Jason Scott, co-founder of Sydney's Swillhouse group, is partnering with chef Robert Marchetti to open a big bar and restaurant in New York.
What's the natural progression after opening a string of highly successful bars in Sydney, then branching out to Brisbane, circling back to Sydney to open an even more celebrated restaurant, and opening a little something in Merimbula on the side?
If you're Jason Scott, the co-founder of such scene-defining venues as Shady Pines, The Baxter Inn, Frankie's and Restaurant Hubert in Sydney, plus Lefty's Old Time Music Hall in Brisbane, and Dulcie's Cottage on the New South Wales south coast, it's going large on the corner of Broome and Centre, just on the border of New York's SoHo and Nolita.
Scott signed the lease on the property today. He hopes to start work on 1 May, and have the doors open on a 120-seat restaurant with a 140-seat bar in the basement by November. He's spent a lot of time in the city of late ("I was there three months last winter and looked at about 80 venues") but the story started when Scott lived in New York in 2001 and 2002. "I just loved the city," he says. "It's been like an old lover who you haven't said goodbye to properly. Every time I saw it on TV I'd get this pang. It never left me."
American restaurants and bars have long been a source of fascination for Scott and his partners. "Obviously we've drawn quite a bit from the history of American bars and saloons in our venues," he says. "I've always thought of Hubert as more of a New York restaurant in inspiration than something Parisian."
But what does he make of the typically brutal reception New Yorkers have given to out-of-towner restaurateurs? "I find that… challenging and exciting," he says. "But we're not here to break the mould. We just want to share what we like in restaurants."
Scott's partner in the business will be Robert Marchetti, currently consulting for restaurants across the QT hotel chain, and best known for his cooking at Icebergs Dining Room & Bar and North Bondi Italian Food.
The venue will open from 7am to 2am seven days, and the food will be Italian-Italian, says Scott. It won't be about the knowing curveballs of Restaurant Hubert, or the Middle Eastern mash-ups of Marchetti's last Italian venture, Neild Avenue. No foams, no smears and no nori on the one hand, but no red-sauce retro either. "There'll be pasta, there'll be grills. It's not going to look tricky or taste tricked-up."
Produce and freshness will be the kitchen's calling cards. "A really good piece of fish on a plate with a wedge of lemon, say, or saffron angel-hair with sustainable tuna, Ligurian olives and tomato."
Downstairs the bar will be styled like "a giant wine cellar", and the bar menu follows suit with the likes of Amarone risotto. Cocktails will not be in short supply. "If you like the Baxter Inn you're going to like what we're doing in New York."
And the tunes? Scott's ultra-fine-tuning of his playlists might rival that of even sometime Shady Pines customer David Chang. At the New York venue, he says he's thinking it's all about the progression from jazz to the birth of soul with some detours into blues along the way. "No Rat Pack."
Scott says he and Marchetti will both be on the tools. "I'll be on the floor and Rob will be cooking. We made a deal before we got into this - we're backing it 100 per cent and we're going to be present, because we really care about making it work. It's not a fly-by-night thing. We're just offering good old-fashioned service and clean, good-tasting Italian food."
And why Nolita? The corner site, which used to be home to Southside and Brinkley's at 406 Broome, has lots of foot-traffic, Scott says. "We could've opened something in Bushwick and hoped that people would come and find us, but Rob and I just aren't that cool."
406 Broome St, New York; opening November 2018