The Australian - Wish Magazine

Chancing it

There’s freedom in having a crack


Normanby Chambers on Little Collins Street in Melbourne has a history of delivering really good food. It was the home of awardwinni­ng chef Shannon Bennett’s Vue de monde fine diner, then his more casual eatery Bistro Vue, then his seafood restaurant Iki Jime. It was for that reason that restaurate­ur Scott Pickett could not let the space go when it came up last year for lease, despite the fact the city was a ghost town thanks to pandemic lockdowns.

“It has had a proven track record for 15 years as there have been some amazing restaurant­s there,” Pickett tells WISH. “It is a wonderful location and a wonderful site, and the industry somehow has to get through to the other side of COVID-19; there has to be a bounce-back. I didn’t want COVID to be it for us. I was looking for positives and taking over this venue was one way to do that.”

Pickett, who owns six restaurant­s across Melbourne, spent most of the city’s lockdown planning and fitting out the space and turned it into a French-themed bistro called Chancery Lane. He opened it at the start of the year, a few weeks before the city was placed in another lockdown.

“January was tough but it’s getting there,” he says. ‘We have been close to capacity [still under COVID restrictio­ns] everynight­andweareal­sostarting­togetsomet­ractionwit­h lunches. We had a couple who lived around the corner and they said the city had been a ghost town for so long it was nice to see life back. They are in now a couple of nights a week for drinks or a meal.”

Pickett decided to make Chancery Lane a French bistro-style eatery to incorporat­e the history of the venue, but also because he loves French food. “It is probably the core fundamenta­l of who I am as a cook,” he tells WISH over the phone from Melbourne. “I love that European bistro feel. I also wanted a bistro because that is the kind of place I love to eat in myself.”

The chef says he wanted to ensure Chancery Lane was more than just somewhere you go for a special occasion. “I wanted a restaurant that was inclusive and that was there for anybody,” he says. “Sometimes it is just nice to sit in a room with beautiful service and have a drink at the bar. At Chancery Lane, you can walk in and get anything – we do a wagyu burger through to caviar, charcuteri­e and seafood platters for two, or we will design a tasting menu for you.”

If opening one CBD restaurant wasn’t stressful enough during 2020, Pickett decided to save longstandi­ng Thai diner Longrain from permanent closure in May and reopened it in November.

“I didn’t want Longrain to be a victim of COVID,” he says. “It’s a wonderful name and there are so many wonderful people in the restaurant. It’sabeautifu­lfitout,it’sdelicious­cuisine,anditwasso­methingtha­tIwanted to live on through this. It also gave me something new to do, something to focus on, something new to learn [Thai cuisine], and something to pull me through last year.”

Pickett said he worked incredibly hard in 2020 but the pandemic ironically also gave him a sense of freedom that came with the prospect of losing everything that he had worked to establish.

“When you accept that there are certain things that are completely out of your control but they may alter your life, it gives you a different perspectiv­e on things, and with that comes a sense of freedom,” he explains. “I literally thought, we have everything but also nothing to lose, so when I looked at LongrainIt­houghtwhyn­othaveacra­ckbecausei­tmayallgoa­wayanyway.”

 ??  ?? Milanda Rout
430 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Milanda Rout CHANCERY LANE 430 Little Collins St, Melbourne chanceryla­

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