Six months ago it started as an online takeaway project. Soon, it will help create a miniature precinct.
When Happy Boy’s Cameron and Jordie Votan launched Kid Curry in April, it was less about creating a Covid-friendly online restaurant and more about keeping their staff employed during a global pandemic. This coming January, though, Kid Curry will become bricks and mortar, joining Happy Boy and its popular sister venue Snack Man under the fairy lights on East Street in Fortitude Valley. The new restaurant is moving into the old Project Store space, its launch accompanied by a redevelopment of the three venues’ outdoor areas, making them more al fresco friendly.
“The word precinct is kind of loaded,” Cameron says. “Fish Lane and Howard Smith Wharves – those things are built around other kinds of commercial priorities. What we have is a chance to create a space where people can come and spend their whole night with us without any fear of not being able to get in. Also, everything is of a certain quality that people can trust. I think that, in a way, creates a precinct.”
When Happy Boy first moved to East Street in 2017, it was an outpost not too dissimilar to the original Spring Hill restaurant. But since then The Calile and Ada Lane (Same Same, Gelato Messina, SK Steak & Oyster) have opened, expanding James Street’s food footprint to the point where wandering over Ann Street to East Street is part of a normal night out.
It reflects the new bifurcation of the Valley. The suburb’s food and nightlife scenes are increasingly going their separate ways – the clubs marshalled around Brunswick Street in the south, the restaurants towards James Street in the north. If you’re an eatery up the hill closer to the mall, you tend to be something more specialised or singular: rooftop grazing at Maya, exclusive omakase-style dining at Joy, late night pasta at Eterna, or even later night pasta at Uh Oh Spaghettio.
“When we came down here [with Happy Boy] I didn’t even know The Calile was happening,” Cameron says. “There were a couple of venues around doing good things, and soon enough some other people popped up.
“It’s just continued. Good things attract other good things and that’s given us the confidence to step into the other two spaces, for sure. James Street has its pros and cons and the [centre of] the Valley has its pros and cons. At East Street you can come and have a really beautiful beginning or end of the night and interact with the other two places as much or as little as you like.”
The timing of Kid Curry’s April debut also allowed the Votan brothers to link up with chef Tom Swapp. Swapp, former executive chef at Yandina’s celebrated Spirit House restaurant, was well placed to implement the Votan brothers’ initial idea of a simple selection of curries that took inspiration from across the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. At the Kid Curry restaurant, Swapp will expand the menu with new dishes – think fragrant salads and grilled street food that capture the flavours of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
“Both the beauty and the challenge is that the wider region is defined by migration,” Cameron says. “You go to Bangkok and a lot of the street food is Chinese. You go to Indonesia or Malaysia and there’s a lot of Indian influence. There’s an Arabic influence throughout some of the islands of Indonesia.
“Curry was a good way to bring that all together … but there’s so much more to these cuisines than just curry. So the menu will be more balanced.”
Wine, as always with the Votans, will be a big focus, with Kid Curry pouring natural and non-traditional drops. The idea, Cameron says, is for the wines to be refreshing and vibrant “with enough body to hold up against those powerful flavours of Southeast Asia.”
As for the fit-out, the Votans’ regular architect Nielsen Jenkins has designed a venue that's more intimate than the open spaces of Happy Boy and Snack Man, with 45 seats inside complemented by another 40 outside under the trees.
“We’re going to have more booth seating and a big communal table,” Cameron says. “It’ll be an open kitchen – Tom prefers to see out and feel the rhythm of the room. There’ll be a lot more intricacy to what we do there in terms of the flavours and techniques, and a higher level of service. It’s pretty exciting.”
Kid Curry will open in late January.