Despite the balmy evenings we've been enjoying of late, as the Starks know all too well, winter IS coming, so you'd better get prepared to spend the vast majority of your time indoors. Fear not, though; our handy list of the season's most awaited openings means you can at least eat and drink your way through the misery. Behold our go-to guide for Melbourne's best new restaurants and bars opening this winter.
Hailing from Sydney, New Shanghai has joined the growing cluster of cut-above eateries setting up shop in Emporium's food court, with a fit-out summoning up that city's scintillating street scene, circa 1920. New Shanghai is now open, dishing up mighty fine dumplings to city shoppers and worker bees. We're loving their xiao long bao, a mini steamed pork bun with gingery-sweet broth and a juicy pocket of pork made using a secret family recipe.
In other exciting foodie news, Vue De Monde guru Shannon Bennett will take over the former Observatory cafe in the Royal Botanic gardens, rebranding it as Jardin Tan with a firm French/Vietnamese focus. If the name seems familiar, they had a teaser pop-up event as part of the recent Good Beer Week. Mike Reid has been shipped in from London's Gaucho and will be plundering the cafe's kitchen garden. They'll also have their own spin on bánh mì. Set to open mid July. Who's excited?!
Charlie's Angels assemble! Lucy Liu Kitchen & Bar is the new girl in town, opening its doors on Russell Street in the CBD in July (in the spot previously occupied by PM24). There's a foodie hero team-up behind the pan-Asian joint, with The Smith director and executive chef Michael Lambie joining up with regular George Calombaris collaborator George Sykiotis as well as fellow The Smith alumni Scott Borg and Zac Cribbs. Cocktails will be a big push too, including a tasty coconut mojito.
Feline fanciers, you no longer have to cope without some kitty lovin' if your landlord is a meanie or your flat mate's allergic, because July sees the grand opening of Melbourne's Cat Cafe on Queen Street near the markets. Cats rescued from homes will populate glass cases lining the cafe (sadly council won't allow them to run free while folks are eating), allowing patrons to see the cute furballs in action. Owners Anita and Myles Loughran fell in love with the concept after stumbling across one in Japan.
Also in the city, Magic Mountain Saloon is slated to open its doors on Little Collins Street in late July, in the old bones of Bridie O'Reilly's. The latest from Camillo Ippoliti of Cookie, Boney and Revolver fame, executive chef Karen Batson will work a cheeky twist on Thai, and there will be plenty of room at the bar for a few city tipples.
Round the u-bend from Duckboard Place's Tonka, July should also see the opening of hot new Peruvian restaurant Pastuso (the original name of Paddington Bear) on AC/DC Lane. From the creative minds of Peruvian chef Alejandro Saravia and the San Telmo crew, this is one to watch out for.
Meanwhile, basking in the glory of scoring the top gong at this year's World Pizza Championships, Johnny Di Francesco will open a second 400 Gradi outpost in the Crown Complex this month, replacing Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons. If this is up your alley, then check out our pick of the best Italian restaurants in Melbourne.
We're also expecting Tokyo Tina, the third sibling of the Hannoi Hannah and Saigon Sally family, to show her pretty Japanese-influenced head this month in bustling Windsor, with a wee bit of Korean style thrown in the mix for good measure. Camberwell will be one step closer to Crete with the opening of Greek wine bar and bistro Elyros on Burke Road, brought to you by the guys behind Carlton's Epocha.
Like a bit of sugar with your coffee? Well the city's Sutherland Street will soon play host to Shortstop Coffee & Donuts, and frankly we think this is an inspired combination. We're tipped that they'll be dishing out the good stuff from late July.
Daniel and Kristin Lemura, The Noble Experiment whizz kids, are about to work their magic again with an experimental time warp cocktail bar on the corner of Collingwood's Smith and Otter Streets. The Underground Experiment embraces the '80s with pink and neon yellow-daubed icons of MTV like Madonna, and movies like Ferris Bueller and Princess Leia, amongst others, with two big gilt-edged screens playing movies like Eddie Murphy's Coming to America on a loop. The Cocktails are a hoot, like a retro mint slice-garnished Grasshopper, sweet-toothed Pina Colada and even Sex on the Beach. Open Fridays and Saturdays from June 13th.
In other booze-related news, the front section of ever-popular Acland St Cantina will no longer be serving brekkie and lunch, but will be reborn as Cantina Bar in mid to late June. Cantina Bar will be sexy mexy space to canoodle in candlelit comfort, with Southern flavours and hard liquor reigning supreme on the menu – think tequila, mezcal and rum, smoky cocktails, and beers from exotic locales. Fans of the restaurant need not fret; it'll be business as usual out back.
YOU MAY HAVE MISSED…
And just in case you missed them, here's some of May's finest new restaurant and bar openings, including the rebirth of Andrew McConnell's Golden Fields, on St Kilda's Fitzroy Street, as casual wine spot Luxembourg Bar & Bistro, with the much-loved lobster roll finding a new home in his new Flinder's Lane joint Supernormal. Stokehouse City took over the CBD spot formerly held by Comme while the St Kilda icon rebuilds. The Auction Rooms caffeine empire expanded into Collins Street with Filter.
Chin Chin's Chris Lucas opened his long-awaited Korean BBQ joint Kong on Richmond's Church Street while Patch brought the paleo craze to Bendigo Street. South Yarra got new cafes in Lucky Penny and Urban Provedore, while Pressed Juices opened up on Chapel Street.
Carlton got a new bar with gold-plated taps and a retractable roof in The Shaw Davey Slum, while Ike's Rack Shack opened up out the back of The Beaufort and Moon Dog Brewery in Abbotsford opened their own on-site bar too.
Mr Big Stuff is the new joint making its presence felt on Meyers Place, bringing American soul food to the masses care of the creative mind of former Grossi Florentino chef Louis Naepels. He's taken time-honoured Stateside classics like a big mac and cheese or jerk chicken wings and added his own spin. Load up on the ox tail sliders or the corn bread and wash it all down with an iced tea, or go a little harder with Mr Big Stuff's great range of boutique US beers. Whatever you do, don't miss their house-made apple pie. That's a slice of American soul right there.
Main Image Credit: Simply Delicious