The much anticipated new venues from the team behind Sydney’s award-winning cocktail and rum bar The Lobo Plantation, opened in Sydney over the weekend.
Officially launching late last week, Kittyhawk, sits at the top of Phillip Lane in the CBD and is a complete overhaul of the old Bull and Bear site into a 175 capacity, high-volume cocktail bar.
The concept is quite unique and extremely detailed, with co-owners Jared Merlino, Michael Hwang and Eddie Levy, inspired by the Liberation of Paris on August 25 1944. The venue reflects the specific point in history, referencing the cultural melting pot of a city full of freed Parisians and victorious American GIs in everything from the interior and signage to the menu and cocktail list.
The venue is large and the renovated back bar has space for over 900 spirits, with the list being heavily weighted toward rum and rye whiskey. The drinks list was reportedly a full team effort with Groups Bar Manager, Andres Walters, and Groups Operations Manager, Paige Aubort (ALIA’s Bartender of the Year 2015), guiding the process. There is a selection of classics as well as bespoke cocktails that highlight the rum and rye focus, like the aptly named Rum and Rye, or the Memphis Belle. Following with the French focus, there is also an extensive wine and champagne list of over 80 bottles.
The food menu has been designed by head chef Jason Wright (formerly of STEAK Restaurant, P1 Edinburgh) and plays on the Parisian bistro angle, with a twists on recognisable classics such as a mussels vol au vent (with the star ingredient supplied by Kinkawooka Mussels), Scotch eggs with organically farmed duck eggs and smoked aioli, and a Steak Swiss featuring truffle mayo.
According to the team they have specifically worked with local farmers, fishermen and providores to ensure the freshest, sustainable ingredients for the kitchen.
Alex Zabotto-Bentley, from award-winning design agency AZBcreative, collaborated Kittyhawk bringing on the interior styling, and no detail has gone unnoticed. The venue is accessed through antique French walnut doors with cast iron fittings, while the bar area features plenty of bespoke detailing, centred round a 12-metre long, hand crafted American oak bar. No detail has been overlooked with vintage frames, original 1940’s posters and real WWII paraphernalia dotted throughout the rooms. Antique tiles were sourced to custom-make a one-of-a-kind mosaic flooring, while the conservatory are features authentic Parisian bistro lighting for authenticity.
The detail is so complete that even the cocktail menu is designed to resemble a Kittyhawk plane mechanic’s manual.
Jared Merlino also teamed up with business partner Lewis Jaffrey to launch his other venue, Big Poppa’s over the weekend. A different style of venue, this restaurant and bar on the site of Hello Sailor features classic Italian food and cheese, and hip hop music.
While it might seem like a disparate blend of features, the venue is decked out with the same attention to detail – the top level looking more like an extremely comfortable Italian restaurant, while the basement level is darker and more intimate.
Veteran bartender Bobby Carey is behind the bar, serving up a diverse range of cocktails in the basement level bar, while an immaculate mosaic of Biggie Smalls gazes up from the centre of the floor.
The venues have opened at a time when the Sydney bar scene is mourning the loss of some big name venues due to the lockout laws, while small bar offerings have become more creative in order to stay ahead in an interesting market.