Adrian Morrissy knows a thing or two about running a business. Eight years ago he founded takeaway chain Wokinabox. In 2010, he sold the 40-venue-strong brand for a tidy sum.
Now Morrissy is hoping to apply his skills to a more refined venture; his new eatery Pembroke Bar and Kitchen in Surrey Hills.
While Wokinabox produces relatively cheap takeaway stir-fries, Morrissy has now shifted focus to “really good food”.
“That's why I opened this restaurant,” he says. “And that's the reason I want people to come here.”
He was drawn to the Surrey Hills location because of its “small-town feel”, and while the interiors (by design firm Fiona Lynch) are more urbane than suburban, there are parts that feel like an extension of a family home. Cookbooks are piled up on shelves beside bravely unguarded bottles of wine, and cosy banquette seating is dotted with velvet cushions.
Elsewhere, there are dramatic beaten-copper light fixtures, and petite marble counters for two – Morrissy calls them “Tinder tables”. A roomy courtyard has patio heaters, hessian drapery and a transparent roof to keep sunlight trickling in during winter.
The menu began life as “modern Australian with Spanish influences” but morphed with the recruitment of head chef and Greek-Australian Christos Milionis, former sous chef at Tipo 00 and Osteria Illaria.
The result is a concise Mediterranean sharing menu that embraces richness and subtlety in equal measure. There’s kingfish with fennel and grapefruit; gnocchi with burnt-carrot purée; four-hour sous-vide octopus finished over charcoal, served with harissa and skordalia; and braised goat with chickpeas and cavolo nero. For dessert, poached quince with rosewater and pistachio.
The wine list is a mix of Australian and European drops, and there’s Furphy on tap, poured by a friendly, laid-back staff.
“I don't want it to feel too formal,” Morrissy says. “I don't want people to come here and feel like they need to be on their best behaviour.”
Pembroke Bar and Kitchen
147 Union Road, Surrey Hills
(03) 9890 6268
Sun to Thu 12pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–11pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on August 31, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.