What's snuck onto the scene since you've been gone? Add these new bars, restaurants and pop-ups to your January dance card.
Who: Owner Kate Peat of Oh Loretta and head chef David Green (ex-Lake House, Daylesford).
What: A seafood restaurant close enough to Port Melbourne beach you could almost throw your Portarlington mussel shells onto the sand. The views are watery, the menu is a refined take on fish from glazed Skipton eel to roasted clams and whole spit-roasted garfish.
Where: 67 Beach Street, Port Melbourne.
When: Lunch Fri, Sun; dinner Wed-Sat 6-9pm.
Ryo Domaya has opened a slick new izakaya in Balaclava. Photo: Eugene Hyland
Bounty of the Sun
Who: The first solo venture for chef Ryo Doyama, formerly of Armadale's Walk Don't Run.
What: A minimalist, polished space with food that still falls squarely within the izakaya drinking den remit. That looks like tofu steaks, shoyu ramen, kingfish tataki and a version of the American corn dog with spicy Japanese mustard.
Where: 28 Nelson Street, Balaclava.
When: Wed-Sun 5-10pm.
Dishes from Scott Pickett's new French bistro. Photo: Tania Bahr-Vollrath
Who: Chef-owner Scott Pickett has enlisted former Quay chef Rob Kabboord.
What: Pickett took over the Vue Group's seafood star Iki Jime last year and transformed it into a lavish French bistro with serious credentials. It's stuffed with chandeliers and velvet booths, and is all about its raw bar, good wine, caviar bumps and well-executed classics such as duck for two and a whole John Dory served tableside.
Where: 430 Little Collins Street, Melbourne.
When: Tue-Wed and Sat 6pm-late; Thu-Fri noon-late.
Sydney's Mex-inspired Mejico crosses the border. Photo: Arianna Leggiero
Who: Ian Hicks' Mex-inspired Sydney venue comes south of the border.
What: In the grassy area of Collins Quarter sits a two-level Mexican diner with a margarita lounge on the top floor and a sweeping menu of the usual suspects (tacos, grilled corn) plus brisket empanadas and guacamole you can customise tableside. You can get a Mexified eggs benedict for breakfast, too.
Where: 1 Pink Alley (accessed via Little Collins Street), Melbourne.
When: Mon-Wed 7.30am-11pm; Thu-Fri 7.30am-3am; Sat 11.30am-3am.
Bellboy pampers pooches. Photo: Nicholas Vitale
Who: Owner Emilio Rogliano (founder of Lux Foundry) and head chef Michael Martin (ex-Proud Mary and Oscar Cooper).
What: It's a full-service cafe with a major in bagels (pictured), stuffed with everything from cacio e pepe eggs to the multi-meat fixings of a muffuletta, but it will also win hearts and minds of locals for its kid-friendly options and a valet service for dogs, including a menu of Melbourne-made dog treats.
Where: 2/131 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East.
When: Mon-Fri 7am-3.30pm; Sat 7am-4pm; Sun 8am-4pm.
Who: Grant Smillie
What: Before Arbory Afloat there was Grant Smillie's grungy but edgy middle-of-the-Yarra bar. But after a decade and a lot more on-water competition it was time for a serious upgrade. Ponyfish Island relaunched in December with terrazzo tables, sun shades and proper facilities, finally allowing them to serve bao and dumplings to give you ballast while drinking on the water.
Where: Ponyfish Island, Pedestrian Bridge, Southbank.
When: Mon-Sat 11am-1am; Sun 11am-midnight.
Boutique bottle shop-bar Bijou. Photo: supplied
Who: Ben Luzz, co-owner of Gin Palace and Bar Ampere.
What: A bottle shop-bar hybrid named for the former Bijou Theatre. Bijou stocks small batch spirits and cocktails to buy or take away and serves Milk the Cow cheeses and charcuterie from Salt Kitchen. It's small, but Luzz has also swung an outdoor parklet.
Where: 194 Little Collins Street, Melbourne.
When: Mon-Thu noon-10pm; Fri-Sat noon-11pm.
Conna Mallett and Harrison Cox of Castlemaine's new brewery Love Shack Brewing. Photo: supplied
Love Shack Brewing Company
Who: Brewers Conna Mallett and Harrison Cox who met at Stomping Ground Brewery.
What: This new brewery out the back of Castlemaine's Theatre Royal launched on New Year's Eve. The 300-person courtyard bar is pouring its launch range of lager, pale ale and IPA as well as a couple of specials such as a passionfruit and pineapple sour.
Where: The rear of the Theatre Royal, 30 Hargraves Street, Castlemaine.
When: Fri-Sun noon-late over summer.
Chef Ben Shewry at his new venue, Attica Summer Camp in Seville Photo: Eddie Jim
Attica Summer Camp
Who: Ben Shewry, Kylie Staddon and team Attica take over Lillydale Winery.
What: Expect a casual, art-filled dining experience when Team Attica takes over Lillydale Winery in Seville over summer. A Shewry-style campfire cookout means whole flounder with roast tomatoes, rotisserie cauliflower, baked cheesecake and other family faves. There will also be a store stocking Attica's merchandise from pottery to Heesco tee shirts.
Where: 45 Davross Court, Seville.
When: Until the end of May 2021, bookings released online at 9am one month ahead.
Everleigh Cube dining experience. Pic: supplied.
Who: The Everleigh, IDES chef-owner Peter Gunn, and events company SSIXX
What: The mystery is all part of the event, but what is certain is that diners will enter a digitally-enhanced dining space and eat four courses by Gunn, matched to cocktails by the Everleigh while scents waft and images whirl around them.
Where: The venue "on Melbourne's coveted urban fringe" will be revealed to ticketed diners.
Details: Sessions $260-$365; ssixx.co
Frozen cocktails at Howler's Palm Springs-inspired summer pop-up. Photo: Tom Fraser
Who: Red Sparrow and Howler
What: The gigantic, greenery bedecked courtyard of Brunswick live music venue Howler has had a Palm Springs makeover for summer. On weekends the vegan pizza heroes from Red Sparrow are throwing discs.
Where: 8 Michael Street, Brunswick.
When: Wed-Fri 4pm-10pm; Sat, Sun 2pm-10pm over summer.