For the past decade it’s been Sydney hospitality professionals creeping across the border to investigate what was happening in Brisbane’s buzzy food scene, before perhaps deciding to put down roots. Now, after last winter’s interminable southern lockdown, it’s Melbourne’s turn, with this city’s kitchens and restaurant floors slowly starting to populate with Victorians.

In a lot of cases, it’s the quality of the talent that sticks out. Perhaps the most notable recent import is Alex Kim, who late last year unveiled his new omakase ("chef's choice") Korean and Japanese restaurant, Butterfly, in Woolloongabba, after originally intending to open in Melbourne.

Now comes Arte Assavakavinvong, former head chef at the Melbourne instalment of Longrain, arguably one of Australia’s most influential restaurants. Curiously, it’s not the Valley or CBD or James Street where Assavakavinvong will be cooking, but Bulimba. In early May, Venzin Group will open Melrose, a brand new 110-seat restaurant and bar at the river end of Oxford Street. Melrose will sit upstairs from Darvella, the slick Swiss-accented bakery the group opened in January.

That a chef such as Assavakavinvong is about to be unleashed upon Bulimba not only reflects the unexpected purple patch Brisbane dining finds itself in right now, but also the ambition of Venzin Group, which is best known for its enormously popular Pawpaw cafe and suburban Mons Thai restaurant. Melrose will be a step up, inspired by co-owners Giorgina Venzin and Chris Hollingsworth’s travels through Bali and Thailand’s Koh Samui, and those islands’ lavish beach clubs.

“The feeling we want is like Ku De Ta in Bali — a high-end beach club,” Venzin says. “It’s that laid-back, sophisticated, beachy vibe. Obviously, we’re not on the beach, but we’re trying to create that atmosphere.

“People on this side of town tend to travel to Teneriffe or Howard Smith Wharves. Something like the Wharves — we want to bring that to Bulimba so people don’t have to travel if they don’t want to.”

Murarrie’s Tonic Projects is helping to give the restaurant a coastal themed fit-out, replete with dark timber, terracotta tiles and a spiffy retractable roof.

“As the afternoons cool down, we’ll wind back the roof for happy hour drinks,” Venzin says. “It will just be those elements that make you feel like you’re somewhere else.”

Still, Assavakavinvong and his food will be the real stars of the show. For Venzin Group, it will be a slight shift to the south-east from the Thai of Mons Thai and Balmoral’s Pawpaw Asian Kitchen, bringing together flavours of Thailand, Bali and mainland Indonesia. There will be rendang curries and larbs and crispy pork belly, but an early draft menu also has Assavakavinvong using traditional clay charcoal burners to grill turmeric-spiced spatchcock and trout served in banana leaf. Elsewhere, there will be a selection of Indonesian skewers (beef, sticky pork or okra), stir-fried soft-shell crab and a Malaysian style chicken curry.

“Arte had this vision which just really aligned with what we were hoping for from a chef,” Venzin says. “If you know Asian food, you’re going to read ingredients that you recognise, but maybe not know the exact dish. It will be enough for you to say, ‘Oh, what is that? I want to try that’.”

For drinks, there will be a tight 60-bottle wine list and a mix of craft and imported beers. But also expect easy-drinking spritzes and tropical cocktails crammed full of shaved ice.”

“It's just those little things that channel your holidays again,” Venzin says. “The whole idea of this venue, particularly right now when people can’t travel, is to transport them somewhere else.”

Melrose will open on Oxford Street in early May.