In a slumber that ended the tale of his life, Kevin Donovan, the name behind Melbourne’s emblematic St Kilda foreshore restaurant Donovans, took his last breath. The master restaurateur left the world in peace on a Tuesday, at the ripe old age of 68 years.
Donovan, alongside his wife Gail, bid farewell to their beloved culinary masterpiece in August, selling it to Nick Parkhouse, marking the conclusion of a journey that had started almost 26 years prior in 1997. Unfortunately, Kevin had been wrestling with the grasp of a long-term undisclosed illness for some years.
Parkhouse revealed, “Gail had prepared a magnificent final feast, a final sharing of an exquisite moment with her beloved Kevin, creating a grand farewell for him.”
Donovan spent the last quintet of his years in a fight against an undiagnosed disorder that led him to endure conditions typically associated with aneurysms, diminished lung function, and Parkinson’s disease.
Donovans, the restaurant, stands as an emblem of Melbourne’s rich and lavish culinary past, tracing its origins back to the 1920s. It was one of the original trio of bathing houses built in that era. The block was refurbished in the 1980s, revolutionizing it into Jean Jacques By the Sea before being acquired by the Donovans a decade later.
Donovan revealed in 2018 that he first met Gail in 1986, upon relocating to Australia to work at the newly opened Grand Hyatt hotel. The couple continued on to steer the helm of Chinois, a restaurant in South Yarra, before fulfilling their long-cherished desire to open Donovans.
While the renowned St Kilda locale bears many tales, one especially dramatic incident in 2014 saw a massive conflagration tear through the structure, causing more than $400,000 worth of damage. However, dedicated patrons continue to journey from all corners to indulge in the restaurant’s celebrated seafood offerings.
“Donovan’s Restaurant mourns the loss of Kevin Donovan, we are deeply saddened,” pens wine historian and writer, Michael Hince on social media, reminding the world of the legacy left behind by Donovan and his wife, Gail, who together made Donovans into one of the most loved and frequented eateries of Melbourne since its inception in 1997.
Musical artist Uone wrote, “Grateful for the years of fantastic cuisine, wine, laughter, guidance, and especially for providing a podium for inspirational leadership,” fondly looking back at unforgettable conversations about Bob Dylan and memorable Christmas parties.
Even a bookkeeping company, Hospo Books, took to their social media to pay homage to Kevin Donovan. “Our heartfelt condolences, support, and love go out to the entire team at Donovan’s, to Gail, and to Nick Parkhouse.”
Kevin Donovan’s legacy will be remembered by those who knew him personally and those who were mere appreciating patrons of his establishment. His story leaves an indelible mark on Melbourne’s dining scene.