Since Totti’s opened in the back of no-frills Bondi pub The Royal last December, fans of Mike Eggert (Mr Liquor’s Dirty Italian Disco, Pinbone) and his innovative spin on Italian food have travelled from across Sydney to get their fix. Soon, though, there’ll be another spot to eat the pufferfish-like bread and house-made antipasti that have brought the diner such acclaim. Merivale, which owns Totti’s (as well as more than 60 other venues in Sydney), is bringing the concept to the CBD in bar form.
It’s part of the hospitality giant’s attempt to bring joy back to the inner city. It announced in June it would open four new restaurants in its Ivy precinct to align with the launch of the light rail, which is expected to begin service in December. The first stage of its plan was Little Felix, the offspring and neighbour of French restaurant Felix, which opened in July. There, diners are poured French wine and served charcuterie and cheese from a bar piled high with the stuff.
The next is Totti’s CBD. It’s slated to open on George Street in the coming weeks and is expected to be more bar than restaurant. (Yet another Totti’s is planned for a yet-to-be-confirmed date at Rozelle’s 3 Weeds.) Following close on its heels will be Jimmy’s Falafel, a Lebanese eatery and bar opposite Wynyard Station. It’ll be headed by chef Simon Zalloua (ex-Rockpool, The Collaroy), who will craft a vegetarian-friendly menu with plenty of legumes and vegetables, and dishes from a charcoal grill. Jimmy’s Falafel will be split into two parts, with a takeaway eatery at the front and a bar and diner at the back.
The fourth venue, a Mexican diner, is still in the works.
Merivale will be turning several retail sites in the area into hospitality ventures, boosting the number of Ivy laneway venues to 12. Its grand plan is to give people a reason to hang out in the business end of town after 6pm. This week it launched a summer program, with half-price bar meals, free live music, the city’s tiniest disco and plenty of parties to encourage people to make the most of the precinct.