Bondi favourite Panama House officially opens its doors for the second time tomorrow in a new space in Campbell Parade’s The Pacific building. The Latin American dishes and bottomless brunch are back, alongside a new charcoal oven and some stellar beach views.
The move was “a mix of intention and circumstance”, says owner Geraint Coles, whose new neighbours include QT Hotel, Bondi Beach Public Bar and Saturdays NYC Bondi Beach. Panama House has been on Bondi Road for five years and the team was looking to open a second restaurant, but with the lease up and a space on offer at one of the suburb’s more stylish addresses, Coles decided to move.
“It was serendipitous really; the stars aligned,” Coles says. “The move means we got to build it from the ground up and it really allowed us to fix it to the exact model we wanted.”
The new restaurant is two-and-half-times the size of the old venue, with seating for 125. It was designed with local stylist Jason Grant and features reclaimed brick walls, ironbark hardwood tables and leather banquettes with a direct line to the marble kitchen. The most popular spot is bound to be the glass balcony overlooking the beach, decked out with timber benches and colourful cushions.
You’ll still find on the menu dishes such as corned beef hash brown and huevos rancheros. The bottomless brunches are there, too, with Mimosas, Bloody Marys or Micheladas flowing from Friday to Sunday.
“Our intention is to be the brunch venue in Sydney,” says Coles, who arrived four-and-a-half-years ago from Los Angeles – home of the bottomless brunch. He was surprised it wasn’t popular here. “The cultural shift has been crazy.”
A bigger space, larger kitchen and better equipment allowed the team to “nudge dinner in more of the creative direction that we wanted,” says Cole. “Dinner is where we’ve turned the notch up a little bit.”
Latin and South American flavours have been given an Australian influence with share plates like slow-roasted mojo-marinated pork belly with celeriac slaw, jalapeno cream, desiccated red chilli and chervil.
Chef Sean Kiely is still in the kitchen, having come onboard four months before the closure of the old venue. “He was a great find,” says Coles. “A lot of South American is pauper-style food and not designed for visual appeal. Sean really applies classic techniques to the recipes, so we give him all the flavours and he polishes them up on the plate.”
A charcoal oven has been installed with plans for dishes such as chargrilled octopus and jerk spatchcock. But issues with council approval mean that, for now, the oven is operating as “a very expensive filing cabinet”. Coles hopes to have approval by the end of summer.
Plans are also in the works for a second venue by the end of the year. “We are looking at a multi-site concept and there are a couple of things on the table,” says Coles. “But for now, we just want to make sure this one gets off the ground.”
180-186 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach