The Merivale show comes to Coogee this week, with the company reopening the Beach Palace on Thursday as the Coogee Pavilion, and we've got the inside word on the menu. The site will eventually be home to multiple eateries as the upper levels open, but for now, the ground floor restaurant alone offers a pretty strong incentive to check it out.
Chefs Zac Sykes (late of The Fish Shop and Felix) and Jordan Toft, an Australian who made his name cooking at The Eveleigh in Los Angeles, have come up with a big menu that's a bit like Papi Chulo meets The Fish Shop, at once approachable and a celebration of all things seafood. It's straighter than the places which Dan Hong has had a hand in, but doesn't want for interest.
"What we're trying to do is not create any hurdles for the guest," says Toft. "A lot of the food is really simple so the customer can build the experience they want. So if they just want snacks, there [are] small plates… but then there are also bigger dishes...dry-aged meat and whole fish for sharing."
The raw/cured section lists scallop crudo with yuzu, mandarin and Japanese seven-spice, for instance, alongside cobia done in the Hawaiian style with chilli, radish, avocado and lime.
There's plenty of Instagram-bait in the snacks section, meanwhile, whether it's the fried chicken sandwich with pickle slaw or the mini lobster roll, and Sykes' experience with fruits de mer at Felix doubtless comes in handy when they're assembling the Coogee seafood platter: half a lobster, half a mud crab, four bugs, a dozen oysters, half a dozen prawns, raw scallops and scampi, served with dipping sauces "and loads of lemon".
Anyone who loves mayonnaise is in for a treat, too: with at least 10 mayos and aïolis on the menu, this might be a record, even for Merivale.
For those keen to dine rather than just eat, we're tipping the likes of the flathead tail for two with green-garlic salsa and winter purslane, and the salad of Brussels sprouts, grated egg and avocado as likely hits, and we're loving the sound of the breakfast menu written by former Chez Panisse chef Danielle Alvarez, not least for its smoked ocean trout board with rye bread and herbed Willowbrae goat's curd.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily plus a coffee cart, juice bar, pizza, pétanque and table-tennis? For Coogee, at least, it sounds like a win.
Coogee Pavilion, 169 Dolphin St, Coogee, NSW, (02) 9240 3000.
Looking for more Sydney dining options? Check out our list of the best restaurants in Sydney.