Rob Delica says he's learnt a thing or two over his two decades selling meat to Melbourne's chefs and restaurateurs. So much so, he's decided to give it a go himself. "I got to a stage where I thought, 'I can do this'," he says. "And more importantly: I want to do this."
The result is Woody P, an Italian-slash-Mediterranean restaurant on the Flinders Lane site of Delica's now-defunct nightclub, Fashion Lounge. Set to open in a few weeks, Woody P, co-owned by Pierre Semaan, has signed up Clinton Camilleri as head chef. Camilleri's rustic-with-a-twist Italian food won plaudits at venues such as Lake House, Kyneton's Royal George Hotel and, most recently, the Healesville Hotel.
"I went to a wedding at the Healesville Hotel and I was sitting there with my wife saying, 'This food is amazing'," says Delica. "So I gave Clinton a call and he really liked our concept and jumped on board."
The St Kilda-based wholesaler says he's seen a decline in fine dining over the past few years, so he and Camilleri are taking a back-to-basics approach. "The key for us is casual: price points are designed to be really appealing."
It will be a two-stage opening, with a basement bar set to follow the restaurant in around six to 12 months. Designers Eades and Bergman (Kong, Taxi Kitchen, The Meatball & Wine Bar) have stripped the former nightclub next door to Chin Chin back to its bare bones, exposing brick and allowing plenty of natural light to flow in from a side easement. "One of the big things for me was making it comfortable for people at both lunch and dinner," says Delica. "A lot of restaurants are really good at only one. We've tried to make it light and bright with lots of natural timber."
And the name? "It doesn't mean anything," says Delica. "We wanted something that doesn't set up any expectations. People will hopefully find it catchy and unpretentious."
Woody P opens 25 May.
Woody P, 121 Flinders La, Melbourne, Vic