Back To Business
After a long 6 months, Melbourne residents are now able to visit their favourites bars and restaurants once again. Business owners can breathe a sigh of relief as doors open, tables set and ice wells filled.
With only a year into opening, Capitano, like the rest of the Victoria's food and beverage industry, are coming to terms with a post lockdown landscape. We catch up with Darren Leaney and Will Sleeman to discuss how reopening has been and how the lockdown has affected them.
Welcome back! How does it feel to be open again?
Darren - It feels good! Weird, but good. Who knew how much we were all missing putting drinks in glasses and food on plates? Also just getting to serve people and have all those little interactions, just beautiful.
Will - There was some cautious optimism towards reopening this time around. Opening just to be burned again stung quite a bit, so I kept my enthusiasm levels in check this time around. Now that things are ticking along nicely and we are all getting more confident in what we can do and the best ways to do it, it feels pretty bloody good!
What was your biggest challenge during the lock down?
Darren - Personally just staying motivated and happy. Professionally just staying motivated and happy!
Will - Staying active doesn’t come as easy to me as it might for others. I am by no means a fitness freak and have always enjoyed the fact that the work that we do in hospitality is quite physically taxing and labour intensive. So, without that I made a real point of getting out of the house and moving the body a lot more than I had in the past.
Is it back to the usual at work or is Capitano changing the way it operates?
Darren - In some way it's back to normal, but on a very much smaller scale. Delivery is definitely here to stay in some capacity, as are bottled cocktails. Serving people and service itself still feels very much the same, but also entirely different.
Will - I wouldn’t say ‘usual’, but we’re back to offering good service and a good product that people seem to enjoy. Which felt so far away only a couple of weeks back. So hopefully we can stay on a similarly positive trajectory.
How have you found customers attitudes with the constant easing and changing of restrictions?
Darren - Everyone has been super understanding and supportive, it's been really beautiful to see. Such a shithouse time and it really seemed to hit for lockdown 2.0 and so much changed all the time, the only constant really was people being (mostly) amazing.
Will - It varies quite a lot. There’s been a fair share of people with selective hearing, who tend to hear what they want (myself included), and ask of us what we cannot legally provide. For the most part I have found people to be very understanding of the procedures we have in place and are more than willing to cooperate to show support.
Any personal goals achieved during lockdown?
Darren - Mastered Carbonara, started meditating, finally understand how important sleep is, ate less meat
Will - I have mastered the poached egg.
How do you feel the industry managed through lockdown?
Darren - Overall pretty good and once again the Hospitality Industry showed it's as much a family as it is an industry. As in all families there is a few bad eggs and weird uncles, but mostly, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Will - Might be too early to tell, but I hope when the dust settles and we can look back on this fucker of a year, that a lot of people can be super proud of how they handled themselves and bonded our industry together and supported each other. Too many to mention, but it was a true testament to what we all love doing.
Where do you see the industry headed Post Covid?
Darren - Lots of what we all picked up to keep businesses and livelihoods going will stay in place for the time being, park drops of food, cocktails and wine will be a thing. Fine dining could be in for the longest road back as people with diminished bank accounts turn to more 'bang for your buck' mid-level restaurants for their celebrations. More venues with a complete offering maybe.
Will - Well it’s going to be a summer of alfresco dining experiences like we’ve never seen before! Just what the doctor ordered after hardly leaving the house for most of the year. Slip, Slop, Slap!
CBD vs residential. How are they faring?
Darren - I've not been to CBD for months but my feeling is that it's never been a better time to be a neighbourhood venue. That said without the hustle of the city I think people will make a stronger effort to get out to the venues in the city that they know and love to support them.
Will - With people being encouraged to work from home where possible, for as long as possible, my gut feeling would be that the CBD takes a little longer to recover. However, you can’t forget how world class a night out in Melbourne’s CBD can be, so will not be surprised when they bounce back stronger than ever.
Talk us through your coconut Negroni and why was it chosen as Capitano's bottled cocktail for Good Spirits.
Will - Simply, this is just a top shelf Darren Leaney banger! I'll leave him to answer this.
Darren - The idea for the drink originally came from fig leaves being in season and wanting to do a fig leaf Negroni. With the amazing aroma of green coconut being highlighted, but when the vermouth was infused with the leaf the drink became too astringent and bitter. Adding coconut to the Campari not only boosted the flavour we wanted but also added texture (and the illusion of sweetness) which balanced the astringency of the leaves. We use coconut oil and fat wash it into the Campari. This way we get all the flavour and texture of coconut with a beautiful clarity. Fat washing is simply bringing a fat in liquid form (butter, coconut oil, olive oil) and allowing it to infuse with alcohol for a desired time. Then chilling both liquids until the fat solidifies and straining the liquid off via a coffee filter. We chose this as it's a great example of what we (try) to do in the bar which is present drinks that are familiar and recognisable but with different and sometimes unusual flavour combinations.
Big thanks to Darren and Will for taking time to talk to us. Want to find out more about what the team at Capitano are up to? Follow them on instagram.