“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best –” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
When we reported on some of the following new venues, their opening dates felt like an eternity away. But we’re days away from August, which means some of these places are just days away from opening. Others you’ll get to try in September. Some – well, you’re in for a longer wait. But we promise that will only make the first taste better.
Opening August 5
CHE stands for three things: chicken, helados, empanadas. That’s what you’ll find at Pastuso executive chef Alejandro Saravia’s new Brunswick Street diner. This is a charcoal chicken shop with Latin American mojo. Think chooks marinated for 48 hours in dark malt beer, spices and Peruvian chillies before a stint in a custom-made charcoal spit/smoker. Saravia will also make his own chicken salt by grinding dehydrated chicken skins into powder.
Who doesn’t love a supper club? The term itself is a winner. Supper. Club. Sounds. Sexy. It’s the idea of Martinis and leather couches – old-school charm and decadence that feels like it’s disappearing, or disappeared, or was part of an era that some of us missed completely. “Where can you go to get caviar and oysters past midnight?” is the question Joe Jones (Romeo Lane) and David Mackintosh (SPQR, Pei Modern) asked themselves before beginning plans for The Mayfair. It’s inspired by New York’s Stork Club – a bar and nightclub established in the last days of Prohibition, frequented by the likes of Grace Kelly, Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. It’ll slot into a space inside the Sofitel, formerly occupied by Mackintosh’s Pei Modern. We’ll be slotting into a bar seat near the grand piano, with a whisky in our hand.
A special charcoal oven is being installed at Annam, which is opening on Bourke Street in September. The machine will allow chef and co-owner Jerry Mai (of Pho Nom) to put to use the ember-driven research she’s undertaken over the past year. The restaurant is named after a region in Vietnam, and Mai says it will offer a broader experience of Vietnamese cuisine than Pho Nom, including the kinds of dishes she grew up with. The restaurant (jointly owned by Rani Doyle of the National Hotel in Richmond) will have an open bar and kitchen aimed at creating the kind of energy you’d find in an Asian street market. The fit-out is said to feature reclaimed materials, rustic exposed walls and neon signage.
In August last year Guy Grossi introduced the “pezzo” (pronounced “pet-zo”) to the menu at his Ombra Salumi Bar. They’re like gourmet pizza-pockets – buns made from 48-hour-fermented pizza dough are baked, halved and stuffed with everything from meatballs to baked eggplant. They proved so popular Grossi is opening a standalone restaurant, Pezzo, on Flinders Lane that will offer eight to 10 versions of its namesake, filled with everything from fried calamari to spit-roasted pork with sauerkraut.
Union House, Richmond
When the team behind Fitzroy pub Marquis of Lorne learned that Nicky Riemer and Adam Cash’s Union Dining in Richmond was closing, they reached out about the lease straight away. One owner, Steve Rowley, lives about 400 meters from the site on the corner of Swan and Brighton Streets, so he knows the area well. While there’s a bunch of lunch spots on Swan Street, the options for evening dining are less extensive. Union House will be casual but with a slightly more elevated food offering than at Marquis of Lorne. Alex Lake, who designed Tall Timber and consulted on Marquis, is doing the fit-out, which involves moving the bar and doing substantial work to the interior.
Takeaway Pizza, Preston
Takeaway Pizza, from the team behind Dexter, will be two venues in one: a local pizza spot, and a bar for late-night drinks and dancing on the weekends. The High Street bar, located inside an old embroidery warehouse, will serve American-style pizza and will be licensed until 1am on weekends. The pizzas will showcase Dexter’s meat expertise as well as its flair for invention and breaking tradition: experimenting with hot-smoking and cold-smoking flour, tomatoes and other veggies. Classic toppings will still be on offer, but with a slight twist.
Mt Erica Hotel, Prahran
If you live in the south-east, this is huge news. Most of us thought the Mt Erica Hotel was a goner when it closed last Christmas (surely headed for demolition, like so many of its friends). But it turns out the Victorian-era pub has partial heritage protection, and even better, it has new tenants. Will Benjamin, Matt Vero and Callan Hitchens – the Marquis of Lorne team – together with chef Sean Donovan of the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel have taken over. They’re doing a significant renovation to take the interior back to its original shell, as well as expanding the outdoor area. The brief for designer Wendy Bergman is to recapture the old Victorian 1950s and ’60s pub feel. The food offering will be Donovan’s domain. The former Botanical and Radii chef (and Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel owner) say the menu will feature “premium seafood, great steaks – sharply priced.”
Former Saint Crispin chef (and before that, executive chef of the Press Club) Joe Grbac is opening a two-storey, contemporary Australian restaurant on Queen Street in the CBD. Upstairs will be home to the more formal dining room (with both a la carte and degustation offerings), while downstairs will be more casual.
Left Field’s New Cafe, Elwood
Opening end of October
The team behind Carnegie cafe Left Field is moving to the beach, with a ground floor cafe at Elwood House, a new residential development a few minutes from the Elwood boardwalk. The as-yet unnamed cafe will seat roughly 120 people and will be open seven days. The food will be along the lines of the Left Field offering, with new additions and a few old favourites. Architect Fiona Drago will be responsible for the fit-out.
Dexter Meat, Liquor & Roof, CBD
Opening summer 2017/2018
Preston’s innovative barbeque spot Dexter is headed for the CBD, though the owners are yet to reveal the exact location. A huge three-storey venue will have a restaurant at ground level, a cocktail and snack bar on level two, and a rooftop with a view on level three.
Mr Pietro, Carlton
Renovations have been underway at 50 Grattan Street in Carlton for some time now. The spot is the latest venue from Pietro Barbagallo (I Carusi, I Carusi II and Kaprica). We’ve been told to expect much of the same pared-back rustic charm as Kaprica, and similar student-friendly prices. Barbagallo plans to stick to soulful Southern Italian flavours inspired by his Sicilian roots.
Longsong, David Moyle’s new bar and eatery above Longrain, is one of the most highly anticipated openings of the year. Moyle suggests there will be whole poultry and pungent oily fishes, condiments made in-house and lots of cooking on skewers. A Thai-style coal-fired grill will feature prominently. The focus on the bar side will be firmly on Australian brewers, distillers and winemakers, most of which will be served by the glass out of kegs or barrels. This was supposed to open in March. We’ll keep you posted on developments.
Scott Pickett unnamed restaurant, South Yarra
The chef-owner of ESP, Estelle and Saint Crispin has a 100-seat restaurant and bar in the works on the ground floor of a boutique hotel development in South Yarra, next door to the Botanical. With a focus on wood and meat, it will draw inspiration from Pickett’s time at The Point and restaurants such as Firedoor in Sydney and Singapore’s Burnt Ends. Projects of Imagination is doing the fit-out, on which Pickett is sparing no expense. It was supposed to open this year, but the date has been pushed.