Looking for fun? When current restrictions lift, there are a number of good reasons to head west.
Chef Howard Stamp and partner Dijana Necovski are due to open their first solo restaurant, Bar Thyme, at 227 Barkly Street, in Footscray's former House of Injera before the end of February.
A farm-raised Brit, Stamp grew up with an appreciation for well-tended produce. This appreciation was developed at Smiths of Smithfeld in the UK, where he learned how to source good meat and not mess with it more than necessary. Locally, he has worked for the MoVida group, Green Park Dining and was pivotal at the Lincoln Hotel.
All of the above will influence Bar Thyme, a 35-seat bistro (50 without restrictions) that name checks the natural wine and offal-loving Brawn in London among its influences.
Stamp's parents' vinyl collection and 1976 turntable is ready to roll, and producers will be key. The house cocktail (a sherry-thyme spritz) was designed by a friend. Wines will lean natural "for the same reasons we source organic produce – because we don't want chemicals in our food or drinks", says Stamp.
The menu will regularly change, but expect classic rillettes, large pieces of beef cooked rare, Basque-style, with a little olive oil and salt, and whole fish or lobster tails over the grill. There will be a regular hand-rolled pasta dish and vegetable staples, too.
Too small? Go big at Grazeland, a giant dining precinct at 20 Booker Street, Spotswood, that is due to open as a "permanent food festival" on March 19, a full year after it was scheduled.
The site will resemble popular food truck sites like Welcome to Thornbury, but vendors, including That's Amore Cannoleria, 48h pizza and Calcutta Club, will have custom-built stalls. Three bars, a stage for live music and space for retail vendors to set up at weekends will complete the action-packed picture.
Grazeland will operate weekends-only, and is just a hop from Scienceworks for families wanting to get a full day from their myki fare. grazeland.melbourne.
Want more west? In late March, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is hosting Westside Crawls, including a tour that takes in hot spots such as Zymurgy, the new craft beer barn with food by fine-dining chef Julian Hills of Navi, and Harley and Rose, the wine-oriented pizza haven from two former Cumulus chefs. melbournefoodandwine.com.au