When mates Chris Cornforth, Rob Teitzel and Os Misirlizade took over Fico Italian restaurant in Balmain at the end of January, they were acting on a dream that they’d had for years while working together at Cabana Bar and Lounge in St Leonards.
After 10 weeks of DIY renovations and an interior revamp by Luchetti Krelle (Momofuku Seiobo, Hinky Dinks and Sake), the boys have unveiled The Cottage Bar & Kitchen. Officially opened in early April, the feel is a mix of colonial, Victorian and modern small bar – complete with a huge, domed pizza oven down the back.
“We inherited the Pizza oven from the last Italian restaurant that was here,” laughs Cornforth. “It can do 15 pizzas at a time. We’ve tried to hide it a bit so that it’s not such a focal point.” But hidden or not amongst the nanna-esque knickknacks and wooden wall panelling, it’s crisping up a range of pizzas that work well with the carefully chosen wine list. Head chef Oscar Vargas (ex-Kingsleys Steak & Crabhouse) is running the kitchen, with share plates of Australian salumi and cheese on offer along with the pizzas.
The age of the building lends itself perfectly to the atmosphere that the boys wanted to create. “We spent two years looking for a location and found a few, but when this came up we couldn’t go past it – it’s such a unique space,” says Cornforth.
With a history dating back to 1890, the cottage-style terrace has spent time as doctor’s rooms, a Japanese restaurant and a string of Italian eateries. The front garden, the veranda, high ceilings and a new attic room full of brightly upholstered, pre-loved armchairs, have created a welcoming small bar. The three owners are regularly in the house and they are working hard to support the intimate feel of the place.
“One of us will speak to every person that comes in – that’s our end goal. It’s homely, warm and welcoming.” So feel free to roll up, because the doors are always open.