Former Arc Dining chef Alanna Sapwell will launch a pop-up restaurant, named Esmay, at Noosa’s Wasabi Restaurant and Bar.
Former Arc Dining chef Alanna Sapwell will launch a pop-up restaurant, named Esmay, at Noosa’s Wasabi Restaurant and Bar.

New pop-up restaurant at Wasabi a ‘perfect fit’

Two powerhouse female restaurateurs have partnered to offer a new fine-dining experience after the recent closure of Wasabi Restaurant and Bar.

Former ARC and Saint Peter head chef Alanna Sapwell is taking over the Japanese restaurant at the Noosa waterfront for a three-month pop up, named Esmay.

Ms Sapwell is a good friend of Wasabi owner Danielle Gjestland, who planned to sell the Japanese restaurant before a deal fell through due to COVID-19.

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Esmay opens on Wednesday, July 15, and already the first week and second weekend are booked out.

The restaurant will offer six-course hyper-seasonal menus for $60, with a focus on fresh produce sourced locally, including from Wasabi's Honeysuckle Hill Farm.

"People want to go out, have good food and wine in a fun atmosphere," Ms Sapwell said.

"I want very approachable and affordable food, but with a lot of thought behind it and a nostalgic twist.

"That about sums up Esmay - which is named after my mustard-coloured 1972 Volkswagen.

"It's cute and it has its quirks."

The first main on the menu is flathead cooked on the bone with chestnut mushrooms.

Hyper-seasonal snacks could range from crispy mountain potatoes, nettle and truffle to a crab and coral toastie, featuring Mooloolaba's renowned spanner crabs.

Danielle Gjestland recently closed her Noosa restaurant Wasabi Restaurant and Bar. Photo: John McCutcheon
Danielle Gjestland recently closed her Noosa restaurant Wasabi Restaurant and Bar. Photo: John McCutcheon

Ms Gjestland said Esmay would be received extremely well.

"Potentially the locals didn't need a nine-course fine-dining Japanese degustation in their life at the moment," she said, in reference to Wasabi.

"I actually could not imagine a more perfect fit than what's happening with Alanna and Esmay.

"As a female restaurateur, to have another female restaurateur in a space that I love and to work with someone who I wholeheartedly respect as a professional and a friend, it's going to be a great experience."

Ms Sapwell, who has been named Gourmet Traveller's best new talent and Delicious Produce Award's next gen chef, said she was excited to experiment with the unique produce at the Honeysuckle Hill Farm, located 30 minutes from the restaurant.

She said she would take advantage of food supplies already set up by Ms Gjestland, particularly the locally and sustainably caught seafood which is delivered to the restaurant by a local fisherman.

Ms Gjestland said the pop-up was an opportunity to keep staff employed, after she continued to offer takeaway degustations during the COVID-19 lockdown.

She said the takeaway venture, named Wabi-Sabi, featured a seven-course degustation for two and was extremely popular.

Ms Gjestland and her husband's plans to move to Japan on April 1 have been delayed, but she said they still hoped to move when borders open.


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