Jessi Singh moves fast. The chef and restaurateur drew the curtain on his Flinders Lane wine bar Mrs Singh just five weeks ago and was ready to hand back the keys but on Wednesday he'll unveil Bar Bombay Yacht Club in the same space.
Changes to mask rules and density restrictions, plus the return of office workers to the CBD, encouraged him to give it another shot.
The idea for Bar Bombay came to Singh after he discovered sailing two years ago and joined a yacht club in Melbourne. He even spent 18 months living on a boat during Melbourne's lockdowns.
A tongue-in-cheek retort to the mostly exclusive sailing clubs, especially in India during colonial rule, Singh says Bar Bombay combines the best parts of "boat life" without the discrimination.
"I came up with the idea that I'm going to open a place, call it a yacht club, sunset never ends and everyone is welcome."
Tweaks to Mrs Singh include a lightbox, previously pink, now illuminated in sunset hues of yellow, red and orange. Velvet upholstery is in aquatic shades, while seafood dishes from the coastal regions of India, Sri Lanka, China, Malaysia and beyond are a focus.
Lobster comes with a Singaporean-style chilli sambal, the layered rice dish of dum biryani is flecked with crab, and thrice-cooked squid combines Thai influences with bright Sri Lankan flavours.
There's plenty of Mrs Singh's DNA still present, though, from the black-and-white terrazzo bar to dishes from the tandoor and late-night pizzas with Indian-inspired toppings.
"We're keeping a lot of stuff from Mrs Singh because it was such an amazing, beautiful restaurant, [we want] to keep the memory alive. Unfortunately the circumstances made us shut down but it wasn't a failure of a restaurant," says Singh, who opened the wine bar in February 2020, just as the pandemic reached Australia.
He's maintained a cracking wine list, including hundreds of bottles from France, Italy and Australia, plus a fridge full of champagne. Mrs Singh's champagne trolley is now a roving dispensary of caviar, whisky cocktails and other tipples.
Snacks for the post-work and pre-theatre crowds take up a big chunk of the menu. Mini martinis and gimlets are also on offer, including for $5 during a daily happy hour. Lunches, complete with $20 thalis, are on the cards as the city gets busier.
Open Mon-Sat 11am-late.
88 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9654 6526, barbombay.com.au