It’s been almost six years since Merivale transformed the Coogee Beach Palace Hotel from top to tail and turned it into the Coogee Pavilion, one of the city’s busiest and most ambitious venues. Today, the beachfront behemoth’s middle level – a highly anticipated project, more than half a decade in the making – will finally be unveiled to the public.
Head up to the first floor, and you’ll be hit with three distinct spots to get watered and fed. The first and most casual of the trio is Una Más, a wine and tapas bar with space for 50 punters. Whether grilled seafood fresh off the plancha – octopus with fermented habanero, say, or garlic and chilli scarlet prawns – tastes better with sand between your toes can’t be scientifically proven, but this is where to head if you want to find out.
Easy, pocket-friendly drinks are the name of the game, with a line-up of Spritzes, fresh light wines and an emphasis on vermouth, sherry and Madeira. Uncomplicated tapas like individual lamb tomahawks with caper vinegar, fried potatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella served on lemon leaves keep things flexible, making it just as easy to settle in for a full meal as a post-swim snack.
If quenching your thirst is the first thing on the agenda, a spot around the curved marble counter at the Will’s should do the trick. They’re going for a timeless seaside cocktail bar vibe here with breezy, aptly named concoctions like the ‘High Tide’ and ‘Capitano’ that nod to the Italian Riviera by incorporating fresh herbs, seasonal shrubs and ingredients like Prosecco, limoncello and regional Italian herbal liqueurs.
The beverage list, designed by Merivale’s Ben Wainwright (Bert’s, Charlie Parker’s) and veteran barman Luke Ashton (This Must Be the Place), takes plenty of inspiration from nearby, too, with sea blight, pine and kelp all finding their way into the signature Willy’s Martini.
The real showpiece, though, is Mimi’s – a refined restaurant that capitalises on the high ceilings and arched windows with high-res ocean views. Executive chef Jordan Toft’s (Bert’s, Bar Topa) menu is pared back and ingredient focused, headed by a long list of single-serve snacks between $9 and $16; think something as simple as fresh peach with coppa, caramel vinegar and shiso, or a skewer of barbecued black-lip abalone with pancetta and bay.
Fresh, hyper-seasonal produce plays a leading role in the starters section, where you’ll find the likes of raw vegetables with tarmac; roasted sugarloaf cabbage bathed in almond cream; and a Bert’s classic: the epic picked spanner crab with preserved lemon mayo and a soft tin loaf on the side.
You’ll have to walk through the open kitchen to reach the dining room and will likely catch a glimpse (and a whiff) of the shared mains being cooked in the custom Josper ovens on the way. They include a whole John Dory with bottarga, succulents and sake butter and aged whole squab smoky honey, garlic and red chicory.
Should you really wish to splash some cash, you can get the ball rolling with a shot of premium vodka from the circling trolley, accompanied by a “bump” of caviar served straight on the back of your hand. Big-ticket thrills continue on the wine list, curated by Merivale sommelier Adrian Filiuta, where more than 600 bottles compete for your attention – with big-ticket Champagne and Burgundy given star status.
Together, these final pieces to the Pavilion puzzle might just be the hospitality giant’s most personal project to date. Both Will’s and Mimi’s are named after the parents of Merivale CEO Justin Hemmes. His sister, Bettina, has given the three classy, calm and coastal spaces her tried and tested magic touch, with the help of ACME (Fred’s, Archie Rose) and stylist Amanda Talbot, channeling the family's beach property in Narooma on the NSW South Coast.
Let’s face it – we’re never not on the lookout for quality seaside hangouts, especially in the middle of summer. Now, we’ve got three more.
All three new venues on Coogee Pavilion’s middle level – Una Más, Will’s and Mimi’s – open today, January 17, 2020. 130a Beach Street, Coogee 2034. Will’s and Una Más are open Mon-Thu & Sun noon-midnight; Fri, Sat noon-3am. Mimi’s is open Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm & 6-9.30pm; Sat, Sun noon-3.30pm 6.30-9.30pm.
For bookings and more information, visit merivale.com