It's a toga shop. No, it's a brothel. No, no, it's a Chinese restaurant.
And actually, it's a Chinese restaurant built from the ground up by the infamous hospitality nomads Pinbone. Inside, among the dulcet tones of angle grinders and belt sanders are a couple of tables, fully set and waiting for the rest of the place to catch up. Chefs Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman have been desperate to get back to cooking Chinese food since working together at Billy Kwong and, when the site came up, they went for it.
The shop, from the outside, is a dingy-looking pile of bricks with a colourful door and a massive "for lease" sign stuck on the front window. "It's the only thing holding the window in place at the moment," says Whiteman. The site, restaurant news nerds, is not in Chippendale, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills or Redfern, but Kensington. "It's got the best food scene but it definitely isn't a destination yet for a lot of people," says Eggert. "It is for us, though. The Indonesian food here is just phenomenal. It isn't like areas like Surry Hills and Chippendale don't thrill us, but the rents definitely don't. And we wanted to do something quick and cheap and fun."
The team are looking to keep the prices low, and the fun factor high. So the restaurant, opening its doors on November 4, will be about $40 or $50 a head, BYO and will seat about 40 or 50 people. The menu will change regularly, too. "Throughout the week," says Mike, "we're going to try and keep the menu really produce-driven. I know that's really cliche and every douche bag says it but, for instance, if we've got these little redspot sand whiting (today with ginger, shallot and bone marrow sauce), we'll put them on the menu.
"We're not exactly reinventing the wheel, we're just bringing it in at a good price point and making it fun and tasty and fresh."
The restaurant will open only four days a week to give the chefs time to hit the fish market and fruit and veg. Everything here is on a small scale. The pair are joined by their business partner/Mike's sister/floor manager Berri who apparently will be doing dishes behind the bar because there's no room anywhere else in the tiny space to fit a dishwasher. "That," she says, "was very sneaky of the kitchen."
When it comes to the interiors, the look of the place (minimal, shades of pink and coral, a bright red awning over the bar) is pretty much fresh out of the Pinbone mindhive. "We basically made a storyboard in our living room at home, grabbing any images from our trips, and we had the theme and the idea previously. And the colour scheme pretty much just came from street walls in Hong Kong that we liked."
Good Luck Pinbone is here for a good time, not a long time. The owners of the building are looking to demolish it in the next 18 months. "Hopefully, if we have good luck and people come, we'll do the 18 months," says Mike. "If we bomb out, though, we'll be done by January."
121 Anzac Parade, Kensington.
Here's a taste of Good Luck Pinbone, coming at you from November 4 ...
T-bone, grilled on the binchotan with a furikake-style butter of sesame, brown onions, garlic, shallots and seaweed
Stir-fried bitter melon with roasted onion oil
Braised lotus root in master stock with Chinese soy
Good Luck chilli crab, female blue swimmer crabs with a sauce made of their own eggs
Chicken wings on the hibachi, glazed with honey
Stir-fried sprouted Chinese greens
Pickled jicama with Sichuan pepper
Fried rice, lardo, garlic stem, egg
Baby bamboo stems with blackbean and chilli
Stir-fried pipis with white pepper, butter and Chinese celery and garlic
Boiled peanuts, because they're awesome