Merivale’s Justin Hemmes seems to open venues faster than we can write about them. His latest project is Bert’s, a sleek, modern brasserie and bar at The Newport, the group’s large-scale multi-faceted food and drinks venue overlooking Pittwater. It’s slated to open in January next year.
Inspired by Europe’s grand hotel dining rooms of the 1930s, this new restaurant couldn’t be more different to the rest of the complex. While The Newport exudes a family-friendly, “food festival” atmosphere, Bert’s tips towards the “pointy” end of the scale. The raw bar, for example, will be piled with oysters, dressed crab and toasted-brioche canapes, while guests can pluck live lobsters from the tank. Cocktails will be trimmed with caviar and open kitchens will frame the room, each lined with shiny charcoal ovens and grills.
Hemmes has invested in a strong team: executive chef Jordan Toft (ex-Coogee Pavilion and LA’s Eveleigh), group sommelier Franck Moreau and bar manager Sam Egerton are all in tow.
“We want to create that sense of relaxed indulgence you experience on a coastal European holiday; to capture that feeling when you decide to order the fresh lobster or relax into the afternoon with champagne and oysters,” Toft says.
Hemmes and his sister Bettina designed the dining room with Akin Creative’s Kelvin Ho and stylist Amanda Talbot. It channels a bygone era using jade greens and coral pinks.
Bert’s will be as much a cocktail lounge as it is restaurant. The bar takes inspiration from grand European hotels and American country clubs. The classic Royale cocktail is made with vodka, ginger cordial and champagne and finished with finger lime and caviar.
As they arrive guests will pass an ornate wine cellar managed by sommelier Moreau. Classic Australian wines, including back vintages of riesling, semillon, shiraz and cabernet, will be shelved beside European varietals and emerging, quirky labels.
“Our long-term vision for the venue is to create a destination that genuinely has something for everyone – all occasions, ages, budgets and tastes,” Hemmes says. “We opened the outdoor area first [in 2016] to provide a vibrant gathering place where friends and families can get together over a beer and a casual bite to eat. Now with the launch of Bert’s, we can also offer a special experience for those wanting that little something extra,” he says.
Bert’s is due to open in January next year.