It's been a year of big hospitality openings – and reopenings – in Victoria, among them the long-awaited upstairs-from-Embla restaurant Lesa, St Kilda's Hotel Esplanade and Prince Dining Room, instant hotspot Sunda, and Laura, which has consolidated the Mornington Peninsula's title as the country's best dining region.
And despite consumer pessimism and gloomy talk of a saturated market, brave souls continue to take the plunge, with a host of new openings slated for early in the new year.
So clear your diary. These are some of the projects heading your way in 2019.
Cantina Carolina and Tetto, South Yarra
Cafe downstairs, rooftop lounge bar upstairs, this new offering from Joe Mammone, the restaurateur behind Sarti and Il Bacaro, will open alongside South Yarra's Bar Carolina in February. Cantina Carolina will offer all-day dining from healthy-ish Italian breakfast through to dinner, and Tetto ("roof" in Italian) will be all about wine, cocktails and stuzzichini (snacks) in a piano bar setting.
48 and 48A Toorak Road, South Yarra
Ten Minutes by Tractor, Main Ridge
Closed by fire since late February, Mornington Peninsula's two-hatted Ten Minutes by Tractor will reopen "some time over summer" after a rebuild beset by delays. Kitchen double act Adam and Marie Sanderson, who have been cooking bistro dishes at nearby Petit Tracteur while waiting for the flagship to open, are promising a locally focused menu drawing on their experience in Britain, US and Denmark. Executive chef Adam Sanderson is assembling a strong team, who will begin menu development over the coming weeks ahead of the relaunch.
1333 Mornington-Flinders Road, Main Ridge, 03 5989 6080, tenminutesbytractor.com.au
Fresh from selling three of Melbourne's best-loved cafes – Higher Ground, Kettle Black and Top Paddock – Nathan Toleman's Mulberry Group is embarking on a new project. Liminal (the name reflects the group's own state of transition) is in the foyer of the newly renovated 1920s T&G Building, running between Collins Street and Flinders Lane. "I've always been wary of cafes in foyers," says Toleman, "but this opportunity was too good to pass up." In a setting of stone and wood, carpet and fabric, Liminal will combine a lounge-style cafe with a bodega selling wine, cheese and produce. Open for breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday, it will seat about 120.
161 Collins Street, Melbourne
The Beach House, Geelong
A second project from the Mulberry Group, The Beach House will take shape in a heritage-listed, 1930s brick building on Geelong's foreshore that has been shuttered since April 2016. Overcoming heritage issues, it hopes to begin building the 120-seat cafe and event space in January ahead of a mid-winter opening.
95 Eastern Beach Road, Geelong
Agostino Wine Bar & Cellar, Carlton
The revival of Carlton institution King and Godfree has been three long years in the making. And the first two pieces in a complex puzzle have been revealed: its ground-floor K&G Deli & Espresso Bar, and rooftop bar Johnny's Green Room, with remarkable views of the city. Early in 2019, it will crown Agostino Wine Bar & Cellar, a split-level space with a pithy northern Italian menu (why, ciao, roasted chicken, 'nduja and salsa verde) and a 50-bottle wine list checking off classic and natural, Italian and Australian, augmented by a reserve list drawn from the bluestone cellar room.
297 Lygon Street, Carlton, agostinowine.com
Fancy Free, Melbourne
Four bartenders from Fitzroy's heavily decorated Black Pearl will be opening their own venue, Fancy Free, as a six-month pop-up in late January. A collaboration between Rob Libecans, Chris Hysted-Adams, Matthew Stirling and Ryan Noreiks, the plan is to regularly collaborate with brewers and distillers and make gun service the top priority.
381 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Neighbourhood Wine offshoot, Brunswick East
Owners Simon Denman and Almay Jordaan hoped to have opened by Christmas but a series of setbacks means they have revised the opening date of their spin-off restaurant to the first quarter of 2019. No name yet, and they're not willing to disclose the chef, but expect a more casual, pared back version of the Fitzroy North place, with a focus on seasonality and an adherence to minimal-intervention wines.
133B Lygon Street, Brunswick East