In a city where the demand for casual dining is outshining highbrow culinary options, fast high-quality food concepts have never been so relevant. As a result, some of Sydney’s top chefs and restaurant owners are launching spin-offs, offering diners an affordable alternative to the restaurants that have earned them their star status. Here, we look at five casual dining options that are making it easy to eat out well.
Chiosco by Ormeggio
The Spit’s new kid on the block proves that it pays to listen to your customers. Co-owner and chef Alessandro Pavoni launched the seaside branch of his fine-dining institution on the advice of regulars. While his Italian restaurant Ormeggio is degustation-focused, Pavoni says he wanted to have a little more fun with Chiosco. “It’s really casual and a completely different price-point,” says Pavoni. “We want to be everyone’s favourite local.”
Burger Project by Neil Perry
Sometimes all you need is one dish to diversify your dining empire. The launch of Neil Perry’s new venture is entirely down to the popularity of Rockpool Bar & Grill’s wagyu burger, of which his two existing restaurants sell 1500 a week. “It’s a concept we’ve been playing around with for over a year,” says Perry, of his new burger joint. “We wanted to leverage the reputation we created in running high-quality restaurants over the past 25 years and make it accessible for everyone to enjoy.” So what are the main differences between operating a fine-dining and fast-casual concept? “People dining at Rockpool want the experience to last for hours, but at Burger Project, people are in and out in under 30 minutes. Whether it’s fine dining or fast casual, people always want good customer service, a nice environment in which to dine, good-quality produce, cooked well, and of course, value for money,” he says.
The Kiosk at Pilu at Freshwater
Five years since it opened on the sandbanks of sunny Freshwater, the suckling-pig panino at Pilu’s casual cousin, The Kiosk, still has a huge following. “We wanted a place where regulars could come on a daily basis and hang out. It gives people a chance to experience a dish that we have in the restaurant but in a different style and in a casual environment,” says co-owner (with her husband and chef Giovanni Pilu), Marilyn Annecchini. “The menu is very casual, mainly coffee, cakes, paninis and salads. Then in the winter we may do some pastas, or maybe some pies and sausage rolls. So the prices are obviously a lot cheaper,” Annecchini says.
Hawker by Mamak
Leave it to Malaysian-Australian trio Julian Lee, Alan Au and Clement Lee to demonstrate the importance of honouring a concept. For the owners of Indian-influenced Malaysian Mamak restaurants, this was the deciding factor behind launching Hawker in the CBD, which is all about the Chinese side of Malaysian food. “A lot of customers request other dishes to be on the menu, such as char koay teow and the laksas,” says Lee. “ We wanted to keep Mamak focused on the concept of Indian food, so rather than just add to the menu, we felt we really needed a spin-off. Hawker gives us the opportunity to present a whole new side of Malaysian food, which we’re all very passionate about,” he says.
Barrio Cellar by Barrio Chino
Slated to open in May, partners Peter Lew and Nicole Galloway are expanding Mexican venue Barrio Chino with a drinks-focused, late-night sibling in the city. “When the space became available we fell in love with it. It’s the old Wine Banq site, so it’s a basement venue,” says Lew. “I’ve been going to a basement Mexican restaurant in New York called Latina for years, so that’s the inspiration behind it.” While the concept at Barrio Chino is good-quality Mexican street food and tequila in a relaxed setting, Lew says Barrio Cellar will be all about quenching thirsts. “It’ll have a tequila bar and be a bit more casual, so no table service.". Keen to tap into the CBD’s after-hours drinking on all days of the week, the venue will be open until 3am most nights.