A bar themed like the library of a 17th century explorer, a menu of multicultural hot dogs, a wine list by a Hubert sommelier – all on the main street of Penrith. It’s not often we can say “no one’s done this before”. Chefs Rod Parbery (The Ledbury) and Wayne Jenkins (Lochiel House, Merivale), and businessman Nicholas Siafakas are behind this venue, Mr Watkins.
The restaurant-bar is inspired by the character of Captain Watkins Tench, a First Fleet explorer who journeyed through the area. “We wanted to tie the idea to Penrith so we looked at the history, some of the explorers and characters who were around back then, and [the] captain came up,” says Parbery, who was born and raised in Penrith.
Juicy Design has been working with the trio to create a space that looks like their idea of Watkins’ study and library. “We'll have some nice Chesterfield lounges, we've got shelves with old books, a little bit of taxidermy stuff, some cool old lights. We've got it all from Lunatiques and Mitchell Road,” says Parbery.
It sounds fancy but Parbery assures us the vibe and menu will be casual. From behind the bar, expect a good selection of craft beers (many tinned), a range of classically inspired cocktails, and a wine list designed by Dennis Roman (Hubert, former Café Paci and Marque). Meanwhile the kitchen will be churning out small plates, snacks (no clues yet as to what) and five hot dogs designed around five different cuisines: South African, Spanish, Dutch, American and Australian.
“The rest of the menu will be eclectic. We won’t be pigeonholing ourselves on any cuisine. At the end of the day I'm a chef and if I got to the markets and feel like cooking Japanese food, I will.” As the trio says: “Proper good food by some not so proper chaps.”
Mr Watkins will open later this year.