On the face of it, it’s been a hard year for the Sydney dining scene. We’ve watched as adored eateries such as The Fish Shop, Oscillate Wildly, Billy Kwong, Chur Burger, Paper Bird and Longrain called it a day, and quickly booked our last meals at Acme, The Bridge Room, Barzaari Chippendale, Cake Wines and Chinta Ria Mood for Love as they announced their closures, too.
But it’s not all bad news: Sydney’s dining scene is rising like a phoenix from the ashes and giving us plenty to look forward to. The teams from recently closed restaurants are stepping into new venues, chefs from some of our favourites are launching what look to be new go-tos, and local legends are expanding their restaurant repertoire. Opening dates often shift, but here’s where we’ll likely be eating in the next few months.
We don’t think this’ll be your average falafel and shawarma joint. For one thing it’s got a bunch of hospitality heavyweights behind it: Mat Lindsay (Ester, Poly) will be on the pans, while Russell Beard, Mark Dundon and Jim Ng (Paramount Coffee Project, Paramount House Hotel) will be in operational roles.
The 10-seater will be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks seven days a week, with a menu of only four items. Expect spice-marinated lamb shawarma (a Middle Eastern way of prepping meat, similar to doner) wrapped in laffa flatbread (a pocketless and softer version of pita); fresh pita filled with fried-to-order falafel, garlic sauce, mango pickle and cabbage; sabich, an Israeli breakfast sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant and boiled eggs; and the team’s take on the halal snack pack, the NHSP (not halal snack pack). Likewise, the booze options will be minimalist: a red wine, a white wine, beer and craft soda, plus espresso that diners will serve themselves.
Balmoral Bathers’ Pavilion
We’re also expecting great things from the revamped Balmoral Bathers’ Pavilion. The art-deco building is currently undergoing renovations, after French-Canadian chef Serge Dansereau (who’s been behind its restaurant since 1998) won the tender for another 20-year lease. He’s brought some top-notch talent on board for his reimagined pavilion: there’s very nice man Cam Fairbairn (who co-owned Acme) as general manager of service, Cameron Johnston (St Claude’s, Jonah’s) as head chef, Kumiko Endo (Attica, Testuya’s) as head pastry chef and Jess Mead (Kingdom of Rice, Acme) as restaurant manager.
For the first time in its history, the pavilion’s terrace will be open to the public, with a champagne and oyster bar on Sundays. There’ll also be a new all-day bistro, a new lounge and bar area that’ll seat 20 people, and a refreshed takeaway kiosk. The restaurant will still be French-leaning; the bistro will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. At the kiosk you’ll be able to pick up natural ice-cream, good coffee and even a beach towel if you forget to bring yours.
Merivale: 3 Weeds Hotel, Totti’s, Lotus 2.0
Hospitality group Merivale continues to spread into every corner of Sydney. It recently acquired Rozelle’s historic 3 Weeds Hotel, where it’ll be opening an outpost of Bondi’s Totti’s, bringing the “Italian mash-up” menu of approachable Mediterranean food to the inner west. That means that Sydney will soon have three Totti’s – expect another spin-off in Merivale’s rejuvenated inner-city Ivy precinct in the coming months. Also opening soon in that hub: a casual Lebanese eatery and bar by chef Simon Zalloua (ex-Rockpool) and a Mexican eatery.
Merivale will also revive Lotus, the now-storied eatery that was the launching pad for Dan Hong (Ms G’s, Mr Wong). It’ll be popping up in the exact space it launched in 2002 (most recently occupied by The Fish Shop in June) and operating for about a year (the building was recently sold, so the future beyond that is uncertain). It’ll serve Hong’s famous Lotus cheeseburger, his cult hot-fudge sundae, and signature Lotus cocktails such as the Lotus Martini and the Celestial. Fingers crossed it’s as fun as the original.
When one door closes, another opens. In this case the first door belonged to lauded Rushcutters Bay restaurant Acme, the second to Maurice Terzini’s Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta. Walking through those doors is former Acme head chef and co-owner Mitch Orr. He’ll be taking over Da Orazio in the coming weeks, bringing his creative approach to Italian dining further east.
The Bondi restaurant is closed for now and undergoing a refurb. When it reopens with Orr on the pans, it’ll have a new name: Ciccia Bella. The eatery will keep its enormous 2.7-tonne brick pizza oven, which was imported from Naples.
Everyone from David Chang to Rihanna has ordered Golden Century’s famous XO pippies. So it seems only right the family behind the 30-year-old Sussex restaurant would name its newest addition after its best-known dish. Opening this month in the new The Exchange building in the Darling Square precinct, XOPP will offer a more modern take on Chinese cuisine than its sibling restaurant, with small plates of food and a dedicated bar space.
Darlinghurst diner Cafe Paci wasn’t around for long, but in the two years it spent on Riley Street, Darlinghurst, it cemented a reputation for owner Pasi Petanen. Now, Petanen has found a forever home for Cafe Paci 2.0. This time he’ll be opening in Newtown, the suburb he’s called home for the 20 years he’s lived in Australia.
The new Cafe Paci will seat 60 or so people, making it much smaller than the cavernous original. Like its predecessor, it’ll serve dishes that draw on Petanen’s Finnish background and experience as head chef at fine-diner Marque. (For example: spring lamb tartare, sourdough pasta with pecorino, and a smoked mettwurst sausage from LP’s Quality Meats.) This time, though, the menu will be à la carte rather than set, with guests able to drop in for a few pre-movie snacks (Dendy Cinemas Newtown is a short walk away) or a full meal. Wine guru Giorgio De Maria will be consulting on the wine list, which will cover everything from the traditional to the minimally-processed and funky.
Small bars Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Saint Eloise have both become known for their excellent wine and food, thanks in no small part to the equally excellent taste of owners Matthew Swieboda and Nathanial Hatwell. Their third venue is set to be just as wine-devoted and food-focused, and this one’ll be smack-bang amongst it in the middle of the CBD.
On the wine front there’ll be more than 250 bottles (around 20 available by the glass), with an emphasis on low-intervention Italian and Australian wines. Williams’s experience at Bacco Osteria will stand him in good stead, with a streamlined menu of five or six pastas that’ll change daily. Now and again whole goats will be brought in for him to use in different dishes over the course of the week, and while the pasta shapes and sauces will be traditional, the techniques will be modern and the ingredients local.