The crisp white sands of Tallebudgera Creek seem about as good a place as any to declare that your future lies in Australia.
In late 2019, Manuela Volpe and Kevin Fredes had a very different plan in mind. They’d relocate to Europe, closer to Volpe’s Italian family, with the Sydney-born Kevin building on a long early career working under celebrity chef Miguel Maestre (he would eventually cook as Mastre’s sous chef across the Spaniard’s catering and festival work) to refine his Mediterranean cooking.
But then came the pandemic. Last year the couple were sitting on the beach with their daughter, Marysol, when they decided instead to open their own restaurant in Brisbane.
“‘We cannot go to Europe,’” Volpe says, recounting the conversation. “‘We cannot got to Spain or Italy. We are here. You [Kevin] have a lot of experience, so why don’t we do something for ourselves?’ It was the year of the spaghetti bar and I asked, ‘Why is there not a place like this for Spanish food?’ And that’s how it started. We invented the menu and the look of the place, all on the beach.”
Volpe and Fredes’s answer was Paella Y Pa’ Mi, an intimate 11-table (40-seat) restaurant that will open in late August just off Martha Street in Brisbane's south. The menu, as you might guess, will revolve around paella elevated using fresh local produce and backed by a selection of tapas and appetisers. For wine, there will be a 20-bottle list of hard-to-find organic Spanish drops curated by Melbourne-based sommelier Juan Jurado Gomez. The venue itself will be a crisp clean white and blue dining room that’s intended to reflect the restaurant’s coastal inspiration.
“Our idea is like making it like our living room,” Volpe says. “Every week we have our friends over, and Kevin is cooking traditional food but presented in a refined, beautiful way. That’s our mission [for the restaurant]. It has to be traditional, but beautiful.”
On the appetisers menu there are croquettes, oysters served one of four ways, house-marinated Spanish olives, and roasted almond tostadas. Tapas are intended to rotate but expect dishes such as an orange infused Mallorcan spiral roll with duck pate; chicharrones with quince and cardamon; pickled white carrots with saffron and beetroot puree; and empanadas of the day.
For the paella, Fredes is dishing it up one of four ways: there’s Valencian-style paella with rabbit, chicken, lima beans and green beans; a seafood paella; a seasonal vegetable paella; and a signature Marysol paella that mixes seafood and meat (the Spanish name Marysol means “sea and sun”).
It’s all intended to be approachable, soul-warming stuff, tailor made for its family-oriented Camp Hill-Coorparoo location.
“We like this area. It’s growing,” Volpe says. “If you have family stuck in Europe, you want to cry every day. We – our family – need to wake up with happiness right now … so we distract ourselves with our passion, which is this. All of our passion, or love, our objectives are in this restaurant.”
Paella Y Pa’ Mi will open at 131 Leicester Street, Coorparoo in late August.