Historically, restaurateurs have tried to avoid opening new venues over the summer break. People are distracted by family gatherings, holidays and all the other festivities that make the days melt right off the calendar. Not this year.
A live-each-day-like-it's-your-last spirit has infected all of us, because who knows what the new year will bring? Maybe that's a depressing thought, but this isn't: peppered through the party season, Victoria is launching a whole host of eateries, drinkeries and even a grappa bar. Here's what to add to your planner.
Bia Hoi at Tucks Wine, Red Hill South
Chef Jerry Mai sizzled up the Mornington Peninsula last summer, taking over the grounds of Ocean 8 winery for Vietnamese barbecues. She loved the experience so much, she hopes eventually to launch a restaurant in the region.
But for now, you'll find her doing a sunny residency every weekend until the end of February at Tucks Wine, part of the sprawling Montalto Estate. There are no bookings and no tables. BYO chair or blanket, grab a fistful of skewers and a jug of sangria and let the good times roll.
37 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South, biahoibar.com.au
Wood-fired pizza with prosciutto at Bonnie, All Saints Estate. Photo: Lisa Featherby
Bonnie at All Saints, Wahgunyah
However you choose to take in Rutherglen, the Victorian High Country town famed for its tokays and ports, All Saints Estate has always been an unmissable stop. It is a castle surrounded by a frothing moat of vines, and while the Terrace Restaurant and its set menus still have allure, on January 11 a new wood-fired pizzeria named Bonnie will double down on that draw.
Filling the space that was formerly the Indigo Foods provedore, you will now be able to sit with eyes on vines (or even lounge around the pond if you take away) eating pizzas graced by the region's best, such as Mount Ophir olives, or a prosciutto pizza finished with their own aged muscat vinegar.
205 All Saints Road, Wahgunyah, allsaintswine.com.au
Pull up a seat at Pietro Gallus' new grappa bar. Photo: Parker Blain
The Grappa Bar at Pietro Gallus, Warrandyte South
It's the grappa bar you've been waiting for. Australians rarely dabble with the fiery grape skin spirit that's beloved in Italy. That's about to change. The Pietro Gallus Estate winery has built an on-site distillery, where they are making a range of grappas, aged in barrels for 24 months, and other liqueurs such as limoncello.
Pull up at the new cellar door and bar, where you can do a tasting of the range for $10-$15. It's potent stuff, so if you're planning on hitting Warrandyte's famed waterholes, swim first, drink after.
54-56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South, pietrogallusestate.com.au
HER is due to land with a bang. The long-awaited multi-level, multifunction venue at 270 Lonsdale Street is aiming to revive all we've missed these past 20 months: art, music and fun dining. Local artists such as Eleanor Butt were commissioned to create custom artworks to turn the venue into a vibrant, energetic gallery.
It's a mixed offering across the spaces. On the ground floor is a French bistro and bar where you can order entrecotes (sirloin steaks), duck-frites, or roasted chicken with fermented black garlic. Upstairs is a Japanese-style listening bar, a Thai-inspired restaurant, and a rooftop bar with views across the city. The fun starts in late January.
270 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, her.melbourne
Smith and Deli, Collingwood
Shannon Martinez, Victoria's poster child for meat-free eating, has just swung open doors to the first section of her enormous new Smith and Daughters premises. Relocated to a huge warehouse space on Cambridge Street, the new venue is an all-singing all-dancing vegan wonderland.
While the main restaurant is still waiting on some equipment, you can now drop in to pick up everything from homewares to fresh produce, flowers, and Martinez' own deli products, including faux blue cheese and bries and a mortadella she says has been years in the making. The stellar sandwiches and salads from Smith and Deli are also back on the cards.
107 Cambridge Street, Collingwood, smithanddaughters.com
Sorrento's legendary corner store Stringers has had a helluva makeover. Chris Connell, the designer responsible for sleek city spaces like Marameo and Hero, is reworking the interior, which will now host a wine cellar, pizzeria and provedore. If all goes to plan, you'll be able to get a slice and a scoop of gelato by the end of January.
2-8 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento, instagram.com/stringerssorrento
Mike Rapajic mans the marble bar at Victor Churchill in Armadale. Photo: Paul Jeffers
Victor Churchill Wine Bar
Sydney's couture butchery moved into Armadale in November, boasting an embarrassment of marble (both the animal and mineral kind), charcuterie and champagne. The looks are everything we were promised, from its bronze sausage door handles to its strangely lovely butcher terrarium, where you can watch slicing and dicing go down.
But it's the dedicated wine bar that's turned heads. Technically, you can book one of the coveted 12 seats and have a steak or whole lobster (plucked from the tank on display) grilled by the pros while your foie gras terrine is being wrapped up – but in late January dinner service will start, opening up this premium meat dream to many more souls.
953 High Street, Armadale, victorchurchill.com
And stay tuned for
Surely Lucas Restaurants can't be opening another venue on the heels of Yakimono skewer bar, Lillian Terrace and Society? Wrong. This 120-seat Italian-inspired restaurant serving big steaks and pasta is due to open in March 2022.
101 Collins Street, Melbourne
Things are fermenting away in jars, awaiting the February opening of Maurice Terzini and Joe Vargetto's joint venture, which will focus on the humble homemade salumi and sugo their Italian migrant parents raised them on.
445 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Earl Canteen's brand new sister will be a glamorous all-day wine bar and diner with billowing drapes, caesar salads and flowing prosecco. All brass and marble, the looker is due to open mid-January, in time for the Australian Open.
Collins Place, 71 Collins Street, Melbourne