From the outside it doesn’t look like much. The windows on the corner shopfront at Peel and Currie streets are covered in grime and dirt. The old light box above advertises a long-gone convenience store.
But in a matter of weeks, a new restaurant will emerge from the dust of the sanders and table saws working feverishly inside to transform the spot.
Extra Chicken Salt is the latest project from Peter De Marco and Phillip Tropeano, who also run Chicco Palms, Pizza e Mozzarella Bar, Borsa Pasta Cucina and Chicken & Pig.
The 210-seat restaurant and bar will serve rotisserie chicken and other classics ripped from the menu of a ’70s chicken or fish’n’chip shop, to take away or dine in. “We are doing a lot of old-school sort of cooking,” says De Marco. Including the classic ’70s hors d’oeuvre: vol-au-vent.
The brief recalls short-lived chook shop Joybird, which promptly shut earlier this year after only six months of operation. But De Marco isn’t fazed. “This isn’t in the suburbs,” he says, the duo confident the CBD location will offer a wider variety of customers.
The product will differ, too. De Marco has been working with a chicken farmer in the Mid North town of Riverton to raise corn-fed chickens. Chickens bred on corn grow slower than the average bird but produce a more appetising colour, taste and texture, he says.
He’s also invested in a $70,000 French-imported rotisserie that can cook the birds for longer and at lower temperatures, using gas and brick heating.
De Marco is also fine-tuning the chips, and says he did “a lot of research on potatoes” to get them to cook for longer. He reckons people usually want the extra crunchy chips at the bottom of the bag from the local chicken shop, and wanted to provide more of what he calls the “shit bits”.
The two-level restaurant will double as a bar in the evenings, with DJs spinning records from Thursday to Saturday nights.
De Marco designed the interior alongside Black Rabbit architects. Dimco Building, with fit-out specialists Remington Matters, is turning it into a reality.
Expect a loving tribute to the ’70s with all the trimmings – including animal-print carpet and bright green counter tops. The entrance will recall the classic fish’n’chip shop counter. Dine-in customers will be directed towards a mock coolroom, where a “secret” door opens to the restaurant. “I wanted to have a bit of fun with it,” says De Marco.
A newly built mezzanine level will hold more diners and, together with the double-height glass windows, provide a view to the surrounding heritage buildings. There’ll also be a large outdoor dining area. “It’ll have as much outdoor space as the rest of Peel Street collectively,” says De Marco.
Extra Chicken Salt is expected to open in December.