Society – Chris Lucas, Martin Benn and Vicki Wild’s 80 Collins behemoth – is perhaps Melbourne’s most hotly anticipated restaurant opening of 2021. Now slated for a midyear launch, it’ll be grand yet intimate, with a lavish Martini-perfect lounge bar; a breezy terrace for al fresco dining; and a 180-degree outlook over Collins and Exhibition streets.
But, while all eyes have been on Society, Lucas (of Chin Chin, Baby Pizza, Kong, Hawker Hall) and Benn (who, with Wild, ran Sydney’s internationally regarded Sepia) have been working on something equally as exciting. And the cat’s finally out of the bag.
Also in the 80 Collins precinct, the pair is opening an all-day, charcoal-fired Japanese diner called Yakimono (yaki means “grill” in Japanese) towards the end of 2021.
This particular Lucas-Benn collaboration is a result of their shared love for Japan (Lucas lived there for a time). And while the menu will pay homage to traditional cooking-over-charcoal methods, a healthy injection of Benn’s signature innovation is to be expected.
This isn’t the first time Benn will be cooking Japanese food, though. He spent 10 years as head chef at Sydney’s Tetsuya’s, where Wild ran front of house. They then went on to open Sepia, also in the Harbour city, where he displayed a particular mastery in Japanese-style cooking. He eventually introduced a full yakitori menu at the bar of the fine diner.
The fit-out of Yakimono will take hints from some of Lucas’s favourite spots in Japan, sprawling across two levels. An open-plan kitchen will be the centrepiece; bar seating will line its perimeter so diners can have a front-row seat to all the flame-grilling action.
Yakimono is slated to open at 80 Collins in late 2021.