Ever since Wollongong's most hatted restaurant Caveau shutdown during the pandemic there has been speculation about what would take its place.
The answer came this week when Maria Luciani and Keana Lufe revealed they had opened a new eatery called K.malu.
The name is a combination of the two of theirs and the duo plan to make the restaurant unique.
"Our menu is based on what is happening with seasonal vegetables, meat and fish," Ms Lufe said.
"We are offering contemporary Australian cuisine with a mix of different cultures."
The menu changes weekly based on the best options from local suppliers and covers everything from pasta to raw fish.
The two met after Ms Luciani moved to Australia eight years ago to work with her cousin Lorraine Mercuri at the Northbeach Pavilion Pizza Restaurant, Bar and Kiosk.
She quickly fell in love with the city, the people and the beach and decided to stay.
But after almost a decade as a manager she felt it was time to take the next step and open her own eatery.
Ms Lufe was a chef at Northbeach Pavilion for six years and did her apprenticeship there.
"I moved away for a year and went up to the Gold Coast and worked with a really good Scottish chef in a two hatted restaurant," she said.
"He ended up moving away so I came back home to Wollongong where I was born and grew up."
Ms Luciani said they started looking for the best site to open a new restaurant last October.
She loved Caveau when it was run by Simon Evans and Tom Chiumento and when she heard it was vacant expressed an interest.
"Because of Caveau's reputation a lot of restaurants wanted to move here," Ms Luciani said.
The venue has undergone a transformation with a wall between the two front dining areas removed and the size of the bar has doubled.
Aware of the location's iconic status for premier fine dining Ms Luciani and Ms Lufe decided they didn't want to try and compete with the past.
"We are making really good food and have a really good wine and cocktail list. We just want to be as creative as possible and cook what we want to cook. Even if people are walking past and want to come in for a drink and something small to eat they are more than welcome," Ms Lufe said.
K.malu is open for lunch and dinner five days a week from Tuesday to Saturday and also has a pre-dinner and after-dinner menu. Thursday, Friday and Saturday night the bar is licensed to stay open until midnight.
"I am in love with wine and we have a good selection of Italian and Australian wine," Ms Luciani said.
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