English celebrity chef and food writer Nigella Lawson is notoriously a fan of Australia’s dining scene – in 2019 she even anointed Bondi’s Icebergs Dining Room & Bar her “favourite restaurant in the whole world”. Recently she’s been back Down Under for her show An Evening With Nigella Lawson. In between getting chatty on stage with Matt Preston about eating, cooking and recipe-building, she dined at some ace Sydney restaurants, was proffered some doughnuts that she deemed “heavenly” and made her way to a sandwich shop she says she dreams of from “the moment my plane ticket is booked”. And lucky for us, she chronicled it all on Instagram. Here’s where Lawson dined on her latest trip to the harbour city.
Lucky Kwong, South Eveleigh
Lawson has made no secret of her love of Kylie Kwong’s spirit-bolstering South Eveleigh diner Lucky Kwong – on a previous visit she pronounced the experience a “blessing”. So naturally she returned this time around.
“It’s a place like no other: both Lucky and [Kylie Kwong] make me feel ineffably grateful to be alive and just to be there,” Lawson wrote on Instagram. “I know it sounds like woo-woo gush, and I’m more of a hardened cynic than any of you, but it is always a transporting and transformative experience for me.”
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She dined on native greens; Uncle Jimmy’s steamed Hokkien noodles with scallops and pork belly (they’re a “rhapsody unfurling as you eat”, she says); Kwong’s signature steamed pancakes with hiramasa kingfish from Josh Niland’s Fish Butchery; the “crispy, soft, spicy and soothing” fried eggs; and the crowd-favourite spanner crab and prawn dumplings, which she calls a “blessing in a bowl”. She accompanied it all with a Voyager Estate chenin blanc.
Grumpy Donuts, Camperdown and Marrickville
As satisfying as it is to imagine Lawson lining up in industrial Marrickville or on traffic-clogged Pyrmont Bridge Road for a Somer Himpson doughnut or blueberry fritter, it was manicurist Betty Rose that did the queuing, picking up four of Grumpy Donuts’ best ahead of a nail appointment with the domestic goddess. But it was Lawson who did the eating. She labelled the tiramisu cheesecake doughnut “heavenly”, and was also treated by Rose to Grumpy Donuts’ popular blueberry fritter, its cartoonish strawberry Somer Himpson, and its Berry Ripe doughnut.
Bathers’ Pavilion, Mosman
Lawson visited a true local institution while in Sydney: Bathers’ Pavilion. The grand heritage-listed building, smack-bang on Balmoral Beach, would have been the perfect setting for Lawson’s seafood-heavy feast of Sydney rock oysters, pink snapper sashimi and blue eye trevalla – “both fish we don’t get in the UK”, says the cook. “It’s always lovely to eat food I don’t come across exactly in London,” she wrote on Instagram. To finish she went with what she called a “pink poem of a pudding”: blood peach sorbet with prosecco granita, queen garnet plum and ume syrup.
“Deep, deep love for the fabulous meatball sandwich at [Small’s Deli] in Sydney,” she wrote. “I dream of it from the moment my plane ticket is booked! Its actual name is Utah, Get Me Two! It’s a cinematic reference (the film being Point Break) which I confess I had to ask.”
The Utah, Get Me Two! is a bombastic combination of beef meatballs, tomato sugo, bechamel, pecorino and rocket on a toasted panini. Lawson recommends it as a salve for “the morning after the night before”, and we can absolutely see why.
Cafe Paci, Newtown
Finnish-born chef Pasi Petänen has been wowing Sydney with his genre-erasing, cuisine-blending cooking since he opened the first iteration of Cafe Paci in Darlinghurst in 2013. And, like harbour city locals who have long been enamoured by Petänen’s signature dishes such as potato and molasses bread and carrot sorbet, Lawson was impressed. Or, as she put it, “Aglow with happiness”.
Her best in show? Rye bread topped with thinly sliced fermented carrots and a smudge of ’nduja. “Crisp, crunchy, tangy – and somehow elegantly restrained and headily intense at the same time,” she said of the dish.