Making life of lockdown

The thought of another COVID-19 induced lockdown is enough to turn even the calmest mind into a frenzy, and now with metropolitan Melbourne in a “state of disaster” and stage 4 restrictions in place for the next six weeks, many are looking for ways to fill their time. Tim French and his colleagues at South Wharf Restaurants (SWR) are providing locals with something “a little different” from other COVID-19 hospitality ventures. SWR Connect is a new online platform bringing together the culinary nous of South Wharf favourites Meat Market, BangPop Thai, Plus 5 Cocktail Bar and The Common Man Restaurant. They offer a wide range of services including takeaway, pre-prepared meals, Thai cooking classes with BangPop and online wine, or whisky, and cheese tastings. “You purchase the online package; then we deliver the event online through Zoom. It means people can catch up and socialise while feeling like they are doing something together,” Mr French said. “For the cheese and wine tastings, we create a package with five wines and cheeses. We are also offering vegan wine and cheese tasting night, where people can learn to make their own vegan cheese.” “I bought it for my friends last week and had a ball. It’s about keeping everyone doing new things at home and keeping everyone engaged with the area.” Although the pivot from restaurant dining to takeaway or prepared meals is nothing new in the age of COVID-19, it is the unification of both restaurants and locals that gives SWR Connect a uniquely different feel. By not only offering easy meal options but equipping residents with the tools and confidence to cook themselves, Mr French and his teams latest venture does more than just feed customers, it provides them with an opportunity to socialise in a time of isolation. “The problem we face is if we don’t keep in touch with the local community, where are they going to go once this is all over?” Mr French said. “We need to make sure there are either people coming down to the area, or we are going to them. Then they know we are still active, and we are still going to be there for locals long after this has passed.” “Our local community is what keeps the promenade alive. Tourism can often be a bit come and go, but our locals are always there, and now we want to be there for them.” Mr French said although the usual buzz of activity from the live events area outside The Common Man, or the flow excited diners along the promenade were gone, for now, the connection between their venues and residents had never been stronger. “We are getting a lot of people doing their walk along the river that grab a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine on their way through. Or for those still working, we want them to have a great option for lunch,” he said. “We want to continue to show what we are hosting and the community events that are on offer, so people know whenever we do get out of this, we are going to be there to bring life to the area.” • For more information on takeaway meals and delivery, prepared meals and wine and whisky tastings, visit:

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