When Chui Lee Luk speaks about health food she doesn’t talk about raw cheesecake or green smoothies. She refers to ginger pudding with mango and honeycomb, coconut-poached chicken and macrobiotic bowls. Luk (Chow Bar & Eating House) has just signed on as the chef at 169 Darlinghurst after hearing it has a similar philosophy on food.

“Where I'm heading is something that gelled with these guys,” she says. The crux of Luk and 169’s new vision is reshaping the stereotype of nutritious food. “It’s all about eating consciously, but I’m developing a cuisine that tastes great as well as makes the diner feel great on the inside,” says Luk.

The cafe is slowly phasing out its old staples now and replacing them with Luk’s new ideas. Early examples include a zucchini-and-broad bean salad mixed with fresh herbs and chewy strands of fermented chickpeas; gravlax artfully topped with juicy spanner crab and Dijon mustard; and salads served mostly raw, moderately dressed and compartmentalised to mix how you like. “There’s going to be a lot of seasonal vegetables, some raw, some fermented, some pickled and complemented with ethically sourced organic meats and fish,” says Luk.

Those looking for the fine-dining skills Luk showed off at Claude’s, look to the upcoming dinner menu (some of which is available now, but the whole menu will be Luk’s next year). Two dishes she mentions as a teaser are the bowl of blood-orange granita with kefir curds, blueberry and cacao meringue. And a dry-aged lamb loin with parmesan cream with pickled pumpkin.

169’s owner, Tim Clark, says bringing in Luk was part of 169’s ambition to grow. The coffee bar, which uses Pablo & Rusty’s roasts, now offers the gamut of specialty options (including a nitro-coffee), and the drinks list has been revamped with help from ACME’s Gavin Wright. Clark is also talking to Tony Assness (the designer) and George Raftopoulos (the mural artist) about touching up the interiors. “Everything is coming up a notch, but we're still keeping in mind it needs to be accessible,” Clark says. He wants this to be both a dining destination in itself and a place to visit before patrons head to 169’s basement bar, Tatler.

169 Darlinghurst
169 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
(02) 9331 8811

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