It won't just be the leaves falling this autumn. Super Ling in Carlton announced today that it will close on May 1 after two-and-a-half years serving playful Chinese food in a casual diner setting. Owner Iain Ling is sure that his restaurant will be one of many to call time over the coming months.
April sees the end of JobKeeper, rent abatement and insolvency protections. Combine that with tricky market conditions and continuing trading restrictions and it's a perilous landscape for hospitality, particularly in and around the Melbourne CBD.
Ling was clinging on to see what happened when nearby universities returned to on-campus learning. "Normally this part of the city would be teeming but the people just aren't here," he says. "We hung onto hope but we know we can't wait for another year."
Ling also owns Hotel Lincoln, also on Queensberry Street. "We wonder if we're cannibalising our own business," he says. "Having two venues might be double-dipping into the same market."
Other factors include the struggle to find staff and the five-day lockdown over Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day. "We were fully booked and we lost a lot of revenue that we needed for this time," he says.
Ling says making the decision leaves him feeling sad but relieved, and he is ready to welcome guests for a final six weeks of trade.
What to eat? Super Ling go-to dishes include beef tartare with mi goreng noodle topping, the signature ma po tofu-filled jaffle and the Xinjiang-style spiced lamb flatbread (which was recently named as one of Good Food's 100 Good Things).