Almost every table at Benjamin & Daughters has toasted bagels and a few dill-topped gravlax slices. Everyone else has a Reuben sandwich or chicken matzo-ball soup. Above the tables there are pictures of red-brick delis and much-loved restaurants. If it weren’t for the Australian accents, and the heat, you'd think this was New York City.
That’s the idea. The McDonald family (which also used to own and run Fratelli Fresh is enamoured with New York’s Jewish delis and restaurants, and wants to bring a sense of that to Sydney. “We've been inspired by all of them, from the Carnegie Deli, all the way through to Katz's Deli, 2nd Avenue and Russ and Daughters,” says Karen McDonald. The most obvious parallel is Russ and Daughters; the two have a modernised take on New York’s Jewish delis. Instead of red bricks the walls are white and there's flashing signage. There is a sunroof, leather benches and a bar overlooking the kitchen. “We just wanted it to be comfortable and easy. It suits the food, which is comfort driven,” says McDonald.
From the bar you’ll probably see, or meet, McDonald’s two daughters (Nina Gravelis and Grace McDonald), who help with running the business. “We'll all be working here. When we started Fratelli it was all us working together, and as the mother hen, it's nice to see everyone together again.”
The recipes, come from McDonald’s mother and grandma. “I grew up with European-style Jewish food, and that's what we're doing here,” she says. Those looking for a classic McDonald meal can follow the family’s Friday-night dinner tradition. Start with matzo-ball soup, latkes (fried-potato cakes) or chopped liver; then move onto meat (roast chicken or maybe brisket with cabbage); and finish with a plate of apple and cinnamon cake or cheesecake. For a more contemporary summer feed, try the seasonal salads or grilled fish. “We've got a traditional thread running through, but it’s also Sydney-fied.” says McDonald.
Benjamin & Daughters
346 New South Head Road, Double Bay
(02) 9327 2844
Daily 12pm–3pm, 5.30pm–10pm