This month, road-trip to an ex-Brae chef’s idyllic 12-seat diner, visit a new wine bar doing bar snacks differently (and excellently), and spend an arvo exploring Melbourne’s mammoth, recently opened arts hub. There’s also a garlic-bread festival, a retro roller disco and an immersive 30-room theatre show in a converted brewery. Here’s what Broadsheet Melbourne editor Tomas Telegramma is checking out in Melbourne in April.
Thanks to that pesky “ring of steel”, 2020 was more or less devoid of destination dining for Melburnians. So, we’ve put together a list of 10 recent out-of-town openings you might have missed in the madness. Hit the road to an intimate 12-seat diner overlooking a billabong (by an ex-Brae chef); a show-stopping spot amid the Mornington Peninsula hinterland; or Ben Shewry’s soon-to-close pop-up – it’s like the best barbeque you’ve ever been to. There’s also a just-opened cellar door by a Cumulus Inc co-founder, and a brewery behind an 1850s art-deco cinema.
A mammoth school-turned-arts hub
After a colossal restoration – more than half a decade in the making – a 6500-square-metre former school has re-emerged as Collingwood Yards, Melbourne’s newest arts precinct and community hub. The site, between Johnston, Perry and Wellington streets, has one helluva history; over the past 140 years it’s been a courthouse, council chambers and design institute. But now more than 30 resident artists and organisations call it home. Set aside an afternoon to check out the record store, ceramics studio, design bookstore, contemporary art galleries, and The Social Studio’s new home. Plus, there’s a striking art-deco frontage, a courtyard full of leafy, longstanding trees, and an all-day diner and rooftop bar (with Colour nightclub DNA) are still to come.
Actually immersive experiences
“Immersive” experiences aren’t always all that immersive. But here are three you can actually feel a part of. See Malthouse Theatre as you’ve never seen it before at its latest show, Because the Night. A reimagination of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it takes place across 30 rooms at the theatre’s historical Southbank home (a converted 1892-built brewery). Shadow the characters while their stories unfold, or peel off from the pack to discover hidden rooms. Plus, celebrated artist Reko Rennie has colour-bombed an inner-city basketball court – at a soon-to-be-developed site – and you can book it for free. Shoot some hoops or just admire the sea of pink, green and blue from the bleachers. And you can get up close and personal with more than 50 prehistoric creatures (in Lego form) at this new Jurassic World exhibition by Lego master Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught. In the “baby” dinosaur enclosure is a life-size brachiosaurus weighing almost two tonnes.
Not your average wine bar
Ever had – or heard of – coulibiac? No? Neither. The flaky puff-pastry pie (with salmon, hard-boiled egg, tarragon and a mustardy sauce) is the star at Gray and Gray Bread and Wine, Northcote’s new wine bar from the owner of All Are Welcome, Boris Portnoy. (The pastry chef cut his teeth at The Restaurant at Meadowood, a three-Michelin-starred fine diner in the Napa Valley.) At his cosy new spot, it’s all about left-of-centre wines and Russian and Georgian dishes – think breads with “various fats”, beetroot-stained dill pickles and lofty 10-layer honey cake. Find it behind original gold-leaf signage and vertical blinds in a longstanding ex-lawyer’s office.
The festival circuit
This month, Melbourne Cocktail Festival is shaking up the city for a second year; get a sneak peek at a hotly anticipated new bar, dial up the tropical-ness at a fun attic party, or do a bar crawl of the city’s best cocktail spots. Meanwhile, Melbourne is once again the funniest city in the world (at least for three weeks) with the return of Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and queer arts festival Midsumma promises 17 fabulous days of drag, cabaret and comedy – and a retro roller disco. Plus, a new gig tour is taking over regional pubs, historical theatres and country clubhouses across Victoria; and a garlic-bread festival will bring garlic-bread burgs, garlic-bread cheesesteaks, garlic-bread fish’n’chips and more to Welcome to Thornbury. BYO mints.