Broadsheet Sydney covers a lot of openings across the city, from Palm Beach to Parramatta, Petersham to Penrith. Lately, though, we’ve noticed an influx of top-notch cafes, restaurants and bars opening in the inner west. There are Japanese-style breakfasts, the crunchiest fried chicken you’ll ever eat, a bakery that blasts everything in a woodfired oven and an adventurous diner from one of Sydney’s most respected chefs. The inner west’s best new places cover a spectrum of dining experiences. Here they are.
Brighter Coffee, Stanmore
At Stanmore corner cafe Brighter Coffee, the focus is community. “Our priority is caring for people. It’s about caring for our team, our values and the community here,” co-owner Junji Tai told Broadsheet when the spot opened in July.
While people might be number one at Brighter, the food and drinks aren’t an after thought. All the coffee beans are roasted in-house and come from one Colombian coffee farmer (Brighter sells 80 per cent of his coffee). The food menu has just six items, and while they change frequently you can always expect some variation of mushrooms on toast, and a kimchi-based toastie with the potential to change your life. With just 22 chairs in this sunny spot, and a 1pm closing time on weekends, it’s a good idea to get to Brighter early.
At Redfern’s Bush, which opened in August, nothing will set you back more than $12. Australiana is the guiding theme here: decorations include stuffed marsupial toys, diners sit on tree stumps, and native flowers and twigs beautify the space. “I am not afraid to put a bit of cringe out in the world,” owner Grant Lawn told Broadsheet.
The food isn’t strictly Australian – an American-style cheeseburger is your standard meat, cheese, pickles and sauce affair, but the patty is encrusted with a layer of speck. There’s a nod to natives in the party pie, which is made with curried kangaroo, and the grapefruit dessert is drizzled with Lawn’s grandmother’s honey. Plus, childhood nostalgia is catered for with bread-and-butter pudding scattered with hundreds and thousands.
Cafe Paci, Newtown
This city sees a lot of big restaurant openings, but we’re particularly enamoured by this one. Finnish-born chef Pasi Petanen was behind the original Cafe Paci, a pop-up that came onto the Sydney scene in 2013 but closed too soon. It’s now back, this time on Newtown’s King Street and with 2019 sensibilities.
That means there’s no set menu, and Petanen wants people to come in for either a feast or just a snack – perhaps the potato and molasses bread, or a carrot sorbet with liquorice cake – and a glass of wine. A regular Petanen collaborator is on vino duties: the very excellent Giorgio De Maria (Giorgio De Maria Fun Wines), who is serving a list packed with fascinating options. Like we said, there’s lots to like about this newbie.
Cherry Moon General Store, Annandale
Sleepy Annandale got a boost when this grocer, woodfired bakery and cafe opened. The quaint spot is by pastry chef (ex-Rockpool and Tetsuya’s) and woodfire aficionado Kimmy Gastmeier, and former schoolteacher Aimee Graham.
From its custom-built woodfired oven (which took six months to build) come superb organic stone-ground flour sourdough loaves tinged with char and blistered Portuguese tarts, rolls and focaccias. We also dig the seasonal tarts, upside-down orange cakes and the cherry on the top: the Cherry Moon doughnuts topped with glacé cherries.
The menu is an eclectic mix – with garlic labneh sitting alongside ceviche and Argentinian-style chimichurri chicken – and the space is handsome, warm, inviting. The Henry Lee cocktail (Grey Goose vodka, Mr Black cold-pressed coffee liqueur, double espresso) is named, like the venue, after the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds track. If you’re feeling particularly flamboyant, order the absinthe. The two-person drink will see an absinthe fountain brought to your table for an elaborate pouring that involves flames.
For the past decade, Kirribilli’s Cool Mac has garnered a number of fans thanks to its Japanese-style breakfasts. Now its owner Eugene Leung has opened a sibling cafe, Kūrumac, which means “Cool Mac” in Japanese. Like its north-of-the-bridge counterpart, Kūrumac fuses East and West, serving the Japanese comfort food his wife grew up on alongside excellent coffee and croissants.
The menu is full of classic breakfast dishes you’d find across Japan: onigiri (rice balls) stuffed with pickled mustard greens; soba noodle soup with Wagyu and tempura; and a spicy cod roe melt – a toasted inch-high slice of shokupan (Japanese milk bread) with a smear of peppery roe and tasty cheese grilled on top. Kūrumac has already copped requests for the ramen that’s become popular at Cool Mac – fingers crossed Leung listens.
In the heart of little Portugal in Petersham is Noi, an Italian diner with an urban-luxe vibe. Opened by one of the owners of Pyrmont’s Lumi, it’s set in a former framing store that’s had a handsome makeover: its original floorboards and a brick wall have been exposed and enhanced with dark navy upholstery, gold trimmings and a polished-concrete bar.
Food-wise it’s a regional tour of Italy. There’s risi e bisi (rice and peas) served with cured salmon, and pansotti (Ligurian ravioli) filled with ricotta and borage (a blue-flower plant) and dressed with walnut sauce. The wine list leans Italian, and for dessert there’s a miso-soil tiramisu and a cream sponge cake with goat-milk custard and almond-milk granita.
Thirsty Bird, Newtown
Often, fried chicken is one of two things: extra-crunchy or incredibly juicy. The chicken at Newtown’s Thirsty Bird somehow manages to be both. The inner-west offshoot of the Potts Point original has just opened and is a cut above its booze-free predecessor – here you can match your chook with frosty tinnies.
The crunchy fried chicken at Thirsty Bird Newtown hews to the same recipe as the inner-east original: it’s brined, air-dried for 24 hours, coated with seasoned flour, submerged in buttermilk, floured again, then deep fried until golden crisp strands appear across the entire surface. It comes wedged between buns in a range of burgers, and also comes as bone-in pieces in original and spicy variations. On the side choose between house-made waffle fries; tater tots loaded with bacon, cheese and gravy; or extra-buttery mash with gravy.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on October 29, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.