They've had the keys since December and the paint's been dry for months but Anna Quayle and Jim Gridas haven't been able to give Yarraville's Bar Romanee the opening they dreamed of.
Instead, they're getting to know their customers at the front door as they hand over finish-at-home three-course dinner boxes on Saturday afternoons. Strong word of mouth means they're selling out each week.
"Opening my own restaurant is all I've ever wanted," says Quayle, who worked under legendary French chef Pierre Koffmann at The Berkeley in London and was Fitzroy Town Hall's head chef for more than three years.
Takeaways were never part of the plan. But with rent to pay and lockdown dragging on, they've had to make it work.
Quayle plans a new themed menu each week. Last week's $60-a-head "simply classics" menu, for example, featured beetroot-cured ocean trout, an individual beef Wellington (or beetroot carpaccio and celeriac Wellington for vegetarians), and lemon tart made with homegrown fruit gifted by her new customers. It's pick-up only, with orders placed by emailing email@example.com.
As soon as the Victorian government gives the go-ahead to dine in, Quayle will start plating up modern Australian dishes built on classical French foundations, with a focus on whole fish, big cuts of meat and skilful saucing. And definitely no takeaways.
The Euro-leaning wine list is the work of co-owner Gridas, who also owns Barkley Johnson bar and deli further along Anderson Street.
The partners had planned to seat 60, with 10 at the green Italian marble bar, but are expecting a COVID-restricted 20 inside, with the possibility of a few more outdoors.
25 Anderson Street, Yarraville, 03 9687 8451, barromanee.com