Introducing The Newport
It was a gorgeous summer’s morning up at Newport beach. As surf lifesavers routinely set up their flags, something a bit different was taking place on the sand. Justin and Bettina Hemmes and the team behind The Newport had gathered for a few quick snaps. The whole team is incredibly humbled by the task of revitalising such a historic venue, and their excitement is readily felt. Find out what they’ve been eagerly working on and how things are taking shape.
With any new Merivale opening, it’s often the food that gets people talking. The Newport’s culinary vision is headed by Executive Chef Sebastien Lutaud, who says his philosophy is “good, honest food with no gimmicks” – a happy match for this iconic venue and its locals. “Being honest would have to be my main credo – simple, unpretentious produce done with love and respect,” he says. While we can’t divulge the menu just yet, we can tell you the food offering will be based on a community market concept, where different food stalls will feature everything from a grass-fed beef burger and fresh shucked oysters, to spit-roasted pork, fresh pastries and a salad bar, too. Which element is Sebastien most excited for? “At the moment, it would have to be the burger shack,” he admits. “We’ve spent a lot of time designing the kitchen, looking at equipment and working on burgers. So I can’t wait to see the final product come together.”
ABOVE LEFT: Justin Hemmes, Vincenzo Biondini and Sebastien Lutaud.
Vincenzo Biondini, or the pizza maestro as he’s known, will be bringing his wood-fired hits to The Newport in an open kitchen. The location is a reminder of summers spent in his hometown on Italy’s Adriatic coast. “Cesenatico is my hometown, and also a place where you could go to the beach and then pop in for a beer,” he says. Vincenzo describes his lightly charred, wood-fired pizzas as “simple, fresh, with lots of flavour,” and take our word for it – his clever ingredient pairings can’t be messed with.
LEFT-RIGHT: Bettina Hemmes, Amanda Talbot, Émilie Delalande, Justin Hemmes and Kelvin Ho.
A SPRAWLING ESTATE
Amanda Talbot of Snoop Global lends her stylist’s eye to The Newport’s expansive property. Her vision was to hint at nostalgia while also breathe new life into the historic site. “We wanted the main building to feel like a grand house with beautiful gardens attached,” she says. “The gardens will be filled with Chinese elms, plane trees, jacarandas, myrtles and Camillias.”
The eclectic spaces that make up the sprawling estate were born from many influences. “We drew inspiration from Montauk, The Hamptons and the Mediterranean,” says Amanda. On that last influence, Amanda aims to instil the Italian traditions of family, friends, eating, generosity and abundance, with a little American architecture and style mixed in. “Expect a mood of fun, discovery; a place to hide or to be on show. Inside, you have the kids’ area designed to feel like an old gymnasium.” Think badminton, ping-pong tables, exercise bikes that can charge mobile phones (quaint and practical), and a giant magnetic Scrabble board.
As for the features she’s most fond of, Amanda says it’s the pizza area, the burger shack with cactus garden, and a rooftop garden that can be viewed from the main bar upstairs. “But the best thing about Newport is that view. Looking over Pittwater is breathtaking and something you don’t get to see every day.”
Kelvin Ho, architect, interior designer and founder of Akin Creative, shares his favourite aspects. “Several spaces, which the guests will discover as they get deeper into The Newport, are staggered around the venue. Natural stone paving, coloured concrete floor tiles, marble tops, and locally made furniture give each area a distinct identity.” His creative vision for the venue was inspired in large part by the history of the site as a place of gathering and community. “It’s a place that makes everyone feel good,” he says.
STAYING TRUE TO ITS ROOTS
This begs the question, aside from the food and greenery – what else has changed? We asked Lance Burrows and Scott Elvery, Licensee and General Manager respectively, for the scoop. The Newport’s spectacular location and views are, naturally, the biggest drawcard, as is the sense of community that’s been fostered here. “It’s clear that true success for The Newport will depend on maintaining and extending its already strong links to the local area,” says Scott, who relocated from Melbourne for the GM role. What sealed the deal for him? “It was the attraction and challenge of opening what will become the biggest and best outdoor venue in Australia… and it’s at the beach!”
Lance was similarly thrilled to be a part of the “new” Newport. “You only get one opportunity like this in your hospitality career. Working with the team that Merivale have put together, and the level of commitment Justin [Hemmes] has provided, really allows us to get in and do what we love to do,” he says. At this stage, Lance’s sole focus is on maintaining the link between the venue and local community at various levels. In just a few words, how does he describe the venue? “Open air, great view, great people,” he says.
The element of The Newport Scott is most eager for is the amazing pizzas, magical views and great drinks in a refined, relaxed setting. “I can’t wait for people to roll in, order up, and really enjoy the experience.”
ABOVE: Lance Burrows and Scott Elvery.
The Newport is set to launch in March 2016 with its first phase.
Merivale has planned a gradual redevelopment, with phases two and three set to be revealed later in the year.