After calling last orders in October at Billy Kwong in Surry Hills, chef Kylie Kwong has opened the doors to Billy Kwong’s new location – a larger space in Macleay Street Potts Point.
“We’re all just so excited,” says Kwong. “But there’s also a lot of history here and it’s important to remember where we’ve come from.”
The new venue (previously Arun Thai) seats 140 guests in a long space thoughtfully designed by George Livissianis (The Apollo, Cho Cho San, Longrain), with dining-room seating at front and back, bar seating stretching down the middle and the whole space exposed to the workings of the open kitchen.
“We have our beautiful central kitchen bench which I’ve always wanted. It’s my dream,” says Kwong, indicating everything from the wok stations and steaming stations to the Young Henrys Quandong Saison brew on tap at the bar. Artworks with deep significance to Kwong adorn the walls, including a yak skull from Tibet and works by local icons Brett Whiteley and Martin Sharp, while strategic shelves hold glass ghosts by Kwong's partner, Nell, and objet d’art from the old site. But it’s not just the knick-knacks and enormous drum lantern that have made the transition to the new space. “We’ve got the Crown Street menu, because everyone loves that and it works,” says Kwong, acknowledging the importance of familiarity.
The much-loved classics that will feature on the menu include home-style fried eggs with Kwong’s house XO sauce, white cooked chicken with tamari, and delicate steamed prawn wantons. Diners can also expect to see Kwong’s famous Australian-Chinese dishes on the menu such as red-braised wallaby tail with black bean and chilli, and crisp-skinned duck with Davidson’s plum.
But there are plenty of new aspects too. “We’re doing new things like steamed mini pork buns, fried wild weed cakes with Chinese red vinegar and weeds that I’ve collected from around the local gardens.”
The doors officially opened on Friday December 12, and Kwong has been busy working with local ingredients and forging collaborative relationships for her focus on sustainable produce. From honey supplied by The Wayside Chapel bees, to vegetables and herbs from the St. Canice’s rooftop kitchen garden and Woolloomooloo Community Garden, Kwong is diligently engaging with the local community of her expanded Chinese eating house. Just one example is the new offering of olives, a nod to both her business collaboration with Italian restaurateur Andrew Cibej (121BC, Vini, Berta), as well as her own Chinese heritage.
“Olives are traditionally eaten and grown in China … it’s true,” says Kwong. “So I wanted to offer them instead of peanuts both as a reflection of my new partnership with Andrew and also because it’s in context. Because we do eat them in China.”
Marinated in lemon myrtle from The Wayside Chapel and with lemons from the families of boarding students at St Vincent’s College, it’s testament to Kwong's mantra of celebration, collaboration and community.
In addition to the new kitchen space and menu items there are some other key upgrades that Kwong is thrilled about.
“We have chairs with backs, a booking system and good acoustics … all the things we never had in Crown Street. And a beautiful bar offering,” she says, indicating the 18-metre native Jarrah wood bar that borders the kitchen and fills the space with its fragrance.
“I said to George that I wanted it to be as if you were coming into my home and my kitchen. I didn’t want any separation, so you feel like you are in the kitchen. He’s achieved that. It’s completely open and transparent. This is who we are.”
Billy Kwong is now hiring. Find out more on Scout, Broadsheet's new employment website.
Shop 1/28 Macleay Street, Potts Point
(02) 9332 3300