Sean McConnell can see the irony in the circumstances that have lead to Rebel Rebel 2.0.
"We turned a supermarket into a restaurant back into a supermarket again," says the chef who put Monster Kitchen and Bar on the map before going out on his own with Rebel Rebel in September last year.
Rebel is situated on the corner of Marcus Clarke Street in New Acton, where the TwentyOne supermarket used to be, and while Rebel has always had a little corner where you could buy wine to take home, version two takes it one step further.
Don't fret, you'll still be able to dine at the restaurant as restrictions ease, but McConnell is keeping the providore section that has got the restaurant through these tough times.
"The whole idea behind the providore came from that fateful Monday in March when everything went to shit," he says.
"We made the choice to close the shop for the duration of the government-enforced lockdown, which was the right move for Rebel Rebel at the time.
"For a week we turned the restaurant into a produce store and we basically took all of our surplus stock and we packaged it up and we made ready made meals and sold all of our excess stock.
"We were incredibly surprised by the support from the local community and how well that formula worked for Rebel Rebel, we just decided to maintain that aspect of the produce store until we can trade again at full capacity."
They'll be selling ready-made meals, housemade preserves and jams, the tahini granola has been popular and the ever-popular cacao pops from the breakfast menu which sold in a flash first time around.
As well as the wine list, Three Mills Bakery bread will be available and truffles from Braidwood's Terra Preta.
McConnell believes the industry is at a turning point.
"The situation has changed the rule book for the industry," he says.
"The customers' needs are going to be at the forefront of people's business models.
"For us at Rebel Rebel that means I expect customers are going to want warmth and comfort and generosity and that's our approach to the menu for version 2.0, lots of really really rustic dishes, wholesome, hearty, meals and just genuine warmth and hospitality.
"People are really excited to get out again and support their favourite restaurants and maybe they'll think about it all differently.
"I think because the struggle of the hospitality industry has been so public throughout the COVID crisis people might have a better understanding of how delicate the industry is and that will make a difference."
He's roaring to get back into the kitchen, after a few months of home renovation, gardening, home schooling his three small children - "now that was hard".
It's also given him time to contemplate the first six or so months of Rebel Rebel.
"I've had a lot of time to think about what worked and what didn't and I'm excited for Rebel Rebel 2.0. We'll be back stronger than ever."
Winter at Rizla
The team at Rizla has taken on all the challenges of COVID with an air of optimism, doing takeaway, and now adapting for restricted dine-in as best it can.
Owner Andy Day has constructed a "winter-proof" structure, suspended to enclose most of the outdoor dining area .
"The timing of the COVID shutdown was sub-ideal," he says. "We had planned and saved for it to be built and ready by Anzac Day, the start of Canberra winter, but if that's the worst of our worries then we're doing pretty good."
Another change is the pivoting of the menu from riesling to another Canberra champion grape, shiraz, or "razla" for slang, to celebrate the move to comfort food and wine.
"It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, definitely. But so is the original concept and that worked so well I figured, why not? Let's push something else we love, something that goes more with the season, and see how people respond."
But there are now six shirazes or shiraz blends available by the glass, with most from the surrounding region, along with other fascinations from Australia. The usual local suspects are there, Clonakilla, Nick O'Leary, Eden Road and Ravensworth, but joining them are smaller boutique operations unlikely to show up on other lists around Canberra.
The food menu has also taken a turn to match the cooler weather.
"We've been lucky to use the time and feedback from guests over the last few weeks to nail down dishes to go with the reds we love, and given the volume of reds we've sold recently it really is a no-brainer."
Rich, slow-braised beef cheeks and a stunning rendition of mushrooms with pappardelle and hazelnuts are the stars of the new menu devoted to pairing with shiraz. It's all about comfort from the kitchen, sticky date pudding, roast pork loin, chicken with burnt sage butter. But it's not all out-with-the-old. "We'd almost go out of business if we changed our tuna tartare." And there's still plenty of riesling available as well.
- Check out the new menu atdrinkrizla.com.au