Fine-dining restaurants once held a position as the pinnacle of the food experience, but in recent years a quiet revolution has been brewing, one that forgoes starched table cloths and silver service. With a new generation of casual eateries, it’s clear that fine food made from quality produce is still very much on trend – it’s just served in a more relaxed form. Here are the latest openings you should know about.
Can Cava Pintxos & Wine
Bondi has its first dedicated pinxtos restaurant – like tapas, pintxos (pronounced “pin-choss”) are small bite-sized dishes designed to share. Traditionally they are pre-made but, courtesy of chef Jon Cowan, they’re made to order. Expect small plates of goat’s cheese croquettes with rosemary salt and honey; pork belly and chorizo with cider puree; and lamb ribs with mojo verde. The wine list is purely Spanish with homemade sangria by the litre. Enjoy among the rustic-European fitout.
Featuring a sashimi bar and robata grill, Kenny Rens specialises in Izakaya-style dishes with a contemporary bend. Most of the menu is cooked over the robata, a centuries-old type of Japanese barbeque fuelled by wood charcoal. This style of grilling gives the Balmain bugs and prawns a sweet, smoky flavour. The other highlight is the wagyu tri-tip, served sliced and tender. The bar’s extensive whisky and sake collection is equally impressive. The Akuma, a cocktail named after a Japanese fire demon, combines Hibiki Disteller’s Reserve muddled with blood-orange juice, agave and jalapeno.
Jersey Rd Bistro
The owners of Buzo have relaunched the site as Jersey Rd Bistro, a casual eatery showcasing some of Australia’s best produce. The new name comes with a new focus. Straying from Buzo’s traditional Italian roots, chef Jason Dean has created a stylised bistro menu that reflects their commitment to light and fresh flavours. There’s confit kingfish with black lentils; grilled octopus with spiced eggplant, and scallop carpaccio. More substantial dishes include roasted lamb rump and crispy-skinned duck breast. Take a trip to the rooftop to check out the bistro’s urban garden.
Bistro Rex is a modern take on the classic Parisian bistro. The Macleay Street arrival is a melting pot of talent from head chef Jo Ward (former owner of Bloodwood); sous chef Michelle Powell (bar manager at Spice Temple); Baci Moore (former manager of Spice Temple); and Josh Dunne (sommelier at China Doll). With a menu inspired by colonial French cuisine, expect classics such as confit duck and chicken-liver parfait alongside king-prawn beignets (deep-fried choux pastry), wrapped in carrot and cucumber.
Inspired by 1920s New York, Johnny Fishbone is complete with walls of wine and a marble-topped bar perfect for casual dining. The Spanish tapas-style wine parlour has a relatively broad seafood selection, which includes oysters, ceviche, sardines with tomato jam, and white anchovies on rye crackers. Equally important is the 60-strong wine list.