July 22. That’s when Society, Melbourne’s most anticipated restaurant of the year, will finally open. It’s been more than four years since news first broke of leading Melbourne restaurateur Chris Lucas recruiting Martin Benn and Vicki Wild – the duo behind Sydney’s internationally regarded Sepia – for an ambitious new venue in Melbourne.
And it’s been two years since we learned the location for the project, at 80 Collins, a multimillion-dollar development of a heritage-listed CBD building (with a 180-degree view over Collins and Exhibition streets).
And it’s been well over six months since we were told Society’s name.
Safe to say, it’s been a long run-up. A lot’s happened – including successive lockdown delays and country-wide hospitality staff shortages. Society will also be opening in a CBD that’s very different to what it was a few years ago: currently bereft of international tourists and office workers. Details about Society are still scarce, even two weeks out from its opening.
But what we know about it so far suggests that it will have been well worth the four year wait.
The fit-out, by Melbourne design firm Russell & George, will be “a contemporary reimagining of mid-century”. Grand yet intimate, it promises a 180-degree outlook over Collins and Exhibition streets. There’ll be three distinct but seamlessly connected spaces: a lavish, Martini-perfect lounge bar; a breezy terrace for al fresco dining; and a main restaurant with lofty ceilings (as well as private dining areas).
Each space will have its own tailored, à la carte menu. “It’ll be avant-garde, but we’re not locking people in,” Benn told Broadsheet last year. “We don’t want to force people into a set menu. We’re not getting people in for a ‘journey’. You can come in and out. We want it to be useful.”
And despite Sepia spending time at number 84 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Society “won’t be a temple of gastronomy”, Benn told Broadsheet in 2019 when news of the venture first broke. “We want excitement, we want it to be buzzing.”