When Manly wharf is your backdrop, you're in a room filled with a distinct Saturday night fusion of buzz, booze and beautiful people, you'll know that you've found a spot that's going to have you talking for weeks.
I give you - Papi Chulo. Manly's hottest new restaurant brought to you by genius restaurant group, Merivale. Yes, Justin Hemmes has done it again.
We were lucky to get a last minute table, after being on a wait list for most of Saturday. When Papi Chulo calls you come running, and that's exactly what we did when they said "we have a table, but only if you can make it in 10 mins". So I impart some words of warning - don't book the day of dining... And I have a strong feeling it is going to only get tougher to secure a table.
As soon as we walked in, a unique atmosphere washed over us. Papi Chulo delivers a trendy bar vibe with the convenience of tables and chairs and the promise of tantalizing your taste buds. Sitting at a long high table and chairs added to this theme, graced us with a view over the restaurant and water and gave us room for our number of starters and shared main.
Our waiter (who exuded the perfect balance of fun and professionalism) promptly arrived at our table with menus and the most magnificent proposition I think I have ever heard: "Can I get you sparkling, still, tap or tequilas?". Tequila as an alternative to water? Cheers to that my friend. Served in two glasses, the tequila in one and spicy tomato chaser (no doubt inspired by Sunday's Bloody Mary) in another this 'palate cleanser' was quick to be drunk but long to be remembered.
In between the shots and our bottle of Malbec came the starters - a heavenly interruption.
Colour, flavor and fresh seafood graced our table across the following dishes:
Summer pea guacamole with tortilla chips ($14)
Prawn and scallop ceviche- crystal bay prawns, sea scallops, mango, chilli, coconut dressing ($17)
BBQ baby octopus – grilled zuchinni flowers, spring onions, soft herbs ($19)
Something of a guacamole connoisseur, I have to impart that this was the lackluster of the evening. It simply didn't reach the heights of the other two dishes, which is surprising when considering the blessed guacamole ingredients translate to perfect flavor matches in my books. The octopus was fresh, tasty and full of vitality and I'd go back just for the ceviche - a modern mouthwatering dish, which suited its environment to a tee.
As a meat lover I was in heaven with the BBQ share platter ($86). Lets face it, if I'm coming back its not with my "I like red meat but prefer fish and chicken" friends. If you're at Papi Chulo, please for the love of God, get this main. A succulent board of ribs, pork belly, wagyu brisket and chopped pork, these cuts of meat offer their own unique flavors and textures despite all being smothered with BBQ sauce. This jam packed, bold and gutsy, sweet but tangy sauce is the best I've had since living in New York.
Bring your appetite, bring a fun friend and bring your wallet. Don't make plans for 6am Sunday yoga.