Replying to an email recently, I automatically wrote “happy new year” before realising I should probably check the date. It was already late January – definitely past the reasonable window for an HNY salutation. 2019 is hurtling forward, and I can’t remember being this excited about a new year as I am this one. There are new ideas and currents swirling around, and new talents rising.

Our cover story is about a group of people that embodies all of that. When I had dinner with two of them earlier this year, I found their imagination and vision intoxicating. Worksmith began as a co-working space dedicated to people in food and drink, but its ambition has widened dramatically. The team is not only democratising the kind of wisdom and equipment usually reserved for the established or well-funded, its goal is to foster the kind of talent, and thus innovation, that will truly push Australian hospitality forward. This has implications not just for those working in the food and drink industries, but for those of us who love eating and drinking out.

Noted food writer Max Veenhuyzen, for example, who may have found the “blueprint for new-wave neighbourhood drinking and dining” in his latest A Closer Look, featuring Carlton Wine Room.

From the next guard to the old guard, the latest instalment of Staff Meal takes you behind the scenes and into the kitchen at south-side institution France-Soir, which seems to never change, and never should. Its brusque but charming waiters, sizzling hot French Fries and crisp white tablecloths are just some of the reasons Melburnians have been flocking to the narrow Toorak Road restaurant since 1986.

We also spent time in the CBD for this issue. We visited Lesa to find out how Dave Verheul’s ombre beetroot carpaccio – surely one of last year’s most photographed dishes – is made. And we stood in awe of Melbourne Town Hall’s three-storey high grand organ. It’s the largest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and we find out why it’s one of the finest instruments in the world.

Plus, we dropped into jeweller Cushla Whiting’s stunning new city showroom. It’s akin to an art gallery and is inspired by outer space. Whiting’s use of rare gemstones – such as grey spinel and Colombian Muzo emeralds – in unexpected cuts means her signature engagement rings are not just exquisite but truly original. (Just like Tasmania’s Wineglass Bay).

And if you’re not yet acquainted with our Very Serious Business columnist, Patrick Boyle, you should be. He’s another true original.

Happy February. Happy March.