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Ponyfish Island revamp set to add more sparkle to Southbank

08 Sep 2020

Ponyfish Island revamp set to add more sparkle to Southbank Image

By Katie Johnson

To make the most of the lockdown closure, the iconic Yarra River bar Ponyfish Island is getting a once-in-a-lifetime makeover.

Owner Andrew Mackinnon said that the revamp would completely transform the space and be a “positive thing for the people of Melbourne to look forward to.”

“We’ve taken all of the elements that make Ponyfish great and improved them,” Mackinnon said.

“Better food, better cocktails, faster service, and a more dynamic space so that you feel like you’re right in the heart of Melbourne.”

The team is currently in the process of overhauling the semi-nautical theme in favour of a warmer colour palate, Sunbrella shades, comfortable custom-made furniture and a larger bar for faster service.

“It’s a really unique, sophisticated look. I’d say it’s Melbourne underground meets Miami,” Mackinnon said.

Mackinnon and co-owners Grant Smillie and Jerome Borazio have been wanting to give the weather-battered bar a makeover for the past few years.

But with Ponyfish being such a busy venue, Melbourne’s lockdown afforded them a rare opportunity to start the process in collaboration with design firm, Studio Gram.

“We were always aiming to do it in winter because it’s not as busy, and low and behold this year we had to close anyway so we’re making the most of the situation,” Mackinnon said.

“We’re taking our time, doing things properly, and hoping to come out with something really special when lockdown ends and the summertime comes around.”

So far, the demolition has been completed, and the steel tree seating statue in the middle of the bar has been removed to make room for more guests.

The new space will be able to host 150 people up from 110, have more bathrooms, a larger kitchen with a chef, and also include areas that can be cordoned off for private events.

“Over the years the bar has been exposed to a lot of salty air, rain and sunshine—so we want to ramp up the beauty of the venue and increase the comfort,” Mackinnon said.

“We’re also experimenting with a new ordering system so people can order and pay through their mobile phones and have food delivered right to their table.”

Renovating the bar under COVID-19 restrictions has been difficult—with limits on the number of people allowed on site slowing the process down.

But behind the scenes the original staff have been working hard to create unique new cocktail lists, social media concepts and merchandise.

Currently the team is working on creating a seafood-focused menu, as well as a new Ponyfish lager to replace the one they’ve had for seven years.

“We really wanted to maintain the same price point but improve the quality of our food, which we’ll be able to do with the larger kitchen,” Mackinnon said.

As Ponyfish is such an iconic Melbourne bar, Mackinnon said that it was vital Ponyfish retained the “welcoming, eclectic and multicultural atmosphere” that it’s had for the last decade.

“Ponyfish was never broken, and you could argue that if it’s not broken then don’t fix it.” Mackinnon said.

“It’s just a newer, more improved, sparkling Ponyfish.”

Ponyfish Island is due for re-opening at the end of October, pending government restrictions •

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