Remember the days of espresso martinis?

By Rhonda Dredge

If we ever get out of this awful pandemic, at least we’ll have seen some brassy moves by some of the well-known characters along Southbank.

For the last two weekends in July, the presence of Left Bank proprietor Eddie Muto has cheered up a few passers-by.

Eddie got his second wind and opened a weekend market on Southbank Promenade inside his cocktail bar.

This was no desperate attempt to tap into the farmers’ market concept but a full-blown Parisian-style pop-up with specialty products dripping in truffle oil.

Customers entered via a red carpet and followed the arrows past small stands, including a cocktail bar lit up in neon, a chef with plates of seafood, a DJ and the bar’s regular suppliers with delicacies such as cheeses and black truffle tagliatelle.

“You don’t have to suffer,” Eddie was telling locals with his offering of well-priced luxury items. “We’ve put a lot of our experience into the market.”

This was Left Bank’s second attempt at dealing with the crisis and one more suited to their personality.

For the first lockdown they tried selling takeaway food like everyone else but Eddie baulked at the 35 per cent delivery charge.

“We tried takeaway food,” he said. “It was very difficult. We weren’t known for it. There was no-one in the city and the locals have got so many options. Uber Eats was too expensive.”

For the second lockdown, he pivoted the business and decided to inspire the locals as well as feed them and it appears to have worked with customers returning wearing masks.

As Southbankers plodded on their weekend walks beside the river, depressed by the spread of the deadly virus, here was a distraction they could understand.

Eddie was out there in front of the market, irrepressible behind his mask and he wasn’t waiting until COVID-19 disappeared to launch this latest enterprise.

“We’ve got Veuve Cliquot at $74 a bottle. That’s $5 cheaper than Dan Murphy’s,” he told Southbank News.

Most concoctions were in cute little takeaway bottles, gin blossom and espresso martini, drinks staff used to mix for the non-casino crowd around in the evenings on the riverbank.

“It’s very girl-focussed,” Eddie said of the market with its pink bottles arranged in displays. “You have to keep going, keep introducing new concepts.”

The willingness of customers to step into his new venture along the carefully directed avenues was a sign of the influence of masks.

The fact that Melbourne got to them so late is understandable according to Eddie because “it was really difficult to assume what happened overseas would happen here. We were all sitting back with our fingers crossed.”

In July Eddie began fighting back instead of sitting back but he said that if the crisis went on much longer he didn’t think the business would survive.

“Our landlord is good. Mirvac put the rent down to zero,” he said.

Left Bank is located at 1 Southbank Boulevard. leftbankmelbourne.com.au

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