While glued to our couches, we’ve had plenty of time to daydream about life after lockdown. And just how we want to bid farewell to it – hopefully for good this time.
What is the one place you can’t wait to go once this is all over?
It’s a question we asked 16 big Melbourne names, from Lord Mayor Sally Capp to celebrated street artist Rone, and chef and restaurateur Andrew McConnell (whose restaurants, unsurprisingly, feature heavily in this story). And Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s creative director, Pat Nourse, who submitted a beautifully brief-breaching, unspaced list of 20-odd restaurants, which almost sent our website into a spin – he loves Melbourne.
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Find their place(s) of choice below.
Andrew McConnell, chef and restaurateur behind Trader House restaurants (including Cutler & Co, Supernormal, Marion and more)
I have been dining at Flower Drum for as long as I can remember. Anthony and Jason Lui run such a well-oiled machine, with the best service and Chinese food in Melbourne. I love a long lunch celebration in their classic dining room.
Sally Capp, Lord Mayor of Melbourne
It’s almost impossible to name just one thing I can’t wait to do when restrictions ease, as I am desperate to return to all of my favourite haunts around Melbourne. I was, however, overjoyed to learn that one of our most legendary rooftop bars, Madame Brussels on Bourke Street, will reopen with new owners. It’s one of my favourite spots in the entire city for its view and iconic decor. This also proves Melbourne’s ability to regenerate and pirouette through the toughest of times. Bring on the pink champagne.
Mimi Elashiry, social media star and model
Although this place is wonderful to take a date or go with a group, it’s the place I visit most often by myself. Napier Quarter is close to my heart not only because the food and service are beyond beautiful, but because I’ve spent many evenings there, alone, by the window, reading, journaling or working from my phone, pondering life, ordering a seasonal special or plate du jour and a glass of vino. In my little corner nook by the window, I sit for hours. Looking up at the trees overhanging Napier Street, watching them change from flowers to autumn leaves. Bare twigs to vibrant green.
Nazeem Hussain, comedian
Live comedy shows in the city at Basement Comedy and Comedy Republic. I can’t wait to do comedy not via a laptop screen. Also, Lankan Tucker. I’ve been craving good Sri Lankan food, and these guys do it realllll good.
Zara McDonald, co-creator of Shameless Media and the Shameless podcast
Well, I simply can’t go past the local pub, can I? The Mount Erica is undoubtedly the best pub in Melbourne, and was the first restaurant I rushed to book. I’ve spent the last few months dreaming of sitting in their beer garden with a glass of pinot and big ol’ schnitzel. And if I’m allowed a second, quick notable mention: Tipo 00. Surely there’s no better Italian in Melbourne.
Michelle Andrews, co-creator of Shameless Media and the Shameless podcast
Ooooooh, I’d have to say Cumulus Inc on Flinders Lane. Zara is my brains trust when it comes to finding great new restaurants and ever since she instructed me to eat at Cumulus, I’ve wanted to kiss her feet (okay, not quite feet, maybe her knees, or something). The slow-roast lamb shoulder has a place in my heart and I can’t wait to take my sister Claire there as a post-pregnancy treat (including a stop at Trinket Bar for a cocktail).
Pat Nourse, creative director of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival
Just one? Easy.
If I could also list the places I want to try, rather than places I want to go back to, I might also say AuterraBarMerendaDom’sMassiLaCantinaLeneSocietySpensley’sSuperchidoTedesca
Melissa Leong, Masterchef judge and food writer
While I have now fully embraced becoming a Melburnian for better and worse these past years, I was born in Sydney and really miss the beach. To that end, what I am most excited about is getting in the car with a fully loaded picnic situation, and driving somewhere beautiful on the Great Ocean Road, or around the Mornington Peninsula, for a snack, a swim and some sunshine.
Ghita Loebenstein, head of cinemas at Acmi
It’s impossible to choose just one, so my shortlist is all my “old” favourites: a fancy drink and something delicious from my go-to Marion or McConnell’s newbie Gimlet; a sit-down coffee at my friend’s Cibi, who’ve kept me caffeinated through lockdowns one to six; a real-life class at Gertrude Street Yoga; a drive and a swim at Seaford Beach when it warms up; a gig somewhere small and sweaty (but socially distanced); and of course, a movie at Acmi cinemas the minute we reopen.
Ben Shewry, chef and owner of Attica
Last year, I was bragging and joking with my mate [rapper] Adam Briggs that we have the best this and the best that here in Melbourne. And that when he moved back from Sydney I would take him on a tour of some of my favourite spots to eat, like Kalimera Souvlaki Art in Oakleigh, Straits Cafe in Wantirna South and Che Desserts in Springvale. Adam moved back nine months ago, and we haven’t had the opportunity to hit these wonderful places due to the lockdowns – so I’m really looking forward to doing them all in one day with him soon!
Banoffee aka Martha Brown, musician
I’m so excited to go see a show. To be annoyed by how many people are pushing in front of each other. I’m even excited by the social anxiety! I can’t wait to be hiding in a toilet cubicle on Instagram because I’m overwhelmed. It’ll mean real life. Real life of consuming art to create art. Of feeling FOMO if you choose not to leave the house. The reality of life is that there are choices. I can’t wait to have more choices and, in turn, be able to make work that’s inspired by them
Matt Bax, artist and owner of Bar Americano and Grau Projekt gallery
Di Stasio Citta. I can satisfy everything I've missed out on in the last months/years with just one booking. It ticks all my boxes: great food, drinks, art and, most important, conversation.
Kate Reid, founder and co-owner of Lune and Moon
There’s one place in particular I am just jonesing for a good night out at. It’s my south-side secret (not so secret after this). Gauge Bistro in Ormond was first introduced to me by one of my best friends from my aerospace engineering days. It’s been our regular catch-up spot for nearly two years now. The food is classic bistro style; the menu inspiration skips around Western Europe. The wine list is exceptionally considered – if Zeth actually lets you pick what you’re drinking. (Last time I dined in – which was August 5, the night we went into lockdown six – when I requested a Negroni, Zeth told me I would drink what I was given!) While the food and wine are fabulous, I really go there for the service. Zeth is next level. OMG I can’t wait – I’m booked in for Friday night! Watch out south side …
Eddie Perfect, writer, performer and Tony Award-nominated composer
I’m desperately wanting to hug my Mum and Dad in regional Victoria. I should point out that my parents live in regional Victoria. I don’t have some weird geographical hug fetish where I force my parents to travel to regional Victoria for hugs. And theatre. I’d like to see theatre. Any theatre. I miss Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, live comedy, live music, musical theatre. Melbourne is a cultural city – it won’t feel like its old self to me until live performance is back in our lives.
Jung Eun Chae, chef and owner of Chae
Chef Tobin Kent offers a unique dining experience, largely fuelled by produce he grows himself on his two-hectare property. I admire his passion for regional dining, meticulous attention to detail and his unwavering drive to deliver the highlight-quality dining experience. I, myself, am passionate about running a restaurant that highlights the beauty of nature. Once the Covid restrictions ease, I would love an opportunity to dine at his scenic restaurant, Moonah, and share our common enthusiasm.
Rone aka Tyrone Wright, artist
I’m really looking forward to seeing my family in Geelong. But what I’m truly looking forward to is just doing a road trip with no real destinations in mind. Just driving for the adventure. So many amazing small towns all over Victoria.