Chef Lauren Murdoch is back in the Merivale fold with a new tapas bar

SuppliedBar Topa

Prodigal daughter Lauren Murdoch opens a new restaurant for Justin Hemmes’ Merivale empire today – a tapas bar underneath the Ivy hotel complex.

Murdoch first established her reputation at Merivale with Lotus (now The Fish Shop) in Potts Point more than a decade ago, before going on to open Ash St Cellar and Felix when the Ivy development rolled out. She would later win more hats in the Good Food Guide as the chef at the Three Weeds in Rozelle before returning to the Merivale fold earlier this year.

Her latest project, Bar Topa, on Palings Lane, is a small tapas bar with room for just 40, mostly standing.

Murdoch’s developed the menu with Jordan Toft, Merivale’s go-to exec chef for venues such as Berts at The Newport and Coogee Pavilion, with a view to a pan-Mediterranean style rather than strictly Spanish.

Hemmes last month took Toft, fellow chef Dan Hong, Merivale’s head sommelier Franck Moreau and food and beverage director Frank Roberts on a whirlwind dining tour of Spain and some of Europe’s greatest restaurants ahead of the launch of Bar Topa and Toft describes the new venture as “the perfect pit stop for someone on the go”.

Taking their inspiration from the pintxos bars of San Sebastian and the Basque region, the bar will offer small dishes such as jamón on crisp bread and whipped salted cod, displayed on the counter, so you just point at what you want. Other dishes are cooked “a la plancha” (the grill) such as cuttlefish with parsley, garlic and olive oil, and whole sardines, alongside sautéed chicken livers, patatas bravas and grilled vegetables.

The drinks are offering in half-size pours, from $8 cocktails to $4 beers, as well as sherries, sangria and a dozen wines.

Bar Topa is open weekdays from noon for continues service until late, and on Saturday evenings.

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