‘Saint Peter on a much larger scale’: Josh Niland to take over Paddington’s Grand National Hotel

Acclaimed Sydney chef Josh Niland and restaurateur Julie Niland have unveiled ambitious plans to expand their seafood empire by taking over the recently renovated Grand National Hotel in Paddington.

Niland says the historic watering hole will be transformed into a multi-dimensional hospitality center with a lavish 45-seat restaurant, private 15-seat dining room, bar and boutique hotel.

The Grand National Hotel will be the new home of Nilands’ Saint Peter seafood restaurant, which will close its Oxford Street location in early 2023.

Saint Peter currently serves 20 diners at a time, seated at a marble counter in a narrow sandstone and brick space on Oxford Street. Photo: Wolter Peeters

“I’m very happy to have a spacious dining room where I can welcome more people with open arms,” ​​says Niland.

Illuminated by a skylight, the new Saint Peter à la carte restaurant has an open kitchen, wood-fired grill and a selection of fish charcuterie cabinets and displays.

While an opening date has yet to be announced, Niland hopes the project will be completed by the end of the summer.

Fin-to-tail: Charcoal rock flathead with Diane sauce served in Saint Peter.

Fin-to-tail: Charcoal rock flathead with Diane sauce served in Saint Peter. Photo: Wolter Peeters

“It’s going to be amazing. I have all the infrastructure I can ever imagine to carry out St. Peter’s vision on a much larger scale,” Niland says.

“The whole reason I cook, the whole reason I’m in the hospitality industry, is because I love people and I love to cook for them. But since Saint Peter has halved its capacity I’ve only been able to reach a handful of people a day.

“With this new opportunity, we will be able to return to an a la carte experience where I can interact with guests and let them choose their own adventure.”

The menu will continue to showcase Australia’s leading seafood producers and Niland pledges to maintain its “enthusiasm to discover what’s possible with a fish”.

Where punters once pulled a stool to watch the footy at The Grand National, they will soon be able to settle into a booth or take a seat at Saint Peter’s first bar. It’s been a long time for Niland, who says he’s always wanted a space where guests can relax with a drink before or after their meal.

“We never took care of that before. As soon as people entered the doors of Sint-Pieter, we immediately got in.”

The Grand National Hotel is around the corner from the original restaurant.

The Grand National Hotel is around the corner from the original restaurant. Photo: Rhett Wyman

The bar will also become an extension of the restaurant, with a smaller and more accessible menu.

And when the last drinks are called, not everyone has to make the journey home: The Saint Peter team plans to open 14 high-end hotel rooms above the restaurant.

As Niland is tight-lipped about the details of the hotel, he can’t help but express his excitement.

“It was an offer that was too good to resist,” Niland says. “It’s great to have a restaurant with accommodation. For people who have traveled internationally or interstate, it’s fantastic to have a room upstairs where they want to dine.”

Niland says this announcement was three and a half years in the making.

“I’ve been working on this for so long and in that time the handbrake has been pulled unpredictably so many times,” he says. “But now we have a finish line.”

As the couple prepares to kick off the project, they have one more reason to celebrate. The Basque Culinary Center, one of the world’s most respected culinary schools, has appointed Josh Niland as a board member. Niland will become the first Australian to join the board, alongside the likes of Massimo Bottura and Rene Redzepi.

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