Three years ago Anna Solomon had an idea. It was to bring a different kind of pub to Paddington: one with a split identity – part casual and part fine dining. If it had opened back then it would have been a revolution for the area, but now it joins a wave of venues The Unicorn, Saint Peter, The Paddington and Thirty Coffee redefining Oxford Street.
The result of Solomon’s idea is the updated Paddington Inn, the latest development from hospitality group Solotel. Solomon says the venue is inspired by a Paddington terrace. “That was my initial conversation with George [Livissianis, the venue’s designer]. The front room is a casual but dimly lit space stocked with wooden booths, high stools and a wraparound bar. It flows past an atrium-like smoker’s hangout into an open, sun-lit kitchen and dining room with a feature wall of abstract portraits by artist Christiane Spangsberg.
This area is the playground of Justin Schott, a chef last seen working at Kitchen by Mike and Rockpool Bar and Grill. The influences of these restaurants on his cooking are clear. “There are really clean flavours; fresh, really seasonal and approachable. That's really important. It's fine dining but you can bring your family or mates,” he says. He describes a simple dish of swordfish with lemon-oil and rocket sauce. There’s also a whole duck to share; it’s air-dried, brined, glazed in whisky and maple syrup, and served with fermented cabbage and roast sweet potatoes.
Schott is handling the bar menu, too, but that has a different brief. “It's a shorter, sharper menu to really focus on drinking – with burgers and a chef's take on snacks and bar food,” Solomon says. The dish Schott is most proud of is the bar’s two-day-marinated tandoori-style chicken wings with raita and pickled cucumber. He’s also making his own biltong, focaccia, kombucha and bacalhau (Portuguese-style salted fish).
With those you’ll be drinking seasonal cocktails, wines on tap and a mix of mainstream and local craft beers. The dining room will feature a wine list curated by Aria sommelier Matt Dunne, which Solomon says is similar in style to nearby 10 William Street.
The Paddington Inn opens on Friday September 9.