There are now five distinct dining and drinking areas open in the grand Coogee Pavilion, which sits at the south end of the beach. The smallest space in the Merivale-owned venue is Will’s, a Euro-inspired cocktail bar that just opened on the recently launched middle floor, next to fine diner Mimi’s and wine-and-tapas bar Una Más (below is the perpetually busy public bar, and above there’s a Mediterranean-inspired rooftop bar).
Will’s shares the same design ethos and colour palette of its two middle-level buddies. There’s tan-coloured leather seating, linen lounges, parquetry flooring, a chic horseshoe-shaped bar and great use of lighting to show off the ceiling’s curves. It’s a smart, easy-on-eye space that has an effortless elegance – ideal for both daytime and night-time imbibing.
And by night, we mean late-night. It’s one of the only venues in the eastern suburbs that has a licence till 3am on Friday and Saturday nights. “It means people can still get cocktails without having to travel into the city, which is really great for the area,” says co-manager Ben Wainwright.
He and Luke Ashton (from now-closed Darlinghurst spritz bar This Must Be the Place) have created a cocktail list that transitions easily from day to night. Wainwright says the venue has a European sensibility – “You know, where there’s not a right or wrong time to have a cocktail” – and drinks that don’t slap you around with big booze or sugar.
“We want people to feel like they can come straight off the beach, so we’ve created vibrant, beautiful fresh-tasting drinks, where you can have two, three or four and not feel like you’re drinking lots of cocktails,” he says.
Like the other two venues on the floor, Will’s celebrates coastal living and a love for the Mediterranean, but it also has a distinct Sydney swagger. Wainwright and Ashton worked with Sydney’s most respected forager, Diego Bonetto, to learn about what’s growing at the local beaches, including Clovelly and Gordons Bay, and each day someone takes a walk to pluck ingredients for the drinks.
The Southerly – named after the cool change that transforms Sydney from a hot mess into a breezy afternoon – is made with foraged rose geranium, aloe vera, coconut water, gin and Lillet.
Other drinks focus on fruit: the easy-drinking it’s-always-summer High Tide (yellow peach, limoncello, Rinomato, gin, prosecco) feels like the perfect accompaniment to a seat at the window, where you can watch waves roll in and people laze on the beach across the road. The list will change as the seasons do, to incorporate what’s fresh and in season.
Martinis are a big deal here, too. It was the favourite drink of the late John Hemmes, the father of Merivale CEO Justin Hemmes, and they thought it would be a nice way to pay tribute to him. (“Will’s is named after my dad,” explains Hemmes. “He was actually called William but changed his name to John because he didn’t like it.”)
Instead of using vermouth and olive brine to make it dry, wet or dirty, they use local coastal ingredients. “The Martini is a blank canvas,” says Wainwright. “Rather than the modifier being vermouth, we decided to use pine, which is found across Sydney’s coastline. We use golden kelp, which is oily and saline-y – the perfect trade for olive brine. For a dry Martini and that sea-spray taste, we use sea blite [which grows on coastal salt-flats and tidal wetlands].”
Many of the snacks you can order here are served at Mimi’s and Una Más, such as the very fine blacklip abalone. It’s skewered on a bay-leaf stalk with salty pancetta, then barbequed on the custom-built Josper grill to give it a hint of smoke.
There’s also roasted chicken-skin cooked crisp and then smeared with anchovy bread sauce; cannoli (made from a labour-intensive process involving leftover bread) served with chicken-liver pate and cherry; and a fried bun filled with squab. The menu has been created by Jordan Toft, who’s executive chef across the Pavilion’s venues.
Middle Level, Coogee Pavilion, 130a Beach Street, Coogee
(02) 9114 7383
Mon to Thu 12pm–12am
Fri & Sat 12pm–3am