The restaurant game transcends food for Aaron Ratanatray, owner of Sunny’s Shop and the adjoining, newly minted Rosemont Hall. Giving diners an experience is as important as what’s created in the kitchen.
Glancing over his pan-Asian, hawker-inspired food hall, it’s clear what he means. We’re struck by its timeworn charm. “It’s a throwback to old-world Shanghai,” he says. “We really wanted [it] to have a bit of romance. We didn’t want to over-design it. So many Asian places are overdone with waving cats and all that.”
There isn’t a single lick of paint to detract from the 1924 building’s original brick and stonework. “It just about designed itself,” says Ratanatray. “It’s all raw, bare beauty.”
Adding to its allure is an aged-copper bar, jade-marble finishes and a mirror made to look antique by artist Tristan Kerr. Zinc-topped tables recall hawker-style dining. Glossy, heart-shaped devil’s ivy coils towards the skylight.
“Dad’s collected a lot of timber over the years,” Ratanatray says. “It’s not stuff you can just pick up at Bunnings.” The bar and cabinetry were fashioned with repurposed cedar and oak.
By day, Sunny’s serves a (mostly) grab-and-go lunch menu, organic coffee and pastries. Come 5pm, Rosemont Hall opens next door. The lunch menu carries over after dark, but a slightly more refined dinner menu is the main event. It’s half South East Asian (from Sunny’s) and half “freshened up” Cantonese (from new stall Mr Chan).
“For a long time Chinese food has had a bad rep,” says Ratanatray. “[Mr Chan] isn’t fine dining, but dishes are nostalgic of your suburban Chinese takeaway – just redone for 2017.”
Hand-picking produce daily allows for regular off-menu specials. “Part of my morning ritual is stopping at the [Pooraka] market to pick up fresh herbs … and the fish market on Grand Junction Road,” he says. Red Emperor is his pick (if he can get it). It’s steamed with ginger, shallot and white soy.
When we dropped in during the hall’s construction Ratanatray promised his cheeseburger spring rolls would blow our minds. He fries a few up. Each bite emulates a Happy Meal.
Liquor licensing is expected early next year. Lo-fi winemakers such as Lucy Margaux, Ochota Barrels and BK Wines will make up a natural-leaning list. There’ll be a few “big-hitter, perhaps more familiar” drops, too.
Cocktails will be Asian-inspired and fruit-heavy (there’s an alcoholic bubble tea in the works). Beer-wise there’ll be four on tap plus a few tinnies.
The hall will eventually morph into a “front bar”. It’ll extend out to an airy atrium that will then house Mr Chan. Ratanatray is also toying with the idea of Sunday yum cha.
106 Prospect Road, Prospect
(08) 8420 0999
Mon to Sat 5pm–11pm