Picture arthouse screenings armed with Maker and Monger cheese boxes, wines curated by Philip Rich and snacks and dinner either side by storied chef Karen Martini. That's the kind of hero Melbourne's sluggish CBD needs right now, and it launches in Federation Square on February 11.
Hero is a major project for Martini and business partner Michael Gebran. The venue is multi-faceted, servicing the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), which has had a $40 million facelift.
Despite a trying year for construction and staffing, Martini is optimistic. "I hope this is something that makes people excited to come out in the city again."
The draws are many. Fastidious designer Chris Connell (Marameo, Il Bacaro) has designed the space, which sits at the top left-hand corner of Federation Square and has seating for 90 outside,140 inside, or 500 standing when functions resume.
A kiosk will sell bottles from an international wine list curated by Philip Rich (Prince Wine Store, Kisume), and cheese boxes by Maker and Monger's Anthony Femia to make future screenings top shelf.
The restaurant will initially serve grab-and-go breakfasts such as white chia pudding, three-cheese toasties and Portuguese custard tarts, but once service settles they'll add mezze plates of avocado, dukkah soft eggs, cucumber, feta, sauerkraut and pita.
An all-day menu will run from 11.30am until late daily, providing travellers, movie-goers and business lunchers with a reliable haunt at any time, says Martini .
The menu has flex accordingly. On the bill are snacks such as charcuterie, gildas and a Greek bagel with tarama, substantial sandwiches including a meatball sub and crumbed fish sandwich with gribiche, and serious seasonal salads, including potato salad, caprese, and rice with wakame cucumber and roasted cauliflower. Pastas and large-format meats bring it home.
Riding shotgun in the kitchen is executive chef Diego Rosales (former head chef of Sydney's Centennial Homestead) and the legendary Philippa Sibley.
After a nine-month delay, "everyone is extremely motivated", says Martini.
Hero will open daily from 8am-late from February 11 at ACMI, Federation Square, heroacmi.com.au.