When Sydney Metro’s Barangaroo Station is up and running – expected to be in 2024 – the old argument that the north side of the bridge is too far to travel for dinner will go out the window. Three minutes between Barangaroo and North Sydney stations is hard to argue with, and standout venues like Poetica Bar & Grill are going to reap the benefits.
The expansive diner, which first welcomed guests through to its mezzanine-level space on Friday September 1, is the latest opening from Etymon, the group behind The Charles Grand Brasserie & Bar and Milson Point’s Loulou. On the ground level, tidal swirls of blues and caramel – by Noosa-based artist Kristian Hawker – invite you in off the street, where two flights of stairs take you to the 120-seat restaurant and adjoining 60-seat bar. The atmosphere is breezy, courtesy of a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that brings sunlight streaming in.
In the restaurant, blond timber furniture is accented with soft finishes in mustard and cream, while striking Pringle-like discs float overhead. The tableware is smooth and artful, and wood-handled cutlery sits heavy in hands. Over the few days since opening, Poetica’s already boasting booked-out midweek sittings. “We’ve only been open four days officially,” head chef Connor Hartley-Simpson tells Broadsheet. “We’ve got all the systems in place, happy customers, it’s going well.”
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The menu is approachable and impressive, prepared and cooked in an open kitchen; a centrepiece hearth intermittently casts bursts of warmth across diners’ faces. When Broadsheet previewed the opening, it was the bivalves that piqued curiosity.
“We sell more of the flambadou oysters than we do fresh oysters,” Hartley-Smith says. “We have the metal cone sitting in the fire, and the oyster with ’nduja and guindillas [alongside]. The cone comes out of the fire, we put some rendered beef fat in and it instantly ignites. [It] starts to melt then drips onto the oyster, slightly cooks it and caramelises the ’nduja.”
After that red-hot starter, there are yuzu-koshu scallops and leeks braised in the flames to join catch from Smoketrap Eels, a “risky” dish that’s been received well. But it’s a roast chook seasoned with molluscs that’s trending with the early guests. “Instead of using salt, we’re getting the salinity via mussels to season the chicken,” says Hartley-Smith. “With the sauce, we use the mussel juice – you get this really clean saline flavour.”
Along one wall, a 700-bottle wine cooler stands next to dry-aging fridges with premium cuts of meat labelled and on display for curious customers. Swordfish spends seven days maturing, while sirloins and tomahawks push a month.
The star of the desserts is tricky to lock down. There’s a rich brown butter cake started over coals, and charcoaled strawberries with walnut parfait. But it’s a bite reminiscent of a summer’s day Splice that arguably reigns supreme. “My favourite is this little mandarin granita – super fresh, a little bit acidic. Underneath is a brûlée cream, a little bit of mandarin oil to coat the mouth and give that citrus flavour, and then crispy ginger [on top]. You get the spiciness you’re not really expecting.”
The bar is tucked away with room for 40, with Australian-focused cocktails from Kieran Lee (The Barber Shop). “My favourite’s got to be the Terra Flora,” Lee says. “Strawberry gum-infused gin, Autonomy Davo plum liqueur and an Australian bitter. All Aussie, boozy, stirred down.”
Regardless of which side of the bridge you dwell on, Poetica sings a loud siren for the burgeoning dining scene in North Sydney. Flambadou oysters and a roll call of punchy plates prepared over open flames deserve a visit, three-minute train ride or not.
Poetica Bar & Grill
1 Denison Street, North Sydney
Tue to Sat midday–late