Former Londoner and hairdresser Sam Overton has swapped his scissors for spoons, opening a plant-based eatery, Bootleg Italian, in Paddington.

“It started as something I wanted to do a few years ago but I ended up getting cancer, and then the pandemic hit, so that delayed things,” chef and owner Overton tells Broadsheet. Fast forward to today and a healthy Overton has managed to bring his creative vision to life.

Named Bootleg Italian, the Oxford Street eatery is serving plant-based pastas, natural and minimal intervention wines, “simple, classic and tasty cocktails”, and desserts. Everything is made in-house from the pasta, to bread, cheeses, sauces and “meats”.

“Bootlegging means to copy, imitate or rip off, and that’s what I’m doing,” says Overton. “I’m making non-plant-based foods (meat, cheese, butter) plant-based. So I’m bootlegging food. I honestly thought everyone would get it the minute they heard the name but they didn’t, except for two people.

“I was over people saying plant-based food is shit or that they would never eat vegan food. I made it my mission to create the best plant-based food that people could get into their mouths. I try to cater for people who aren’t vegan or plant-based because if they choose my place over somewhere that isn’t plant-based, I know I’m doing something right.”

The restaurant opened for takeaway in July, after its official launch had to be postponed because of the Sydney lockdown. The restrictions didn’t stop word from spreading about its ever-evolving menu, featuring staples such as the vodka rigatoni, which is well worth the hype.

“Everyone has been losing it about the food. The feedback has been incredible and I’ve been blown away. The vodka rigatoni is a standout so far, I’ve been told it's one of the best in Sydney,” says Overton.

Also on the menu? Dough balls with garlic butter (Overton’s own recipe), truffle arancini, cacio e pepe, spaghetti aglio e olio, lasagne, “meatballs” in a slow-cooked sugo served with garlic focaccia, a selection of salads and sides, and tiramisu.

“I love tiramisu and this one took me a long time to get right and it’s bloody good, if I do say so myself,” says Overton. “The dough balls are sweet, fluffy white-bread clouds of love, smothered in melted garlic butter and topped with flaky sea salt.”

The hefty cocktail menu is split into spritzes and classics. The Ginger Spice spritz is made with ginger syrup, Lillet, prosecco and ginger beer, while cocktail standards such as Whisky Sours, Margaritas and dirty Martinis fill the classics menu.

Bootleg’s interiors are dark and moody, dimly lit with pops of colour accentuated by brass fixtures, velvet furniture, and classic black-and-white chequered flooring.

Bootleg Italian
312 Oxford Street, Paddington
0435 101 105

Wed to Sat 5.30pm–late