Not too long after saying goodbye to Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman’s six-month pasta party Mr Liquor’s Dirty Italian Disco at the Tennyson Hotel, we learn Merivale has recruited another innovative Sydney team to roll out a concept – this time led by ACME co-owner Mitch Orr.
Kingdom of Rice, a Cambodian street-food pop-up, is poised to take Pinbone’s place for a six-month residency from October. It’s bringing lots of skewers and Southeast Asian flavours to the table, and of course more of the venue’s notorious good vibes. “The space was the reason we wanted to do it,” says Orr about the former drive-in bottle shop layout, which lends itself well to a party.
While the roller door will remain, as will the mismatched furniture and large communal tables, Orr plans “to keep it pretty true to what the markets in Cambodia look like … the streets of Phnom Penh … bringing in a lot of greenery and bright colours.
“[Cambodian] is something that’s not really common in Sydney, so it’s a good chance for us to bring that to the forefront,” he says.
To help him explore Khmer cuisine, Orr has enlisted the help of ACME’s formidable frontman Cam Fairbarin, head chef Lillia McCabe (ex Singapore’s Blackwattle chef) and Sophia Thach, who will lead the front of house.
The menu will feel like taking a culinary cruise through Cambodia and will channel the tastes the team experienced on their travels. There will be fresh seafood cooked over charcoals and in the woodfire oven, and wok-fried meat and vegetables. A Cambodian paste made with lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, galangal, garlic and chilli, and another called prahok (crushed, salted and fermented fish pasta), will be found in most dishes. There will also be lots of herbs, lime and pepper.
The walk-in wine fridge, which allows you to pick your own drinks, is staying put, but you can also expect a decent selection of Cambodian beer and Southeast Asian-inspired cocktails served in fresh coconuts.
Merivale director Justin Hemmes added the $37.5 million pub in Mascot to his empire in December last year and this is the second concept to be rolled out there. The front pub remains lo-fi and Merivale says there are no plans for any major refurbishments.
Kingdom of Rice is slated to open in October for a six-month residency.