Is this bad news with a silver lining, or good news with a barb? You decide, but restaurateur David Mackintosh shuttered his French-ish supper club, the Mayfair over the Christmas break and in its place has installed the second coming of chef Matt Wilkinson's much-missed Brunswick East cafe, Pope Joan.
Summer drinks led to Mackintosh offering Wilkinson the space and the Brit chef has quickly pulled together a soft launch menu, with the full pop-up beginning on February 4 after a quick makeover.
Until January 21, Wilkinson is serving a tight breakfast and sandwich menu from 7am-3pm, including eggs with hummus and kraut and grilled sardines with tomatoes on toast, chased by the Pope's signature Reuben packing an inch of Warialda beef pastrami, and new winners like a classic salad roll (including beets) to which you can add a thick wad of mortadella, and should.
From next week, a longer menu will run through until 7pm, so you can do pensioner hour dinner of smoked olive dirty martinis with hangar steaks, a piece of fish with caper butter of a plate of bread, pickles and anchovies.
The redesign will be light, pulling the Pope's crockery out of storage, adding tiles to the bar and putting a garden in the Sofitel forecourt. Should the pop-up (running until Easter) prove successful it might extend beyond.
Mayfair business partner Joe Jones has left the operation to refocus on his bar, Romeo Lane.
Pope Joan, Collins Place, 45 Collins Street, Melbourne. Daily 7am-3pm until Jan 21, then 7am-7pm daily until Easter.