The Thirsty Travellers don’t travel south of the Sydney Harbour Bridge too often these days … unless we’re heading to the airport … but we couldn’t resist an invitation to try out Coogee Pavilion’s newly opened middle floor.
The space lay empty for the past five years, but owner Justin Hemmes has finally written his “love letter to Coogee” with one of Merivale’s most ambitious projects to date.
The second level includes three unique venues – restaurant Mimi’s, cocktail bar Will’s and wine and tapas bar Una Más.
As per the other two levels, the menus on the middle are shaped and guided by executive chef Jordan Toft (Bert’s, Bar Topa) and offer different spins on Mediterranean heart dining, through an Australian lens.
The restaurant takes its name from Justin’s mum, Merivale Hemmes, who is affectionately known by her family as Mimi, while the cocktail bar, Will’s, is a nod to her husband Mr John, whose given name was William. Here, they are at home together.
You can perch up at the curved marble bar at Will’s and watch classic drinks being poured, or settle onto a couch to take in the amazing view of Coogee Beach. We decided on a couch and spent a lovely few hours watching people promenade, play beach volleyball and generally enjoy the gorgeous summer twilight.
Under the guidance of bartender Luke Ashton (above), we settled into the elegant space to sip some of his favourite cocktails, while dining on bar snacks.
He and fellow bartender Ben Wainwright have created a distinctly European drinks list, bringing together classic cues from the Italian coastline, with refreshing influences from the local environment, such as rose geranium sourced from a nearby clifftop.
We tasted these cocktails:
High Tide – yellow peach, Limoncello, Rinomato, Beefeater Gin and Prosecco (pictured above).
Bella Bella – yellow nectarine, macadamia, lemon myrtle and Prosecco.
Southerly – rose geranium, aloe vera, coconut water, Beefeater Gin and Lillet (pictured below, right).
Greenleaf – ruby grapefruit, rosemary, Violeticus and Absolut (above, left).
1568 – lemon sorbet, basil, pistachio, Lillet and Prosecco.
Capitano – Havana Club 7yo, Punch Abruzzo, Gran Classico and smoked olive.
Ginger’s favourite was the High Tide, as it was so light and refreshing, with delicious fresh fruit. Mel loved the Capitano (below), which is a bold concoction filled with strong, slightly bitter flavours.
We didn’t get a chance to sample many items on the bar menu, but our favourite snack was the squab bun with black pepper and sour cream.
We’re keen to pop next door to try the adjacent Una Más tapas bar on another visit. As we walked past on a Monday night at 9.30pm, the place was heaving with happy patrons.
While we didn’t sip any on our visit, the wine list at Will’s is curated by Adrian Filiuta (Bert’s), featuring over 600 bottles from the mimi’s cellar. Chablis is the star of the show, supported by a wide selection of new generation wines and iconic Australia producers.
Nonetheless a delicious experience that we’d be happy to cross the Bridge to enjoy again soon.
Coogee Pavilion Middle Floor, 130a Beach Street, Coogee
Mimi’s Monday – Thursday: 12-3pm, 6.30pm-10pm Friday to Sunday: 12pm-3.30pm, 6.30pm-10pm
Will’s Sunday-Thursday; 12pm-12am Friday-Saturday: 12pm-2am
Una Mas Sunday – Thursday: 12pm-12am Friday – Saturday: 12pm-2am