Until recently, us Melburnians spent significant chunks of our lives in our city’s world-renowned restaurants, bars and cafes. Drinking and dining out is part of our DNA.
But now, after government restrictions on non-essential services were brought in to curb the spread of coronavirus, we’re settling into a new reality – one where picking up or ordering in is the new dining out.
Some of the best venues in town, though, have adapted to the situation with creativity and innovation. Check out our regularly updated live list of all the delicious new initiatives here, or peruse this week’s top takeaway picks below, as selected by Broadsheet Melbourne editor Ellen Fraser.
Abla Amad is a culinary legend. Her Lebanese restaurant Abla’s opened in 1979, and today it’s still one of the city’s best-loved venues. In less trying times, you could head to the Carlton diner and see Amad, at 85 years old, overseeing the kitchen and chatting with customers in the dining room.
That’s tough to replicate at home, but her long-running menu of smoky baba ganoush; lemony hummus; filo pastry cigars filled with cheese and mint; bright fattoush salads; and that chicken and rice will be familiar.
New are Lebanese snack packs, which come filled with either falafel, pickles and tahini; lamb kibbe, labneh and salad; or chicken skewers with garlic sauce and potatoes.
After closing for a month, one of our fave Fitzroy eateries is back as a pick-up only provedore, wine shop and “paninoteca” (panini bar).
That means Napier’s cult anchovy toast now comes in sandwich form: Olasagasti anchovies sandwiched between Baker Bleu ciabatta with hard-boiled egg and a sauce made from blitzed parsley, coriander, capers and olive oil. Another panino is filled with with Salt Kitchen mortadella, That’s Amore scamorza and house-made zucchini pickle, and a vegetarian version involves brassicas, ricotta, and fennel and chilli oil.
You can buy jars of the pickles and preserves on their own, too, plus house-made muesli, and organic fruit and veg from local farmers – expect whatever they have an abundance of right now (today that means persimmons, and plenty of them).
Wines to-go lean natural and local, with a few euro-centric drops in the mix.
The team at this outlandish Thornbury ice-creamery are still serving funky-flavoured sorbets (think cherry-lemon; sour beer and sangria; and coconut, rhubarb and galangal) and envelope-pushing ice-creams (soy sauce is a signature). And there are still hot chips for dipping.
But from June 1, the team is adding ice-cream cakes to the mix. Each heart-shaped cake weighs in at more than a kilogram, and can be made vegan on request. The debut cake layers toasted-rice-and-coconut ice-cream with orange and mandarin, and comes decorated with slightly daggy Women’s Weekly-era chocolate-coconut frosting and a couple of cherries on top.
The cakes are normally $60, but for the first week of the launch they’ll be $20.
Jerry Mai’s Glen Waverly beer hall channels the street stalls of Vietnam, and its takeaway offering is no different.
Fried chicken ribs come sticky with fish-sauce caramel, and a whole Peking duck with pancakes serves four. You can build your own pho at home, too – there’s beef, chicken and a vegan version. All come with noodles, bean shoots, Thai basil, chillies and lemon, and you can add on eggs, tripe, brisket and more.
And it wouldn’t be Bia Hoi without plenty of Vietnamese beer, though a fruity, fizzy lychee cider and a handful of wines will satisfy the brew-averse.
This eatery dedicated entirely to Portuguese custard tarts was meant to open late last year, but after the slow arrival of an oven from Portugal and a few other delays – a certain virus included – it’s now on track for a June launch. Before then though, you can its order crunchy, gooey tarts for pick-up and delivery.
A baking window of just 10 seconds can make or break these tarts, which took three years to perfect and demand a delicate balance between the flaky pastry, soft (but not too soft) filling and burnished top.