When we wrote this list last year finding five worthy restaurants was hard, let alone 10. This year it proved near impossible, but for the opposite reason. We’ve had some sad closure announcements (Marque, Rockpool, Sepia) but starting with the Noma pop-up, we’ve also had one of the biggest six months of restaurant openings in Sydney’s history. So here’s our top 10 of the year so far.
If ever a venue perfectly captured the romance of hospitality, it is this. A winding wooden stairway, a foyer like an alchemist’s storeroom and a lavish dining area that looks straight from mid-century Paris. The menu seems just as classic but, thanks to ex-10 William St maestro Dan Pepperell, it’s only French in appearance. When it comes down to it, the techniques and flavours behind these dishes are simply whatever works, and tastes, best.
What kind of restaurant stocks the best of Australia’s new-wave natural wine producers and serves it next to a ham-and-cheese sandwich? A good one. Analiese Gregory’s Bar Brose feels like the future of fine dining – playful, fearless food in a casual atmosphere – and not a degustation menu to be found.
There’s a flour a mill on the counter. Take that in for a second. How many other restaurants in Sydney are milling their own flour? Of course, that’s not all they do here. Nathan Sasi and his team make cheese, butcher meat, prepare cold cuts and play around with distillation. Everything is served with soft rotisserie meat in a lush, part-marble basement in Angel Place.
Prolific hospitality whiz Maurice Terzini and the team from Icebergs have opened a pub version of their iconic Australian-Italian restaurant, and its pizza is not like any other pizza you’ve had. For starters, they’re made almost entirely from Australian ingredients – from the flour, tomatoes and cheese on up. Terzini has also brought in ex-Wine Library sommelier James Hird to curate one of Sydney’s most progressive wine bars.
No.1 Bent Street
Following Hubert and Mercado, No.1 Bent Street is the third amigo in the CBD revolution. While not as ambitious as the others, it’s no less enjoyable. The idea here is an extension of Mike McEnearney’s previous Rosebery venue, Kitchen by Mike. The food is similar (simple and produce focused) but amplified, and the fit-out follows the same open, transparent philosophy, with the kitchen on show.
Kensington Street Social
Sydney’s first taste of the Jason Atherton restaurant empire is no standardised template. Executive chef Robert Daniels and drinks man Matt Fairhurst have playfully weaved Australian ingredients and culture into all of the restaurant’s menus. Because the Chippendale venue operates as a cafe, bar and restaurant, the space needs to be flexible and it is, looking at different times like a shabby artists’ warehouse or a swanky hotel lobby.
When he opened Devon Cafe in 2013, Zachary Tan changed cafe food. Now he’s changing our perceptions of Malaysian cuisine. At Lucky Suzie the product is simpler than the boundary-pushing breakfasts at Devon as Tan focuses on what he grew up with; traditional Malaysian dishes such as char kway teow, nasi lemak and, currently the most Instagrammed dessert in town, ABC.
Bob by Three Blue Ducks
This two-for-one has Three Blue Ducks’ fresh, textural and colourful cafe food and serves an Argentinian barbequed-meat bonanza. So Rosebery gets the best of both worlds. Both venues are housed in a warehouse-style space that was previously Koskella Kitchen and Kitchen by Mike.
Along with Ibrahim Kasif’s Stanbuli, Anason is breaking perceptions of what Turkish food is and can be. In order to shift the stereotype away from kebabs and mezze, Anason’s owner, Somer Sivrioglu (also of Efendy), has brought in the best of Istanbul’s emerging kitchen talents. They’ve created a Sydney version of a seaside meyhane (the Turkish version of a tapas bar), with a Turkish oven and an accompanying street-side bread cart.
Harpoon Harry Dining Room
Morgan McGlone, the man behind Melbourne’s cult American fried-chicken joint Belle’s Hot Chicken, is now also behind the kitchen counter at Hotel Harry. This is casual dining inspired by the American South. Because James Hird is on drinks, we guess Harpoon Harry is perhaps the only place in the world you can get a glass of natural orange wine with St Louis-style pork ribs.