In Food + Drink

From Mimi’s To Jimmy’s: A Guide To Merivale’s Newest Sydney Venues

Perched above Coogee’s crunchy coastline now sits one of Sydney’s freshest dining precincts. Below the iconic blue and white dome of the famous Coogee Pavilion, the Merivale hospitality group has embarked on one of its most ambitious projects.

“We felt a responsibility to the grandeur of the building to do something more ambitious and elegant than we’ve ever done before,” says executive chef Jordan Toft.

Toft, of Bert’s (Newport) and Bar Toppa (Sydney CBD) fame, will help oversee a triumvirate of new venues that have been over six years in the making on the Pavilion’s ‘middle floor’.

“We have really poured our hearts into creating three unique venues that were born from our travels throughout the Mediterranean – restaurant Mimi’s, cocktail bar Will’s and wine and tapas bar Una Más. It’s very different from the bottom floor and the rooftop and has been designed to make guests feel like they are somewhere far, far away – a blissful escape by the coast.”

The ternion will look to add a touch of elegance and exuberance to the already heaving beachside destination and will “unite in a spectacular celebration of coastal dining”.

Mimi’s to be a Merivale magnum opus

Mimi’s takes its name from Merivale Hemmes – the matriarch of the Merivale empire – and is set to be the jewel in the Coogee crown. An oasis of cool, calm interiors and big bay windows overlooking the waves, this restaurant rests on a menu seriously skewered on seafood.

“I was inspired by the generosity of regional dining around the Mediterranean – those moments when your heart rate slows down, you’re completely at ease and filled with gratitude for life’s simple pleasures,” says Toft. “What you order from the menu is exactly what you see on the plate.”

“It really is one of the most spectacular venues that Merivale has ever opened, and you immediately get this feeling when you walk in that you are somewhere very special.”

Mimi’s offers up parcels of decadence, from caviar bumps served on the back of your hand – with an accompanying shot of frozen vodka – to barbequed black lip abalone. And whilst each middle floor concept is different and a destination in its own right, they are all shaped and guided by Toft’s cooking philosophy – a simple, yet special style of dining sparked by a Mediterranean heart, through an Australian lens.

“We wanted the dishes to have a simple elegance much like the fit-out. We designed both the menu and the space to have elements of theatre and grandeur.”

Where there’s a Will’s, there’s a way

Alongside the grand and open Mimi’s, sits the diminutive but beautiful cocktail bar that is Will’s.

“Will’s is the handshake venue to Mimi’s,” says Will’s bar manager Ben Wainwright. “And as such, has a responsibility to match a level of service and product at an extremely high standard, whilst managing to maintain an atmosphere of effortless elegance.”

Wainwright says it’s “a cocktail bar through and through” and that it caters to the discerning drinker but also those looking for something approachable, interesting and thoughtful.

“The offering was not designed to challenge the guest but to instead to complement and elevate the experience of dining amongst a breathtaking natural landscape.”

Will’s boasts an exciting menu built around locally sourced produce with hints of European influence.

“Like Charlie Parker’s (Merivale’s Paddington cocktail bar), native botanicals are the hero of a number of the offerings, while oozing a chic, sophisticated and luxurious style like J&M. What really sets it apart is its location on the doorstep of one of Sydney’s most iconic shorelines with uninterrupted views of the ocean.”

One more for the road

Rounding out the trio of new Coogee openings is Una Más, a wine and tapas bar with its own individual flair and style – think crudo and salted pineapple or cauliflower, sheep’s milk, pepitas.

“Una Más is supposed to make you feel like you’re somewhere on the coast of the Balearic or Adriatic,” says Toft. “You’ve been basking in the sun all day and have just made your way from the beach, hungry, and ready to cool off with a chilled glass of vino.

The big, open windows look out onto Coogee beach and you get this amazing breeze coming through which makes you just want to settle in and slowly work your way through the menu, whilst sipping on a vermouth or bottle of chilled red. The name says it all – you’ll just want to keep having one more.”

The fresh new faces of the Ivy precinct

Coogee isn’t the only Merivale location to welcome some new venues this summer. The hospitality juggernaut has been busy re-imagining the Ivy precinct in the CBD too, with a host of cool new haunts dotted around Sydney’s laneways.

One such place is Bar Totti’s – a smaller version of the ever-burgeoning Bondi success story that is Totti’s – that has been transplanted onto George St.

“We have had a fantastic reaction from the corporate and tourist community alike,” says Jake Walsh, Bar Totti’s General Manager. “The fans of Totti’s in Bondi are loving the unique spin that Bar Totti’s offers and the fact that they can pop in for lunch and dinner without having to leave the city. It’s great to see familiar faces and guests enjoying the Totti’s brand across both spaces.”

Yep, there’s the signature wood-fired bread with all the delicious accompaniments like ‘nduja and burrata, plus there’s DJ’s spinning the decks most nights and the doors don’t close til 2am.

Round the corner is Little Felix, a ‘1920s-esque Parisian saloon’, which opened towards the back end of 2019. An offshoot of the French restaurant next door, cocktails are king at this candlelit lounge where parfait and steak tartare are must-order, bite-sized bits of bourgeois.

The response to Little Felix has been incredible,” says venue manager Joseph Stephens. “It’s great to hear from guests that they feel this was exactly what Sydney was missing. We still have so many new guests joining us that aren’t aware that all of our wines by the glass are poured out of Magnum bottles right in front of you – it’s an awesome sight especially the champagne bottles which get the evening started properly.”

Jimmy’s Falafel to join the party

And then there’s Jimmy’s Falafel, which will be opening on George Street in March. It’s set to be a buzzy, casual Lebanese eatery and bar captained by head chef Simon Zalloua, and will be split into two offerings – a takeaway kiosk at the front, and lively bar and diner serving drinks and mezze-shared plates out the back. The menu will be vegetarian-heavy, with falafel taking centre stage.

“Fuelled by a desire and passion to make Sydney the best place it can possibly be,” says Walsh. “Merivale is encouraging Sydneysiders to get out and enjoy their city, providing a vibrant and diverse programme of free live music, laneway surprises, and innovative initiatives in the CBD.”

There are also whispers of a Mexican venue joining the Ivy fiesta in 2020, so watch this space and get on down before everyone else does.

(All images: Merivale / supplied)

Published 10 February, 2020