Can anything slow Sydney's feverish restaurant expansion? Winter is usually a time for bunkering down, but a rash of openings and reopenings is gripping the city. Justin Hemmes, the man with more launches under his belt than NASA, opens Bar Topa today, just weeks after swinging open the doors on Queen Chow Manly. And he's not done yet.
Bar Topa, which he says was inspired by a trip to San Sebastian, is a nod to the tapas genre, with room for 40 standing customers and just a smattering of bar stools in a space that uses dark timber, terracotta-coloured walls and green terrazzo bar tops to create a rustic mood.
Former Felix head chef Lauren Murdoch and executive chef Jordan Toft have collaborated on a simple menu that includes lightly sauteed chicken livers, and cuttlefish with parsley, garlic and olive oil.
Meanwhile their boss is toiling on his own menu for more restaurant launches. Work on the mid-level eatery at Coogee Pavilion is close to starting, and Hemmes says he's planning another two food venues, one in an existing Merivale property and another – if the deal gets over the line – in a soon-to-be-acquired property.
Persistent rumours he's been circling the Woollahra Hotel and its Bistro Moncur restaurant appear to be off the mark, with Hemmes saying he has enough on his plate in the area with the Paddington, Fred's and Hotel Centennial.
Right now he's excited by the opening of Bar Topa. "I love the idea of people being able meet there for an aperitivo and some sardines on the way to dinner or the theatre."
Open Mon-Wed noon-midnight; Thu-Fri noon-1am; Sat 5pm-1am.
4 Palings Lane, Sydney, 02 9114 7368, merivale.com.au/bartopa