Justin Hemmes is killing off his BBQ restaurant at Manly Wharf and going Cantonese instead

Merivale CEO Justin Hemmes.

Sydney hotels and restaurants maestro Justin Hemmes is shutting down waterfront restaurant in Manly after four years, and will replace it with a version of Queen Chow, the Cantonese eating house launched last year in Enmore’s Queens hotel.

The change is something of a back-to-the-future moment for the Manly Wharf site, which a decade ago served Chinese as part of the Phoenix group.

Merivale’s own ruthless approach to restaurants in the group over the past decade has seen plenty of changes on various sites has Hemmes takes a fashion-like approach to eating out and seeks to move quickly with the market.

Papi Chulo has survived just over four years, having opened in January 2014, serving a mix of South American barbecue and Latino influences, from pea guacamole to smoked meats and charcoal chicken, empanadas and burgers. It will close on April 29.

While there was speculation that a version of chef Dan Hong’s CBD Chinese, Mr Wong, would get the nod – Hong helped set up Papi Chulo – the task has fallen to dumpling guru Eric Koh, who’ll join the venue’s current chef Patrick Friesen in putting together the Manly menu.

Hemmes plans to spend a month revamping the site before reopening as Queen Chow in early June.

“We have had a lot of fun at Papi these past four years, but felt the time was right to evolve the space and its offering,” he said.

“Queen Chow has been a tremendous success in the Inner West, so we’re going to take the very best bits from there and create something really special for Manly”.

Papi Chulo will spend the rest of this month serving a “best of” menu of the venue’s favourite dishes.

In other Merivale news, Hemmes has found a short-term solution for legacy of the late Jeremy Strode’s Bistrode CBD.

Strode, who battled mental illness as well as championing fundraising to tackle the issue, died last year. Last week Merivale hosted a dinner with chefs and suppliers across the city donating their time and goods to raise money for Strode’s family.

In something of a coup for Justin Hemmes, veteran London chef Alastair Little, credited as “the godfather of modern British cooking” will run a pop-up at the level 1 CBD pub site for the remainder of the year.

Little migrated Down Under late last year with his Australian wife, leaving behind his Notting Hill traiteur, Tavola, and was reportedly looking for a site to set up shop locally.

Nikki ToLegendary British chef Alastair Little is opening up in Sydney for Merivale.

The self-taught Brit, who’s been in kitchens since 1965, ran a series of eponymously named restaurants in London in the ’80s and ’90s. His simple approach to cooking influenced the next generation of English cooks, including Strode.

Alastair Little at Hotel CBD will open for lunch and dinner, Monday-Saturday, from April 23.
offering a short, seasonal menu spanning his career and the best of British cooking in dishes such as pepata of mussels, cooked in white wine, chilli and garlic; Autumn vegetable minestrone with porcini, new season’s oil and parmesan; roast crown of duck with an apple, potato and rosemary galette, frisee salad, and vegetable tagine with cous-cous and a chermoula relish.

Little says the Merivale idea is a “dream proposition” and he likes the irreverence of the Australia food scene.

“Nothing is impossible, nothing is too hard. There is no solemnity about Australian restaurants, no hushed temples of gastronomy just enjoyment, often raucous enjoyment,” he said.

“This lack of prejudice and preconception appeals greatly to me”.

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