”

Aside from your own venues, what are some of your all-time favourite restaurants?
“I’m a fan of Le Coucou in New York. There isn’t one aspect they haven’t nailed—the food, the staff, the interior design are all in tune to the point where you are so mesmerised you forget where you are. Closer to home, I think Saint Peter in Sydney is doing great things with their seafood-focused menu, and Il Bacaro in Melbourne is an institution and an old favourite.”

How would you describe your personal style? And what designers do you gravitate towards?
“Classic, comfortable and pretty minimal. I mostly wear some combination of black, white, navy and denim pieces. Brands like Bassike, Acne and A.P.C make up 90 percent of my wardrobe, and then I’ll lash out with some Alexander Wang sneakers or Shoto boots.”

Women often say they dress for other women. Who do men dress for?
“I’d say themselves and so they should. It’s about what makes you feel comfortable and confident. If you ‘dress to impress’ you’re probably going to make a wrong move. Better to stick to your own style.”

As someone in the public eye, how do you keep up appearances?
“For me, it’s all about balance and working smarter not harder. Prioritising your week between work, social and personal time is vital. Spend too much time in any one area and you’re going to come unstuck.”

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Which grooming products are in high-rotation for you right now?
Verso Day Cream is a lightweight moisturiser with retinol and sun protection. African Botanics Buchu Botanical Enzyme Polish is a scrub I use once or twice a week. And Goldfaden MD Bright Eyes is great stuff for the eye area.”

How has your look evolved over the years? Any grooming regrets?
“I’ve definitely started to embrace longer hair. My hair is naturally quite curly, and I used to crop it super-short for most of my early 20s. I find myself opting for the clean-shaven look a little more often these days.”

Which fragrances do you like and why?
“I tend to go for spicy woody scents, sandalwood and cedar. I find them fresher and less artificial smelling. They just smell more natural to me. Lately, I’ve tried Diptyque Tam Dao and Byredo Super Cedar.”

What do you do to keep in shape?
“I dedicate roughly two to three hours each week to exercise. It involves a couple of personal training sessions and two 5K runs. As long as you’re consistent with what you do, week to week, you don’t have to be at the gym every day. I recently got a Fitbit and aim for a minimum 12,000 steps a day. I eat vegetarian four to five days a week, as the thought of never having a steak again kills me.”

Your mum worked in the beauty industry. Did she pass on any great tips?
“Use SPF! And start looking after your skin early before it’s too late.”

How do you refresh after a late-night at one of your restaurants?
“Some nights, I’ll stick around and enjoy a drink with the staff, but generally I’ll head to another restaurant to have a bite to eat and wind down.”

Interview by George Epaminondas
Photography by Amorfo
August 2018

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