Justin Hemmes is opening an 'Italian disco' pop-up restaurant in a bottle shop near Sydney airport

Pinboners Jemma Whiteman and Mike Eggert are going Italian for Merivale. Photo: Kai Leishman

The first hint you get that the art deco Tennyson hotel, near Mascot airport, isn’t your normal Sydney pub is the $9 “deluxe” garlic bread with “whipped ricotta and napoli sauce”.

It’s part of the Merivale empire, which Justin Hemmes paid a record $37.5 million for just before Christmas last year, which means even he has to sell a lot of garlic bread to get his money back.

But Hemmes has come up with a side hustle involving chefs Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman, of Pinbone fame, turning the Tennyson’s drive-in bottle shop into 90 seat American-style Italian restaurant for six months from October.

Mr. Liquor Dirty Italian Disco is the name of the duo’s latest residency following stints at 10 William Street and more recently 10 months of Chinese in Kensington, Good Luck Pinbone.

Eggert describes the new project as “warehouse Italian, very New York”.

“We’ll be cooking from a big wood-fired oven and grill. It’s going to be fun and fast, simple and delicious,” he says.

Think bruschetta, pasta and wood-roasted meats, after grabbing booze from the walk-in fridge and ordering at the counter.

“We want it to feel like you’re in someone’s garage house party,” Eggert says.

Meanwhile, the pub will keep pumping out its $9.90 steak with chips and salad deal, with Merivale saying there are no immediate plans for a major refurbishment.

Perhaps that’s because Hemmes has been out shopping again, nabbing another Northern Beaches watering hole, The Collaroy, for a rumoured $21 from Mitchell Waugh’s Public House Management Group in an off-market sale.

“The Collaroy is in a truly spectacular location, with sweeping views of the ocean and sand literally at its door step,” Hemmes said in a statement after news of the deal broke.

“This is a really exciting addition to the group, and one that will beautifully complement what we’re creating at The Newport.”

The Merivale empire now spans more than 65 restaurants, bars, pubs, hotels and function spaces in Sydney, employing around 3000 people.

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