The main menu at Big Poppa’s has 12 dinner options. Seven of the dishes have cheese in them but none of them are cheese platters – there’s a separate menu for that. Obviously, the owners really like eating cheese.
“We found ourselves spending huge amounts of money on cheese, drinking delicious wine and listening to hip-hop,” says co-owner Lewis Jaffrey (ex-Shady Pines, The Baxter Inn). His cheese-eating partner is also his business partner, Jared Merlino (Lobo Plantation). “We were like, ‘There's got to be a cheaper way to buy cheese, maybe we should open our own venue?’”
The venue exemplifies that vibe – a relaxed space to spend all night at with friends. The top floor is a mostly Italian restaurant with chefs Liam O’Driscoll and Jase Barron (both ex-Pendolino and Glebe Street Diner) in the kitchen. “They've worked together for nearly 16 years,” Jaffrey says. The space has a classic look – black-and-white; bricks and tiles; simple furniture; and a few Chianti bottles for character.
The bottom floor has a cocktail-bar vibe. The lights are dimmer, there are leather booths and half the floor is covered in velvety carpet. “The dishes aren't overly complicated or extravagant. It's like comfort food,” says Jaffrey. Gnocchi is made with semolina, cut into big discs (an old-school Roman thing) and served with beef cheeks, olives, gremolata and pecorino; vongole come with crispy pig-jowl bacon and fregola in a white-wine broth; and hand-cut pappardelle is flavoured with a lamb ragu. “We wanted to use the best quality produce, source everything from Australia and [make] everything organic,” Jaffrey says.
The cocktail list includes a fizzy Fiore Collins which combines hibiscus and rosehip mezcal with Dubonnet, tequila and lime. Amazingly, the cocktails and Big Poppa’s multinational wine list can be consumed (with or without food) until 3am. “Last night all the chefs from Hubert arrived at 1.45am, ordered six different cheeses, a bottle of wine, some pasta and that was their after-work dinner,” Jaffrey says.
96 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
Mon to Sun 5pm–3am