We thought it was time to highlight some positivity going on in our beloved hospitality industry, to have a small reprieve from the Covid doom and gloom. To see the resilience in an industry we love and have been lucky enough to be a part of for 15 years is heartening, and while some of these venues are lucky enough to be offering table service, others are still finding their way and adjusting to lockdown life with varying takeaway and delivery options.
Here’s a sneak peek into some of our most recent favorite venues.
The Norfolk House and Hotel – Sydney
The Norfolk, now in the venue’s 100th year, has undergone another overhaul and re-branded as the Norfolk House and Hotel, part co-working space, part hotel, part dining destination.
Its owner is the new hotel and hospitality group The People, which is rejuvenating hotels across Sydney’s suburbs – including the Exchange Hotel, the Kurrajong Hotel and the Strand Hotel. This iconic venue spans two levels, with a drinks menu led by award-winning bartender Tim Philips-Johansson (Dead Ringer) and food every day of the week, led by group chef Sam Bull (Prince of York).
The timing for the re-open hasn’t exactly gone to plan with ongoing Covid restrictions and now Sydney’s extended lockdown, although the team are doing their best at take-home meals, and by popular demand their home deliveries are back.
Grab a BBQ pack (butterflied chicken, Korean bulgogu sirloin, Yamba prawns, and black Angus t-bone. We love that veggos and vegans don’t have to miss out with a mouth-watering miso flame-grilled eggplant. Delivery Sydney-wide, Thursday – Saturday 2 – 6pm. Get your orders in before 6pm for next day delivery! Head to thenorfolk.com.au for their full takeaway menu.
Beyond the Palms – Melbourne
Where Miami Vice meets the south-side, this open-aired restaurant is fast becoming this summer’s hottest destination. Located behind the smoke and mirrors of Prahran’s infamous Chapel Street is Beyond the Palms.
Beyond the Palms has you believing you’re in a Miami Tropicana paradise from the moment you enter. With electric orange walls, neon signs and a giant palm tree, visually Beyond the Palms is an 80s themed outdoor adult playground. The surrounding building walls towering above the space are showered with bright colours, and the decking and AstroTurf create a fun and carefree urban paradise.
From snack-sized share plates and more substantial dishes that are designed to build your meal up or down depending on hunger levels. If sharing isn’t your thing you can opt for a burger or tacos.
Beyond the Palms are still trading throughout lockdown and offering all of your favourites delivered to your door.
Planet Royale – Perth
An area of Northbridge that feels like it’s been empty forever towards the corner of Lake and Roe Street has just opened with a massive unique venue – Planet Royale.
Situated in the old IMAX building across the road from the Winter Village, Planet Royale will feature no less than four different spaces all offering something different.
The bottom floor is home to two spaces: Barcadia, a massive array of retro arcade machines and one of the largest collections of pinball machines in Australia, and Pulp Kitchen, a burgers-and-shakes style diner you’re likely to find in a Tarantino film, filled with cinema posters and some very cool little surprises.
On the second floor you’ll find Major Tom’s, a bespoke cocktail bar honouring music legends with rock’n’roll-themed cocktails and a delicious array of craft beers and wines.
Finally, after a drink at Tom’s you can wander into the expansive Royale Theatre, which will be home to all kinds of entertainment, from cabaret and burlesque shows to touring bands, drag stars, circus shows, movie screenings and more.
Pearl Diver Cocktails and Oysters – Melbourne
The Speakeasy Group have joined forces with two of their staff to support them opening their own venue. So, watch out as Perryn Collier and Alex Boon are set to open the doors to Pearl Diver Cocktails & Oysters when Melbourne is set free from their latest lockdown.
Pearl Diver Cocktails & Oysters will open at 56 Little Bourke Street, in the Melbourne CBD, which used to house the 100-seater Vietnamese restaurant Annam across the street from Her Majesty’s Theatre.
It’s also the duo’s first foray into bar ownership.
“It’s really exciting, it’s a little bit nerve-wracking, it’s a little bit scary,” says Boon.
Pearl Diver Cocktails and Oysters (PDCO) promises to be a fun and vibrant bar that specialises in seasonal cocktails and oysters pulled straight from the sea, and we cannot wait!
funk cidar – Perth
funk cider exploded onto the scenes in 2016 with their new world take on craft cider. Established in the Swan Valley by Dustin and Martin Michael, two country brothers from Toodyay, the duo also behind Michael Brothers cold-pressed juice and craft sodas. Their experience with cold-pressed juice has influenced their ciders to reach a new world of flavour.
funk has unshackled cider from the chains of its dark commercial past, returned it to its rightful artisan origins and blasted it into a new era of craft; what we call the “new world’:
They have two venues; funk cidar 55 Benara Road, Caversham, and funk 2.0 at 38 Swan Street, Henley Brook.
Non Disclosure Bar – Geelong
Courtesy of Australian hospitality veteran, Gorge Camorra, the brains behind Geelong’s famed 1920s Prohibition-style cocktail bar The 18th Amendment and the New York-style sister venue Manhattan Bar, comes Non Disclosure Bar.
With Camorra’s track record – having also opened an 18th Amendment Bar in Ballarat in the midst of a pandemic – it was always going to be another world-class drinking establishment. And with news that the venue joins his two other venues on Little Malop Street, you can be sure he’s doing something right.
