Until recently Annita Potter was one of the most senior chefs in the David Thompson empire (Long Chim), flying around the world to open restaurants and spread Thompson’s fiery Thai-food gospel. Now she’s spreading that gospel in Sydney, but doing it her own way.
Her project is Bullion Bar and Dining, a Thai pop-up in Macquarie Street’s heritage Mint building. It’s a restaurant for people who love proper Thai food, the type that’s spicy, salty, sour and funky – exactly how Potter likes it.
While nearby Long Chim celebrates the punch of Thai cuisine through popular street-food dishes, Potter wants to focus on food Sydneysiders aren’t familiar with. “The Thai [in Sydney] is very same-same – it all sits at that casual street-food level. That's what's been offered in Sydney for a long time. Living in Thailand and cooking with David has really opened my eyes to the very vast different range of Thai food,” she says.
The current menu has no pad thai, green curry or tom yum. Instead Potter serves baby cuttlefish wok fried with northern Thai peppercorns, wild ginger and a generous whack of long red chillies. There’s also barramundi cured with rice and garlic and fried into a crunchy fritter, stir-fried pork balls with banana chillies, and the ridiculously sticky ginger-and-black-pepper chicken wings.
The Angasi oysters (a flat, large, rounded oyster native to Australia’s eastern coast) is an interactive dish. It comes to the table in a heavy mortar with shallots, ginger and finger lime. You pour in a green chilli relish and pound it all up with the pestle.
“I don’t wish to eat green curry, and I don’t want to serve pad thai, you can get that literally 150 metres from here in any direction,” Potter says.
Many of these recipes may change in a few months because Potter makes food that aligns with the seasons. “I am very driven by my relationships with my suppliers,” she says. “The ones I was using at Long Chim, who started farms, have much bigger farms now and they're producing better things.”
The eatery is named for the building it’s in. In the 1850s the influx of gold passing through the city (because of the rush) meant a Bullion Office was needed to process it. The Mint was chosen. It’s now home to a library and the Sydney Living Museum’s head office. Potter says in February the eatery will undergo a major refurb and the name may or may not remain (which is why they’re calling it a pop-up for now).
“All the furniture will be changed, the glasses and plates are just what I could find. That will all be … brought in from Asia and Europe,” she says.
A new bar will be added as well. When it’s installed you’ll be able to order a cocktail, sit on the Mint veranda in the mid-afternoon sun and snack on something salty, savoury and sweet. Although the future is a little tentative for this eatery one thing is certain: it’s likely to be spicy.
Bullion Bar and Dining
Level 1/10 Macquarie Street, Sydney
(02) 9238 0805
Mon to Fri 12pm–4pm
Since publication Bullion Bar and Dining has closed down.