Merivale is expanding faster than our belts can handle. On Good Friday, Justin Hemmes' heaving hospitality empire cut the red ribbon on the newest member of the Merivale family: the Newport Arms Hotel. Or rather, The Newport.
A Northern move for the city-dominant group after opening J&M's whisky bar, the revamped Ivy Pool and The Paddington in the last few months, alongside renovations for the Queen Vic Hotel, Merivale's acquisition of the Pittwater hotel is a bold decision for Hemmes. A landmark property of the Northern Beaches since 1880, the Newport Arms has now officially reopened as The Newport.
Design-wise, there's been some hectic landscaping that's been done on Australia's largest outdoor waterfront beer garden — all by landscaper Daniel Baffsky. According to Merivale, the grounds are "a sprawling estate that evokes a sense of nostalgia" with flowering shrubs, jacarandas, wild cacti, succulents, Chinese elms, plane trees, crape myrtles and date palms. The actual Newport building draws on influences from Montauk, The Hamptons and Mediterranean and has been designed by Kelvin Ho and Emilie Delalande (Akin Creative), stylist Amanda Talbot and Justin and Bettina Hemmes. In classic Merivale-style, there's multiple, eclectic, themed spaces to drink and dine in (and take in that view), with natural stone paving, locally-made furniture and plenty of marble. The Newport also features a 'vintage gymnasium' with badminton, exercise bikes that can charge mobile phones (!) ping pong tables, a giant magnetic scrabble board, outdoor petanque and concrete table tennis courts.
Food-wise, expect a range of different unique noshing experiences, with executive chef Sebastien Lutaud behind the wheel. Lutaud has fried escargot alongside France's Oliver Elzer, prepared sashimi with Tetsuya Wakuda and headed up Felix Bar and Bistro. Now, he's bringing his 25 years of gun hospitality experience to Sydney's northern beaches. "From the minute The Newport was described to me, I thought it was going to be an amazing project," says Lutaud. "It's a one-of-a-kind in Sydney, if not Australia — an amazing venue in an amazing spot."
The Newport has a strong focus on food. But don't expect a single service counter or a straightforward menu at this renovated pub. Instead, expect to feel a bit like you're walking through a permanent food festival. Lutaud designed the menu with input from some of Merivale's other key chefs, so you'll notice some familiar imports — and a similar stall-type layout to the Coogee Pavilion's foreshore fest.
"There are little stalls and outlets, selling different types of food," says Lutaud. "So, for example, we've got Vinnie's [Merivale pizza guru Vincenzo Biondini] pizzas, from Coogee. We've got a burger shack, where we do six different burgers and five different salads." There's also a cafe filled with Australian meats like smoked brisket, barbeque chicken and hot-smoked salmon, seasonal salads, smoothies, gelato and coffee by Merivale's favourite Sydney roasters, Will & Co.
Given The Newport's Pittwater location, there's also a spot dedicated to fish and chips. "But I wouldn't call it your classic fish and chips, where everything's deep-fried," says Lutaud. "We do have the classic version, but we've also dishes like grilled Clarence River octopus and pan-fried snapper with simple salad." If you're travelling with mates or family and want to share, you'll be heading to The Kiosk, for small and large platters. "We have a French rotisserie, where we're doing chicken and Rangers Valley brisket and hot-smoked whole salmon, which we'll serve with rolls, salads and nice sauces. There's also a seafood section, with fresh oysters, cooked prawns and a crab omelette, with Vietnamese herbs and dressing."
As for ordering, you'll have two options. The first is the old-fashioned method of heading to the stall, putting in your request and grabbing a buzzer. The second is downloading an app and doing it all from the comfort of your bar stool. The only catch is that the app is still in development – at this stage, it's good for pizzas, and other stalls will be added with time.
Live music is also a huge focus at The Newport, with an expansive alfresco deck custom built to showcase local talent, seven days a week. Sunday Sundown, Merivale's free live music series, will kick things off, with indie duo Gypsy & The Cat on April 3, Tasmanian singer songwriter Asta on April 10 and Sydney synth-pop trio Mansionair on April 17.
The Newport is now open at 2 Kalinya Street, Newport.
By Shannon Connellan and Jasmine Crittenden. Images: Bodhi Liggett.