As the sun sets on Moon Under Water, Ricky & Pinky is set to rise at Melbourne's Builders Arms Hotel.
You can't accuse Andrew McConnell of being any kind of slouch in naming his establishments. As saddened as we may be by the loss of Moon Under Water, the restaurant at the Builders Arms named for a pub dreamed up by George Orwell, its replacement, a new Chinese eatery, has a name with some sparkle: Ricky & Pinky. "It's the name of one of Hong Kong's oldest tattoo parlours, down in Wan Chai," says McConnell. Naturally.
Moon Under Water closes on 8 August, and reopens as Ricky & Pinky on the 22nd after some structural renovations that will remove the walls separating the bistro from the public bar. The kitchen will be headed by Archan Chan, a chef who has held senior roles at McConnell's Cutler & Co, Golden Fields and Supernormal restaurants in the seven years since she moved from Hong Kong to Australia, who has just left Sydney Korean eatery Moon Park after a 12-month stint. Moon Under Water chef Josh Murphy, meanwhile, is taking a break from the business.
Chan's experience cooking in Hong Kong will shape the menu in part, says McConnell, but Ricky & Pinky won't be just about Cantonese cooking or the food of Hong Kong. "It'll have all the dishes that a great Chinese restaurant has to have - ma po tofu, things like that - but also just things we come up with using our existing approach to cooking and produce." None of the dishes from his other Asian eateries, Supernormal or the now-defunct Golden Fields, will be making the trip to Gertrude Street. "No - no lobster rolls, none of that. It's all fresh."
Fish tanks will provide pipis ready to be stir-fried with XO sauce, and McConnell says the team at Meatsmith, his Smith Street butchery, has already been experimenting with making the likes of lap cheong sausage for the restaurant.
Melbourne architects Sibling have come up with a design concept that plays with "the Chinese notion of infinity" that will also incorporate lazy Susans. The pub's front bar, though, will remain sacrosanct. "I think it deserves a heritage listing," McConnell says, adding that he'd also like to retain the signature whipped cod roe on the bar menu.
And what of McConnell's personal connection to the original Ricky & Pinky? "I got my first tattoo there." It's a Chinese "triad-style" dragon, on his lower leg. "I was in my 20s when I got it," he says. "But I was probably old enough to know better."
Ricky & Pinky opens 22 August at The Builders Arms, 211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9417 7700, buildersarmshotel.com.au