In Changing Times by Clyde Mooney

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Justin Hemmes’ Merivale has today launched the Group’s much-anticipated first venue in Sydney’s west, transforming the Queen Victoria into the quirky and bedecked Queens Hotel.

Merivale purchased the pub in April 2015, with Hemmes citing his passion for creating world-class venues designed for the local community and his eagerness to become “part of Sydney’s thriving Inner West”.

The original plan was for a quick turn-around, reopening in a couple of months.

But upon moving in it was found a lot of structural work and facilities had to be brought up to scratch before the concept design could really begin. Space for an effective back of house had to be improved, resulting in the six-month construction of a basement.

Justin and Bettina Hemmes joined Kelvin Ho of Akin Creative and stylist Amanda Talbot to reinvent the two-level building, the vision producing a moody public bar downstairs and intimate salon upstairs, hoping to evoke a “sense of 1930s glamour”.

L-R: Chefs Christopher Hogarth, Patrick Friesen and Eric Koh

Powerhouse Merivale chefs Patrick Friesen and Christopher Hogarth are heading up the culinary offering, Queen Chow. The pair are both ardent devotees of Asian cuisine, and regular visitors to Hong Kong.

They join dim sum master Eric Koh in the creation of Queen Chow. A nod to HK’s famous ‘dai pai dong’ street kitchens, Queen Chow is a flavour-packed Cantonese menu, with traditionally prepared BBQ meats and Australia’s best seafood.

Having tossed the deadline in favour of another truly unique venue, transforming the old pub with all-new bespoke items and furnishings, Queens Hotel officially opens today.

“It’s a Victorian pub meets the American wild west meets a Chinese restaurant, and it makes no sense … and it makes perfect sense,” says Friesen.

The dim sum menu is captained by the revered Eric Koh – regarded as one of the world’s great dim sum masters. His 30 years’ experience includes tenures at London’s Michelin-starred Hakkasan and Yauatcha, and more recently at Merivale’s Mr. Wong and Work in Progress. His steamed, baked and fried dumplings will be on offer for lunch, dinner and late-night supper.

Upstairs has become home to eclectic cocktail bar The Smelly Goat, offering classic cocktails with a twist courtesy of unusual bar ingredients, such as the Dutch Courage (Maker’s Mark, white wine and carrot) and the Evergreen (gin, ginger, chilli and capsicum).

Bar manager Harrison Westlake has also experimented with Asian spices and flavours such as smoked tea syrup, to complement the auras of the Chinese menu.

The Smelly Goat boasts fabric-lined walls and black timber panelling, a hand-painted wall mural, green-and-white chequered floor, hanging pots of native orchids and taxidermy bird boxes above a hand-carved onyx bar.

This strikes a fascinating evolution from downstairs, with its dark stained timber, leather banquettes and rubbed finishes and long timber bar with zinc top, and the adjacent staghorn-shaded courtyard.

“Hong Kong can be whatever you want it to be,” advises Friesen. “And so too can Queens Hotel.”

Queens Hotel in Enmore on December 7, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: Anna Kucera for Merivale)