Shane Delia is no fly-by-night fan. When he says he loves the The Notorious B.I.G, he loves the The Notorious B.I.G. “When I was a kid, I loved him so much my brother bought me number plates that said ‘BGPOPA,’” he laughs. “They were so tacky. I copped a lot of shit, but I loved it.”
So devoted to the memory of the late Christopher Wallace is Delia, he’s naming a restaurant in his honour. Biggie Smalls, opening on Smith Street this December, is Delia’s take on an upmarket kebab joint. It’s a casual counterpoint to Maha, a place where Delia can kick it with the homies. “I haven’t had an outlet to do easy, cool food. I love the stuff we do at Maha, it’s awesome. But there’s more to me than what we do there,” he says. “I like to hang out with my mates and I wanted somewhere with a better bite to eat, and something better than Carlton Draught on tap.”
Travelling the States to research the new venue, Delia is going for a “‘classic New York diner’” style with tiles and vinyl, veneered panelling and polished alloy. Local architectural and interior design firm, Technē is helping put the place together. “As soon as I looked at the guys from Technē and one was wearing shell-toes, I knew they got it,” he says.
The menu’s not particularly New York, however. It concentrates instead on Delia’s trademark Middle Eastern mash-up. A pithy range of pun-rich kebabs will be on offer, including the East Coast (fried shrimp with harissa and almond hummus, mint and pickled radish), the West Coast (slow-roasted pork belly with maple-syrup hummus, pickled cabbage, sweet onions, hot sauce and mint) and the A-Rab (smoked hummus, slow roasted lamb shoulder, sumac, mint and coriander, pickled cabbage and onion). Each kebab is served on grilled bread brushed with zaatar, quality olive oil and salt, and is available in either New School or Old School configurations – Old School being caramelised garlic yoghurt, New School Kewpie Mayo.
The sides sound equally appealing: chips are served with beurre noisette, preserved lemon, coriander seed and salt, and there’s a barbecue-prawn salad for those in search of something lighter. Obviously, the world doesn’t really need another traditional kebab joint, and Delia doesn’t intend to deliver one.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel. Meat and pickles in a bit of bread have been sold on street corners for thousands of years,” he says. “But there’s nothing traditional about Biggie Smalls. I’m not very good at cooking traditional food.”
He’s not mixing cocktails (but there’ll be gin and juice, naturally) and all the beer is in cans. But perhaps most importantly, Delia intends to keep it cool: “I don’t want it to be TGI Fridays or the Hard Rock Cafe,” he says firmly. “There’s not going to be any pictures of anyone up, and I’m not going to have Tupac Tuesday.”
So now you know.
Biggie Smalls is scheduled to open at 86 Smith Street, Collingwood in December 2015.