When the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, Andrew McConnell had been about to hit the start button on his latest project, a 150-seat cocktail bar and dining room in 1920s-era Cavendish House, on the corner of Flinders Lane and Russell Street.
Instead, he put the bar on ice and switched to saving the jobs of his 300-strong workforce.
But on July 12, assuming pandemic panic has subsided, he'll finally open the doors at Gimlet at Cavendish House, inspired by bustling New York and London brasseries and named after the lime-soured gin cocktail that saved British naval officers from scurvy.
He brought in Sydney design firm ACME & Co (Fred's, Archie Rose) to transform the former Bang & Olufsen showroom into a deco-style bar. They've placed a bar in the centre of the vast square room, skirted the perimeter with catwalks occupied by linen-draped tables and plushly upholstered chairs, and added an open kitchen with an imposing wood-fired oven towards the back.
Head chef Allan Eccles, who helped launch Russell Street restaurant Lesa, will pull dishes such as roasted Eugowra chicken, and wood-fired flatbread with clams and fermented chilli, from the redgum-fuelled oven.
As the name suggests, they'll be pouring classic cocktails, along with fine wine and low- and no-alcohol drinks. And with doors staying open until late, "there's a time to get dressed up and have cocktails," says McConnell.
Gimlet at Cavendish House will open for a series of special preview events before the official opening. Lunch $70 a head, dinner $85. Phone bookings only.
Gimlet will open Mon-Thu noon-11pm, Fri noon-1am, Sat 9am-1am, Sun 9am-11pm from July 1.
33 Russell Street, Melbourne, 03 92779777, gimlet.melbourne.