When news of Moon Park’s closure broke there were a lot of sad faces in Sydney. Two of them belonged to Paul Allam and David McGuinness, the owners of Bourke Street Bakery. Former regulars at Moon Park, the duo came up with an idea. “David came up to us one night at Moon Park and said, ‘What are you doing next? Do you have anything lined up?’” says Ben Sears, one of Moon Park’s owners along with Ned Brookes and Eun Hee An.
The idea was to offer the space occupied by Bourke Street Bakery Potts Point. Now, the bunker-like space has reopened as Paper Bird, an all-day cafe-diner serving a casual, more broadly East Asian version of what Sears, Brooks and An cooked at Moon Park. “It's based on Korean [cuisine] but we've got a lot of Chinese and Japanese influences,” says Sears. It's not super fancy. "It's like a diner.”
In the mornings they’re serving royal Korean-style congee stewed with milk and served with crab, scallions and doughnut sticks; mushrooms and fried eggs on potato bread; and English muffins topped with fried chicken, cheese and bacon. “We’ll have some straight stuff like scrambled eggs and sourdough, but it’ll be with char siu instead of bacon,” says Sears.
At night it gets more playful and technical. For snacks there’s Chongqing-style caramelised spicy popcorn with peanuts and xi’an cumin lamb sausage rolls. Bigger dishes include a crab and brussels sprout bibimbap, miso hot pot and taco-yaki, which, according to Sears, is all the elements of takoyaki served in a taco. “Ninety-five per cent of the menu is new, the only holdovers we have from Moon Park is the ddeokbokki [stir-fried rice cakes] with gochujang, and the shrimp-brined fried chicken,” says Sears.
The bar transforms depending on the time of day. For coffee or takeout there’s a grab-and-go counter with a glass fridge of sambos and salads. Those after a late-night drink can sit at the bar and look through Tai Tate and Ned Brookes’s complication of wines, cocktails, sakes and Korean beers.
Visually it's not a huge departure from what was here. The designer (Phillip Arnold, also a former Moon Park customer) has kept the bones; bar and stools at the front, dining tables out back. The biggest change is some wood panelling along the walls and a fresh coat of aqua paint.