At some point, almost by stealth, the middle of the Valley became a food destination. Eight years ago, there was little to eat in the densely stacked blocks that surround the intersection of Ann Street and Brunswick Street Mall – you’d have to head down to the Chinese, Vietnamese and Malaysian restaurants on Wickham Street for a decent feed.
But then came Longtime and Fat Dumpling. And Ben’s Burgers and Lucky Egg and The Apo and Umami and Bird’s Nest. And then Little Valley and Joy. Not everything stuck – The Apo, for example, despite the talent involved – but slowly, a precinct best known for its cocktail bars and clubs also become a high-density restaurant spot.
“When I was heading out when I was younger, you wouldn’t even get to the Valley until 1am,” Sam Holman says. “Now there’s this massive shift since the foodie places moved in to going and having dinner at 9pm or 10pm or 11pm and going for a drink somewhere after at 12am.”
Holman and Samantha Fitzpatrick have had front-row seats to watch the transformation. Holman is the former owner of The New Black and Fitzpatrick continues to operate Cakes & Shit out of the back of the same tenancy on the corner of Bakery Lane and Ann Street. They’re embedded in the trio of lanes – Bakery, Wynn and California – that across a couple of blocks form a framework of small restaurants, cafes and bars.
“It’s really vibrant,” Fitzpatrick says. “The number of quality food tenancies popping up in the laneways is really exciting.”
Hence Holman and Fitzpatrick’s decision to take over the beautiful old two-storey tenancy across the lane from Cakes & Shit and turn it into Uh Oh Spaghettio, a late-night, music-fuelled pasta joint. Home to numerous venues over the past five years, most notably The Apo from 2016 to 2018, Holman and Fitzpatrick are keeping Uh Oh Spaghettio simple with a menu of $15 house-made pastas served until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights.
It’s nothing fancy – just good food with a twist served at a good price. You might eat a pepperberry cacio e pepe, a pork and veal pappardelle bolognaise, or a Peroni-infused mac’n’cheese with anchovy gremolata and fermented honey ricotta.
“We’ll have flat-rate pastas at $15 with six varieties that we’re going to do until early in the morning to bring that same vibe where people don’t need to think too much about budget,” Holman says. “They can walk in and just decide to what to eat.
“It’s in a part of the Valley where people want to eat after gigs and so on. And it’s fun in nature, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. We wanted to focus on that quick, fun bubbly vibe and pasta hit the mark.”
The drinks list will also be relatively evenly priced and revolve around natural wines served by the glass, half carafe and bottle, craft beers on tap, and an approachable cocktail menu.
For the fit-out, Holman and Fitzpatrick are complementing the old 19th-century apothecary’s beautiful heritage brick with giant art and a liberal application of neon. The kitchen will be much the same as the venue’s Apo days, but for the addition of a glass-enclosed pasta room.
“We’ve tried to bring in marble and neon and concrete and wrought iron wherever we can,” Holman says. “And light it up with different tones of blue so we can get that fun feel.”
“Music will play a big part,” Fitzpatrick adds. “We’re open until 3am on Friday and Saturday at this point. We’re going to have a DJ playing 9pm to 2am.”
It will be the second late-night pasta joint to open in the Valley in as many months, after Eterna took over the old Longtime space in late July. But Holman and Fitzpatrick are envisioning a much-more freewheeling, bar-forward affair, and it will serve food later into the night.
“We’re really conscious of not being a restaurant,” Holman says. “We want it to be a bar … but you can still get pasta until 2am.”
Uh Oh Spaghettio will open in late September.