If not for the pandemic, Kevin Fredes and Manuela Volpe would likely be living in Naples right now. When international borders closed, the couple postponed plans to relocate their young family to Italy, instead opting to turn lemons into lemonade here in Brisbane. We wouldn’t have Paella y Pa’ Mi – Kevin and Manuela’s newly open Coorparoo restaurant – if not for the pandemic, which is a silver lining worth celebrating if there ever was one. The striking 40-seater sits just near the Martha Street strip home to Picnic, Mons Thai, Shizen Japanese Cuisine and Ze Pickle, and brings to the area a considered take on Spanish cuisine, which – as the name attests – features paella at its core. The idea of Paella y Pa’ Mi was conceived on a family trip to Coolangatta. As Kevin and Manuela watched their daughter Marysol play in the sand, they discussed every detail of what they’d want out of their dream restaurant, from its crisp blue-and-white aesthetic inspired by the Andalusian coast (including ornate tiles imported from Spain) to its contemporary take on Spanish cuisine. Kevin (who cut his teeth working in Sydney’s hospitality scene under the tutelage of culinary mentor Miguel Maestre) sought a more balanced work-life ratio and an opportunity to dip into his Mediterranean heritage. In addition to giving locals a taste of true Spanish cuisine, the couple also wanted Paella y Pa’ Mi to place an emphasis on the country’s convivial hospitality. The venue’s name (which is pronounced ‘pah eh ya e pah me’) is a play on words, with ‘para ella’ translating to ‘for her’ and ‘pa mi’ meaning ‘for me’ – this wordplay communicates the ‘sharing is caring’ mentality that Kevin and Manuela are delivering with their new restaurant.
Few dishes in Spain’s epicurean lexicon match this direction better than Paella y Pa’ Mi’s namesake, which made it an ideal starting point for Kevin when constructing the menu. Kevin, alongside co-chef Andrea Marchetto, sought out old recipe books to find authentic interpretations of Spain’s most iconic dishes. Using this traditional foundation as a base upon which to build, the kitchen team has then skilfully fashioned new versions of their favourites using ingredients sourced from local suppliers. The menu starts with para picar, or ‘for the table’ dishes – snacks set to whet appetites including oysters with cava pearls, house marinated Spanish olives, croquettes of the day and Cantabrian anchovies with goats cheese, native pepper and local honey. A selection of tapas quickly follows, with seared scallops with salsa salvitxada, cured and fried pork belly with spiced pear, pickled white carrots infused with saffron and Kevin’s take on his abuela’s empanadillas building momentum toward the main event. Kevin learned the art of paella making during his time working with Miguel, who instilled in him the importance of precision (like how the burners must be level to ensure equal heat transference, for example) when making perfectly crisp soccarat. This finely honed skill has been channelled into four variations of the iconic dish – the Marysol (Paella y Pa’ Mi’s mixed signature style), the Valencia (the OG interpretations with rabbit, chicken, broad beans and green beans), the Marisco (filled with fresh seafood of the day) and the Vegetariana, which is loaded with seasonal vegetables.
Much like its menu, Paella y Pa’ Mi’s beverage list boasts a quintessentially Spanish focus. Sommelier and wine consultant Juan Juado Gomez has been recruited to compile a wine list comprised predominantly of Spanish drops – think hard-to-find labels from lesser-known regions. On the list one will find everything from whites like albariño, garnacha blanca and verdejo to headline reds including tempranillo, mencia, cariñena and rioja. Spanish gin (like Palma gin from Mallorca and Le Tribute from Barcelona) and vermouths from Padró & Co are also prominent fixtures of the back bar alongside aperitifs from Australian makers Unico Zelo and ØKAR, Mexican tequilas, Chilean pisco and Fonzie Abbott vodka. Paella y Pa’ Mi’s cocktail list continues to push Kevin and Manuela’s adoration of all things Mediterranean even further with a clutch of smashable signatures. Throw some sangria jugs into the mix and beers from Estrella Galicia and Miguel Maestre’s El Toro Loco label and you’ve got enough quaffing material to wash down a family-sized paella, if desired.
Paella y Pa’ Mi is now open to the public. For contact details, menu information and booking links, head to the Stumble Guide.