When chef Peter Gunn opened Ides on Smith Street in Collingwood six years ago, Gourmet Traveller described it as “operating with an immense level of calm confidence for one so soon out of the blocks – it’s like it dropped fully formed.” Despite this instant polish, and a string of awards and praise for Gunn and his team, it’s only now, in 2022, that Gunn really feels like he’s tapped into the identity of his fine diner.
“For the first two years, I was still finding myself in what we were cooking,” Gunn says. “Little by little, I started to remove things that weren’t aligned with what I was thinking – and then lockdowns actually gave us more time to wean out some things.”
Six years into its life, Gunn’s never been more satisfied with the menu, team and service at Ides. Now, he’s turning his attention to another project that’s been thrown its fair share of pandemic curveballs: March, a next-door bar. The trim 20-seat bar, which is adjacent to Ides, was almost ready to be announced – names locked in, branding all done – before Covid came to Melbourne, mothballing the project for over two years. It will finally open later on in August. For Gunn, March is a chance to explore more casual cooking, while also having a space to host and accommodate Ides’ overflow. For you, it’s a chance to try the cooking of one of Melbourne’s best chefs, without having to have an hours-long set menu. It’s the definition of a win-win.
“The experience of going to March is a lot simpler than going to Ides,” Gunn says. “There’s a time commitment and an expense for a set menu, and you have to give yourself over to the experience and let us take the lead – at March we just want it to free and open for people to come in and do what they want with the space.”
On the food side of things, that will mean shareable drinks-friendly snacks such as sake-steamed pipis or beef tartare with kimchi dressing and crackers. There’ll also be a roster of larger mains.
“It’s food that I really enjoying cooking, that I don’t get to cook through Ides,” Gunn says. “That anchovy-on-toast vibe.”
For drinks, Ides’ sommelier Hayley McCarthy is keeping the list tight and local: three to four classic cocktails; five-ish reds and whites by the glass and a handful of sherries and sakes. For those after more options, Ides’ full wine list will be available to draw on. Most of the seating will come from the broad 16-seat counter, though there’s space for up to four in the window.
March is the latest in a procession of acclaimed restaurants to announce casual bar spinoffs. Melbourne has gotten Auterra and Navi Lounge in the last year (by Armadale’s Amaru and Yarraville’s Navi); while in Sydney, Beau and Gilda, spinoffs of Nomad and Firedoor respectively, are two of the most anticipated openings of the year.
March is due to open in late August.