Is hospitality doomed? Not at all if the number of new restaurants, cafes and pubs opening after lockdown is anything to go by. And it seems Melbourne is just getting started.
Some projects were put on the backburner during the pandemic, while others have risen from its ashes.
From lush outdoor settings beside Albert Park Lake to Peruvian food overlooking an infinity pool, November is shaping up as the most exciting month in food we've had this year.
Beggs & Acon
The Mr Miyagi crew opened Beggs & Acon in early October, offering eggs and bacon in a roll, wrap, empanada with hollandaise dipping sauce or on a Bistro Morgan doughnut. Make it a combo with a hashbrown and Niccolo coffee, or swap bacon for mushrooms.
Eggs are free-rangers from Burd and the bread is from the local Baker's Delight, because after trying all the artisan options, it was "the best soft white bun by far", says co-founder Kristian Klein.
Mostly takeaway with seats outside, there are plans to turn it into a cafe when restrictions lift. For now it's open Wednesday to Sunday, 8am to 1pm or until sold out.
24 Chatham Street, Prahran, beggsacon.com.au
The Bridge Hotel
Established in 1923, The Bridge Hotel in Werribee has just reopened after a major refurb, under the management of The MoL Pub Group (Marquis of Lorne, Union House and Mount Erica Hotel).
Chef Jack Swain has put together a menu that suits everyone, whether you start with French onion dip and move onto a chicken schnitty with white cabbage and apple slaw, or prefer a dozen oysters followed by pork chop with braised fennel.
Heritage green tiles and curved timber uphold the building's Art Deco bones. Open daily from noon.
197 Watton Street, Werribee, bridgehotelwerribee.com.au
Middle Eastern restaurant Elma (it's Turkish for apple) opened last week, having only practiced on residents of the three P.M. Port Melbourne apartment towers above. Executive chef Angel Fernandez is joined in the kitchen by fellow Rockpool alumnus Nic Machado, with general manager Patrick Gallagher coming from Higher Ground, Top Paddock and Kettle Black.
The 180-seat venue features cascading greenery, huge orb-like pendant lights, cushy lounge areas and green-and-white marble benchtops. Open daily, from khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread, pictured) for breakfast through to roast chicken with Aleppo pepper and preserved lemon for dinner.
Rooftop bar Sol and Luna is also set to open atop the 16-storey P.M. tower at the end of the month, with chef Daniel Salcedo (ex-Citrico) serving Peruvian food from a Josper charcoal oven. It will seat 100, plus many more standing around the infinity pool (restrictions permitting).
G1, 320 Plummer Street, Port Melbourne, elmamelbourne.com.au
Prawn rolls at Lakeside at Carousel. Photo: Lucas Worcester
Lakeside at Carousel
Half Acre in South Melbourne and food&desire catering have commandeered the Carousel event space in Albert Park to launch Lakeside at Carousel, an outdoor pop-up that will stick around for as long as the weather is warm.
The deck has opened for a la carte dining, while walk-ups can order a picnic pack from the service window and find a spot on the 2000-square-metre Pelican Lawn. BYO rug, hire some furniture and order mezze and charcuterie platters, fish and chips, hot jam doughnuts and booze from the pop-up bottle shop.
Open daily 9am to sunset; The Deck at Carousel open Friday to Sunday, lunch and dinner.
22 Aughtie Drive, Albert Park, lakesideatcarousel.com.au
Myrtle Wine Cafe
Ellen Turner has had her roots in Yarraville for the past decade, opening Willow Wine Cafe in nearby Kingsville in 2018. Now she's branched out, opening Myrtle Wine Cafe in a heritage bluestone building in Footscray Community Arts Centre's creative precinct.
Like Willow, Myrtle Wine Cafe taps small, local and ethical producers for the menu. Initially, it will operate as a daytime cafe. But next month it will stay open on Friday and Saturday nights for wine-friendly snacks alongside a mostly Victorian wine list.
A large grassy area beside the cafe means takeaways and picnics-to-go are also part of the picture.
Open Tuesday to Friday, 7.30am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm.
45 Moreland Street, Footscray, 0481 850 885
Nico's Sandwich Deli
Nico's was open for all of one day on Healeys Lane in the CBD before lockdown. Closed since, co-owners Tom Peasnell (Peaches, Cheek, Dexter, Takeaway Pizza and Kenny Lover) and Leo Thompson (ex-Brother Baba Budan) are popping up just off Brunswick Street until early March, when they'll return to the city.
In Fitzroy, it's outdoor seating only, with a "party-summer, post-lockdown menu" of five sandwich stayers and two rotating specials, such as the Nico's cubano with smoked mojo pork and leg ham, plus breads and pastries from All Are Welcome and Northcote Bakeshop, and Kenny Lover ice-cream sandwiches. Open Wednesday to Sunday 8am-4pm.
100 Kerr Street, Fitzroy, nicos.melbourne
Little Prince Wine Bar's menu makes the most of its on-site deli. Photo: Jana Langhorst
Prince wine bar and beer garden
The opening of Little Prince Wine and The Prince Rooftop Beer Garden complete The Prince Hotel's four-year, multimillion-dollar refurbishment. Operating as a grocer and bottle shop throughout lockdown 2.0, Little Prince morphed into a wine bar that can seat 30 upstairs and a dozen both outside and in the cellar, restrictions permitting.
The small menu makes the most of the on-site deli and adds snacky items such as oysters and croque monsieur, and there's a 4000-bottle cellar, curated over the past decade by sommelier Laurent Rospars. Open daily from 11am until late.
The beer garden colonises the top floor of the hotel's multi-level carpark, offering DJs, city skyline views and beers from Brick Lane and Nagambie Brewery. Open Thursday 4-9pm, Friday-Saturday noon-9pm, Sunday noon-6pm.
2 Acland Street, St Kilda, theprince.com.au
The Refectory Parlour
Bursaria catering is set to open The Refectory Parlour at the tail end of November within the historic Werribee Mansion. Open by day from Wednesday to Sunday, there are three dining options available: picnic packs that can be pre-ordered via Hungry Hungry; an upmarket picnic, where food is brought to your unfolding table and cushions; and long tables and chairs beside the vineyard, vegetable garden or pond. The Refectory Parlour will also serve all-day brunch under the arches of the mansion's 50-seater verandah.
Gate 5, K Road, South Drive, Werribee Park, bursaria.com.au
Vex Dining opens at the Westgarth end of High Street on Friday. Co-owner Florian Ribul (ex-Little Andorra, Neighbourhood Wine) characterises the vegetable-driven dishes as mod-bistro or wine-dining, but "if something's delicious, it goes on the menu".
Along with partners Owen Probert (ex-Marion) and Rory Kennedy (ex Sibling, Romantica), Ribul is eager to break free of the hierarchical brigade system, instead sharing cooking, pouring and front-of-house duties. To drink there are 15 reds and 15 whites (mostly biodynamic and organic), while beers come from breweries within driving distance.
Open Wednesday to Thursday 5-11pm, Friday to Saturday noon-11pm, Sunday noon-5pm.
66-68 High Street, Northcote, vexdining.com