Donovans relaunched

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One fire. Six months. $3 million. These three factors have weighed heavily on Gail and Kevin Donovan, owners of iconic Australian restaurant Donovans.

In a single moment of bedlam last August, they were confronted with the prospect of nearly 20 years of a tradition vanishing. If not for the efforts of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, the restaurant would have been razed.

However, on Friday, March 6th Donovans Restaurant was relaunched.

The distinguished lady on St Kilda’s foreshore has had a remarkable facelift, or as Gail Donovan would put it: “She’s back and she’s here to stay.”

“We always said it was a house on the beach. It wasn’t a shopfront. So why couldn’t we make you feel like you were dining with us in our home.”

Donovans has been famous for not just the warm welcome of Gail and Kevin to their many guests, but the aesthetic of the venue itself has been shaped by over 20 years of collecting items and ideas by Gail and business manager and best friend Darryl Bell.

“The bones of the restaurant are wonderful. We’ve never, ever thought of changing any of those. It will always be like coming to our own home,” Gail says.

“That said, she will look a bit more stylised than she did before, so just a little bit sleeker and a little fresher.”

Indeed, the Donovans made sure they kept everything. They felt the personal collection had contributed so much to the restaurant over nearly two decades that they had to maintain every personal item they could for the restaurant’s rebirth.

“We used to have this thing called the bar key – everyone kept losing it so I bought this foam piece of bread to sit on the bar. After the fire I found it amongst the soot. I put it through the dishwasher and it survived. We got our piece of bread back,” says Gail.

It joins an art deco penguin cocktail shaker, a black poodle doorstop and a number of custom-framed photographs as key surviving contributors to the aesthetic of what Kevin and Gail affectionately call “our girl”.

And the temporary closure of the restaurant didn’t mean they stopped collecting. Newly-designed copper lights that hang in formation from the walls, A 2D light blue painted wood motorbike that was used as a promotional piece for a French film in recent decades will greet guests.

When Donovans reopens, diners will be treated to a developed menu which took countless hours of discussion between Gail, Kevin and Head Chefs Emma D’Alessandro and Adam Draper.

Ultimately, the Donovans ensured that the new menu continued to honour their tradition of paying tribute to Mediterranean foods and flavours.


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