Light up: The Smoking Panda is a small bar-restaurant that isn't about smoking.
Light up: The Smoking Panda is a small bar-restaurant that isn't about smoking.

Scott Bolles

First there was new Chinatown arrival The Bear, and from October 15 it will be joined by The Smoking Panda. Designer Paul Kelly channelled 1970s American-Chinese suburban restaurants "mixed with a small bar" for the Smoking Panda, which opens on the first floor of the Hotel Coronation on Park Street.

The menu, created by Danny Russo and former Aria chef Roy Ner, includes prawn toast and duck spring rolls. The fried ice-cream won't have a 1970s flavour to it, with the dish updated with green tea ice-cream. The cocktail list is long, and Kelly believes it will be part of a wave of "tired upstairs pub spaces transformed into proper small bars".

With an interior that includes a tank of glowing jellyfish, Kelly didn't have it all his way with the furnishings. "We had to move letters on the neon smoking sign we made so it wouldn't be seen as advertising," he says.