A Titan of Hong Kong’s

Culinary Scene Marks his Return to

Melbourne with Innovative “Ryne”

The renowned chef extraordinaire Donovan Cooke cemented his reputation in the Asian culinary firmament as Chef de Cuisine (Derby Restaurant & Bar) for the prestigious Hong Kong Jockey Club from 2004 onwards. Being embedded in the food-obsessed Hong Kong, brought about a mutual respect and empathy with Asia’s rich and powerful.

Flash forward to Melbourne in 2018, Donovan’s latest venture, Ryne in Fitzroy North brings all of that class, excitement and experience to a new generation of discerning diners.

For a new generation of Melbourne fine diners, it may surprise many that Donovan is the veritable “prodigal son” of restaurateurs. He first set foot in Melbourne in 1995 and opened his places such as est est est in South Melbourne that was quite literally the places to be for top-end, classical French cuisine. In more recent years, he opened The Atlantic Restaurant in 2011 at Crown, specialising in delivering the freshest and best local and sustainable seafood to 2,000+ guests every week.

Ryne is an Anglo-Saxon term which loosely translates into “constant motion in a forward direction”, and the dynamic nature of Donovan’s menu reflects an acute sensitivity towards the seasonality and accessibility to top Australian produce. His almost manic obsession for straight from the farm gate ingredients takes serious dining to a whole new level. Speaking fondly of his sojourn in Hong Kong, of whom is he regularly invited back like a well-loved professor, “I was in a unique position to order the best and finest produce from any part of the world at a moment’s notice to the food capital of Asia,” he reminiscences fondly.

Ryne is a collaboration with this long-time Asian friend and culinary comrade, Alex Law and the menu strikes out on a beautiful contemporary take on classical French cuisine.

Ryne is a “edge with elegance” 60-seater restaurant with a sensibly priced menu in exchange for world-class cuisine. With a menu that is constant evolving, at the time of writing this review, we took delight partaking in buttery-soft lamb shoulder, superb yet fiendishly tricky to perfect, smoked rainbow trout and the heavenly, Valrhona chocolate soufflé with the three “faces” of raspberry.

What diners will experience are scores of recipes which Donovan and his team have perfected over many years. Says Donovan, “we have regular diners of whom we offer something new, different or a variation of a common theme every time they come – this keeps the experience exciting and inspiring.”

Ryne caters for private functions and Melbourne’s smart social set have already set their eyes on the booking dinner parties and corporate outings in the purpose-built room that can seat up to 50 guests or do a cocktail for up to 150 guests.

I can hardly wait to return time and time to experience more of Donovan’s innovation and culinary magic.





203 – 205 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North 3068

03 9482 3002


About Donovan Cooke


“It’s a Long Way to the Top”


– Legendary song by Australian hard rock band AC/DC


  • Yorkshire-born Donovan Cooke began his kitchen life at the age of 15 at an industrial chemical company serving three shifts of 1,500 employees each. He started his career as an apprentice in the kitchen of London’s Savoy Hotel at the age of 18.


  • He worked with Michel Roux for more than three years at the Waterside Inn. He then joined legendary chef Marco Pierre White at Harvey’s, where, within a week, at the age of 23, he was made Head Chef.


  • In a desire to move closer to the roots of classical cuisine, Donovan moved to France to work in the Michelin three-star La Cote St. Jacques.


  • In 1995, Donovan moved to Melbourne, Australia. He opened his own establishments, including est est est, offering quality classical French cuisine in Melbourne.


  • Inspired by est est est, Donovan wrote a cookbook “Marriages” which won the award for a best-designed cookbook in the 1999 Versailles World Cook Book Fair. The restaurant itself earned three stars after six months of operation. It was ranked among the best Australian restaurants in 2002.


  • In 2002, Donovan opened the now legendary restaurant Ondine in Melbourne, which took several Best New Restaurant awards in the city’s culinary community within a year of its opening.


  • Donovan was named Chef of the Year by the Melbourne’s The Age Good Food Guide in 2003 and 2004.


  • Donovan was recognised as Honorary Commander of La Commanderie des Cordons Bleus de France for his outstanding culinary achievements in 2005.


  • In 2011, Donovan set up and successfully operated The Atlantic for Crown Melbourne before the Ryne opportunity came along.


Source: Hong Kong Jockey Club