Marvan Hotels yesterday launched Gweilo, an Asian bar and dining offering in the Evening Star Hotel in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

The hotel, famed as a seedy rock-n-roll joint popular with journalists in the past – as well as hosting Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl in the early 1990s – has undergone a significant renovation. Renamed Gweilo, the venue is presented as a new pan-Asian drinking and dining destination for the inner-city suburb.

Gweilo, translating to “foreign devil” or “ghost man”, is a popular Cantonese term for Westerners. While originally seen as a slur, the term is now used generally light-heartededly. The kind of irreverence in the name is evocative of the venue’s new offering – something that does not take itself too seriously.

Designed by Paul Kelly Design, the space blends the buildings 145-year old classic architecture with retro-futuristic styling. A bar and printed tile mural backdrop take centre stage in the space, while dramatic arches form semi-private sections without actual divisions. The design concept is to create a theatre, where the interior is the set and the food is the star.

Having worked on the new concept and gaming room fit-out for two years, Kelly said the transformation of the pub creates some differentiation between the venue and others within the area.

“Surry Hills is full of tired old pubs, essentially timber saloons that have very little appeal to a large proportion of the female market in the surrounding commercial and residential areas.

“Gweilo looks to change this with a soft and organic concept based on beautiful spaces, great Hong Kong inspired cuisine, amazing sound and great drinks.”

The kitchen is headed up by Seb Gee who has previously worked at Merivale’s est, as well as in such Asian kitchens as Kid Kyoto, China Diner, China Lane and Sailors Thai. The menu is inspired by Hong Kong street food, and focuses on traditional Chinese cuisine with a western twist. Dishes include drunken prawn, truffle and mushroom spring rolls; grilled kung pao chicken meatballs; and pork belly with chilli caramel, apple and mint.

“[The menu is] inspired by my travels throughout Asia, particularly China and south-east Asia,” explained Gee.

“Gweilo’s menu was heavily influenced by a recent trip to Hong Kong, combined with my western cooking background at Merivale’s Est, inspiring my creation and marrying of western and Asian flavours – think Wagyu beef shin, carrot and Toohey’s New rendang.”

The cocktail list is also grounded in Asian flavours, with the likes of the Shanghai Mule (Chinese five-spice vodka, house-made ginger beer, scorched lime, galangal tincture and pickled ginger) and the Hadouken (Roku Gin, rosemary Aperol, grapefruit, yuzu and an absinthe flame).

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