Sydney lost a stalwart of the Kings Cross nightclub scene when Hugos closed its doors back in 2015. But the site of former venue is slowly being brought back to life. First, the team from Double Bay's now-closed Casablanca opened a Miami-inspired lounge bar in the Bayswater Road space, and now two of Sydney's young-gun restaurateurs will launch a 'concept' Mexican restaurant in the same dwelling this week.
Fei Jai and Barrio Cellar's owners Nicole Galloway and Peter Lew have today revealed Chula — which, by coincidence, is just across the road from their former venue, Barrio Chino. Occupying the long-vacant premises, the restaurant will revolve around authentic, Mexican seafood and vegetable dishes. Reese Griffiths, founder of The Agave Cartel, has come on board to oversee the agave-heavy drinks list, and Alvaro Valenzuela, who has moved from Mexico City to Sydney for the gig, is head of the kitchen.
The menu will be a bit more refined than that of Barrio Cellar's, and will include authentic Latin American delights with a strong regional focus, such as ceviche, aguachile, charcoal whole fish and tostadas. There'll also be a tortilla dish with tlayuda (a traditional black bean puree) charcoal meats from Oaxaca in Mexico's south that pays homage to the building's former pizza-making resident.
"Mexican is a very special culture and cuisine so we wanted to create a menu that celebrates the rich traditions and flavours, while treating it with a contemporary hand. Simple food that's seriously flavourful and visual," says Galloway.
Chula's interior is styled by Joshua Clapp from Steel + Stitch with the Mexican countryside in mind. With tones that channel countryside and beach, along with vintage cabinets, linen, tiled murals and an agave garden, you'll feel like you're in a Mexican country cantina.
The new restaurant's name, Chula, has a double meaning. In Mexican slang, it's both 'pretty' and 'hot', and both the restaurant's stunning interior and picante menu can be described using this one word.
"Kings Cross is our home, we raise our children here, we've had four businesses in the area," Galloway said. "King Cross has gone through an enormous amount of change over the last few years, and the idea of it coming back to life with new residential projects, bars, eateries and retail is an incredibly exciting prospect."