Melbourne is eerily quiet today. Or my neighbourhood is, at least. I easily found a park out the front of my local supermarket – something unheard of at 2pm on a Saturday. The butcher shop was empty, and so was the fruit shop. Shoppers and staff alike seemed totally demoralised. Seventy-seven new cases of Covid seem to have sapped our collective spirit.

But as I drove home up a defeated, hollowed-out Lygon Street, I passed a beacon of positive energy: Old Palm Liquor. “What pandemic?” it seemed to say, with its cheerful red-and-white posters, boppy music and busy-looking staff. It was obviously impossible to tell, but I could have sworn the masked customers waiting out the front were smiling.

The wine bar and restaurant has taken the glass out of its front windows to run Fat Oester, a weekend-only, canteen-style pop-up passing out good vibes. (Its weeknight takeaway and delivery service, Bahama Gold, is still running as usual.) There are shucked-to-order Merimbula rock oysters with blood orange mignonette; crab rolls with cos and toum (Lebanese garlic sauce); and braised lamb rolls with cos, parmesan, anchovies and Caesar dressing.

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Last year the venue introduced one-litre flagons of natural tap wine to take home, which are astoundingly good value at $20 a pop. They’re still available (with tap beer and bottled wine), but at Fat Oester there are also three takeaway cocktails: Venetian spritz, Pina Colada and Tommy’s Margarita. All alcohol sold is strictly for home consumption only, in line with current restrictions.

Every restaurant is doing what they can to survive right now, and this kind of pop-up isn’t totally unique. But in the depths of lockdown 6.0, the little spark of optimism that Old Palm Liquor is fanning on Lygon Street feels extra good.

Fat Oester Fish Braai and Bar
133B Lygon Street, Brunswick East
(03) 9380 2132

Sat & Sun 12pm–until sold out

Update, 6.35pm, August 21: this article was updated to clarify that all alcohol being sold at Fat Oester is strictly for home consumption only, with rules being enforced by staff.