22 December 2023

New pop-up venue in Merimbula putting 'little spin' on historic restaurant building

| Claire Sams
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Two men standing either side of a bar

A pop-up cantina is drawing a crowd in Merimbula, but the time to check it out is short before a redesign in the new year. Photo: J-Bird/Facebook.

After years of travelling far and wide for work, friends Jamie Sverdrupsen and Brett Kryskow have partnered once again to open a new venue on the South Coast.

“When we’re not at work, we’re still at each other’s houses eating dinner, down the beach cooking barbecues and quite good friends outside of work,” Mr Sverdrupsen said.

“In taking on this venture, we both know how each other works so we could tackle it pretty head on.”

The two worked together at restaurant kitchens that temporarily closed during COVID-19, cooking dishes from various cuisines for take-away.

Most recently, the pair launched J-Bird Cantina, a restaurant and bar pop-up in Merimbula.

Before they could open in December, Mr Sverdrupsen said their venue needed a makeover.

“The building definitely needed some love,” he said.

“We’ve cleaned up all the walls, put a lighter coat of paint in to make it a bit more inviting, put some artwork on the walls for something nicer to look at and just given the place a really good clean.”

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Mr Kryskow said choosing Merimbula for their next venture together was an easy decision.

“The reason why we chose Merimbula is because we’re both locals – our family are here,” he said.

“It just seemed like a logical and obvious choice to want to pay homage to the community for what it’s done for us.”

The pop-up cantina shares a name with a COVID-era pop-up, albeit in the new venue.

“We had to think of a way to get food out for the summer and came up with a tapas-style venue for our brand-new J-Bird,” he said.

“It has a bit of a Middle Eastern twist on some of the items and whatnot.

“It’s just a simple idea to cater for the tourists or the busy, hectic time of summer, and then have a little bit of a rebrand early next year.”

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While both men hope people enjoy their time at the pop-up cantina, J-Bird’s days are numbered.

Mr Kryskow said J-Bird Cantina would continue into early next year before closing, likely around April 2024, as the tourist rush slowed.

“Our original J-Bird was a pop-up restaurant, and so is this J-Bird,” he said.

“This will be open for summer, and eventually make a Japanese venue as the permanent fixture.”

Mr Kryskow said planning for the transition was underway.

“We’ve literally just taken over the space,” he said.

“Once we see what it’s capable of doing, we’ll be able to come up with more of a plan and grow with it.”

J-Bird Cantina is located at 56 Market Street in Merimbula and is open Monday to Saturday into 2024.

The bar opens from 4 pm, and food is served from 5 to 9:30 pm.

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