When Broadsheet meets Hnly co-owner Angela Papas (Diaspora Kouzina) on what was to be the venue’s opening night, we’re quickly slid a mint and lime “mock-jito”, accompanied by an explanation that the liquor licence has been delayed. The hold-up pushed the opening date back a couple weeks, but the restaurant will finally open to the public tomorrow. In the meantime, the kitchen and front of house staff have been getting a few miles on the clock, with dry runs for friends and family.
What Hnly lacks in vowels, it makes up for in location and style (and then some). Sipping fizz while the sun sets over Henley sand, it’s clear why Papas and the team – Peter Louca (Louca’s Restaurant, Diaspora) and George’s on Waymouth namesake George Kasimatis – undertook the mammoth task of transforming a pair of apartments into a restaurant. The spot is too good not to share.
The project was made much easier by onboarding designer Ryan Genesin of Genesin Studios (Never Never Distillery, Sol, Antica Pizzeria e Cucina). “He nailed the brief without us even giving him a brief,” says Papas.
From an oversized doorway off Henley Square, you enter a plush, second-storey dining room with generous north and east-facing balconies. Sandstone and soft furnishings make the space feel sophisticated – like the linen suit you’d wear to lunch on the Costa Del Sol. On the doorstep of the square and with the Ramsgate Hotel opposite, the build’s acoustics were a major focus. An insulated ceiling, furnishings and curtains dampen noise from outside to maintain the venue’s relaxed vibe.
The group was originally hunting for a space to open a Greek restaurant in Norwood. When the seaside site became available – set above one of Adelaide’s most established Greek eateries, Estia – they quickly rethought the concept. “They [Estia] are our landlords,” Papas laughs. “We really didn’t want to butt heads with them, so we’re sticking to a Mediterranean theme – which is still within the parameters of what we do. Seafood is obviously our forte, and George’s has that Mediterranean experience, so it’s all very fitting.”
In the kitchen is head chef Ricardo Plazola (formerly at Allegra Dining Room) with support from Louca’s executive chef, Grant Schooling.
When asked to pick a standout from the menu, Papa’s eyes dart straight to the entrees. “The chefs have done a really good job with the Harvey Bay scallops,” she says. They’re accompanied by a simple kohlrabi remoulade and finger limes, and served in a half-shell. Other starter combinations include Kin Southern bluefin tuna with basil, pistachio, black radish, chilli and pecorino, and a Tasmanian salmon paté with olive crumb, red onion and dill, served with sourdough.
Mains include some familiar dishes such as Coopers beer-battered whiting – from Ceduna – and a Port Broughton blue swimmer crab spaghettini with chilli, tomato and lemon. If you’re not swayed by the sea air, there’s a 500-gram rib eye with béarnaise, a roast chicken with chimichurri and potatoes, and more. Carrots have been elevated to the mains selection – with roasted heirloom varieties served with rainbow chard, fava bean hummus and burnt onion.
Seafood will also dominate the specials board – in-season whole fish, say, or fresh ceviche – courtesy of Queensland fisherman Chris Bolton. “Chris fishes late in the afternoon and ships by the morning, so it’s less than a 12-hour sea-to-plate turnaround,” Papas says. Bolton’s “surprise box”, delivered a couple of times each week, keeps the chefs on their toes. “We don’t know what we’re going to get until he fishes and sends it,” Papas says.
If you’d rather someone else steered the ship, opt for the four-course chef’s selection menu at just $68. A separate, snacky menu is served on the balcony. There are oysters, goat’s cheese and truffle arancini, tuna tonnato, and other bites. “People on the balcony will be able to order food and drinks via a QR code, so they don’t have to line up at the bar,” Papas says.
Level 1, 253a Seaview Road, Henley Beach
(08) 8463 0880