Coined the local cocktail king, Camorra holds multiple Australian and International mixology awards under his belt. With nearly 20 years of experience in Geelong’s hospitality, nightclub and entertainment scene, Camorra is most well-known in town for the pre-drinking destination that was Cloud9 Bar on Pakington Street, and creating Geelong’s first-ever line of liqueurs Camorra Liqueurs, and opening the 1920s Prohibition-style cocktail bar The 18th Amendment – a speakeasy that celebrates cocktail culture while educating the consumer, presenting the classics with a contemporary twist. In more recent years, he opened sister venue Manhattan Bar located just metres from 18th Amendment, and he’s expanded his operation to Ballarat, as mentioned above.
Promising to be a welcomed addition to Little Malop Street, in true Gorge Camorra style we can expect a slew of expertly crafted cocktails, a unique interior and the very best service from some of the most talented (and kindest) bartenders in town.
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Seamstress – Melbourne
Seamstress Restaurant & Bar opened in 2007 in Melbourne’s historic Chinatown district, housed in a 120yr-old former textile factory, warehouse and one-time buddhist monastery.
Climb the rickety stairs escaping the bustle of the city street to our 50-seater dining room celebrating the merging of traditional pan-asian ingredients with modern kitchen techniques. Their menu is all about shared dining enjoyed in a lively but casual social setting.
Trek up the stairs further to discover their multi-award-winning cocktail bar. Inspired by the clubs of yesteryear with a soundtrack of jazz & blues, soft lighting and friendly, knowledgable waiter service. Seamstress is still one of the best places in Australia for a Dry Martini and seasonal cocktails, with a light dinner menu available late into the evening with treats such as crispy Brussels sprouts with white miso dressing & togarashi spices, Malay corn fritters and soft-shell crab sliders with green mango & papaya salad.
Seamstress are coping with lockdown like the rest of Melbourne, and offering some great takeaway lockdown specials with delivery.
ESSA – Brisbane
Essa, originally conceived as a follow-up to South Brisbane’s Gauge, is set to open in late August. And with gorgeous digs just around the corner from The Calile Hotel in Fortitude Valley, it’s likely to become a popular drawcard at this busy dining precinct.
The long, slim, split-level venue offers a range of spaces for dining and mingling. Essa’s simple street frontage, with its brass mesh window treatment, gives little clue to the handsome interiors beyond. The main dining space is kitted out with dark leather, bottle-lined steel wine alcoves, exposed feature brick and polished concrete; the bar, meanwhile, is clad in elegant green marble.
But at the heart of the 60-seater is the hefty wood-fired grill which will drive Essa’s menu.
The menu might read simply, but the devil is in the detail. Dishes could include chickpea beignets with spanner crab; spatchcocked quail, say, with capers, lemon, brown butter and saltbush; or kohlrabi that’s been scorched, peeled, lightly pickled in chardonnay vinegar, then sliced charcuterie-style over fresh house-made curd with pistachios and pistachio oil.
The raw bar, meanwhile, will operate between 4pm and 5.30pm, and after 9pm, when the kitchen closes. It will serve a tight, concise menu of oysters (with optional caviar), crudo, tartare and charcuterie. “They’ll be simple but creative plates,” says head chef Phil Marchant.
What’s more, the adjacent space is currently being remade as a 24-seat bar, with plans for its unveiling later this year. That is, if lockdown doesn’t get in the way.
Oi Izakaya – Gold Coast
Hidden down an alleyway off Burleigh’s bustling James Street lies Oi Izakaya, a Japanese eatery that’s totally worth hunting down. With an unassuming entrance, one foot inside and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a legit izakaya in a small Asian village.
The menu is designed to be shared so you have permission to go crazy and order a whole bunch of their mouth-watering creations. Think karaage chicken, pork gyozas, yakisoba (a traditional fried noodle dish) and okonomiyaki, available with pork belly, thinly sliced beef or seafood (prawn and calamari).
Post-meal and to stave off the impending food coma, slink off to the sleek bar hidden at the back of the eatery, where you’ll find beers, cocktails, sake and over 70 whiskies on the shelf. Kanpai!
Shaffa – Sydney
Somehow it seems right to have to sidle down a narrow passageway sandwiched between a 120-year-old church and a redeveloped 19th-century inn to find Shaffa, Erez Nahum’s take on Israeli street food in Surry Hills.
In his hometown of Tel Aviv, the best street food pops up in tiny corners and hidden alleyways and getting lost is all part of the plan.
It’s not your traditional Israeli menu by any means, but the language it speaks is the same. You’ll need to know your nishnush (snacks) from your matok (sweets), and that the word katan designates small dishes and gadol, big ones.
On a weekday lunch at Shaffa, however, it’s all about the flatbreads, one of the great pillars of Israeli cuisine. The soft pita pockets form a big, sloppy, satisfying, two-hander sabich, stuffed with your choice of short ribs, chicken shawarma or lamb kofta.
The absolute best is roasted cauliflower ($14), layered with chopped boiled egg, hummus tahini, pickled red onions, zhoug and amba, an addictive mango pickle warmly flavoured with curry spices.
Shaffa comes in two parts, inside and out. There’s a small open terrace under a 10-metre-high glass roof, with tables and counter seats lining a busy open kitchen; and a cosy dining room that feels like a cave dug from sandstone, with a golden, backlit bar.
Shaffa, like the rest of Sydney are adjusting to lockdown life and offering Shabbat Boxes for pick up or delivery from Thursday – Saturday.