2016 has already been an explosive year for food and drink and there’s lots of evidence to show it’s only going to get better. We’re excited about a CBD revolution; local kitchen talents choosing more casual paths; and international talent coming over to lead some of our most exciting new venues. Here’s the first part of our double-header on Sydney’s best upcoming restaurants and bars.

Balcon by Tapavino
If any cuisine in Sydney needs resuscitating, it’s Spain’s. Tapavino’s Frank Dilernia hopes to expand the perception of Spanish food with his northern-Spanish inspired tapas and wine bar, Balcon. The food of the north of Spain is famous for two reasons – it leads in gastronomic innovation (El Muagaritz and El Bulli), and the region’s tapas is seriously great. Dilernia and executive chef Todd Garratt (ex-Buzo and Vincent) will mix Spanish produce and Australian culture to create a new style of Spanish cuisine.
Opening mid-July

Ume Bar
On July 16, Kerby Craig’s award-winning Japanese fine diner will close and start its transformation into Bar Ume, a casual, eight-item-menu izakaya bar. Coming in to run the new robata grill and cook the bar’s already-cult burgers(link) is chef Joe Parker (Vic’s Meats) who recently did a four-year stint cooking at yakiniku and izakaya joints in Japan. Despite the radical menu change Ume’s drinks list will remain largely the same. The selection of sake, wines and Japanese whisky will remain, though Craig will increase the range of wines with a focus on naturals and servings by the glass.
Opening August 5

Eleven Bridge
When Rockpool Est. 1989 announced its closure it came with news of another opening, Eleven Bridge. The plans for the new space are secret, but we do know head chef Phil Wood will return to something far more casual in both mood and menu. It will bring back the Asian-fusion led, pre-degustation Rockpool of the mid-’90s.
Opening August 8

Long Chim
David Thompson is finally returning home (he opened Sailors Thai in Sydney in the ’90s). This time he brings Long Chim, his Singapore- and Perth-based homage to Thai street food. Just like the other two venues, his new Angel Place venue will serve only what’s found on Thai streets (both traditional Thai and Westernised versions) alongside a menu of Asian-inspired cocktails.
Opening mid-August

Merivale’s done a lot of impressive head-hunting over the years but it’s the group’s latest acquisition that is the most intriguing. Danielle Alvarez is a chef of Michelin-star prestige (Chez Panisse, French Laundry) who’s spent the past two years in Sydney working with local farmers to create the backbone of her new Paddington restaurant, Fred’s. Along with its focus on produce, the restaurant will be based around wood-fired cooking and a lighter palate of French and Italian flavours.
Opening August

Bouche on Bridge
Following Hubert and Mercado, Bouche on Bridge is the next modern-European restaurant to join the CBD revolution. Like his forefathers Dan Pepperell and Nathan Sasi, executive chef Harry Stockdale-Powell (Rockpool, Marque) aims to serve fine-dining-quality food in a more relaxed setting. It will be far from homely though – the fit-out comes from Riley St Garage architect Quinton Lloyd.
Opening August

Tequila Mockingbird
The only other area rivalling the CBD for new openings is Paddington. Following the Unicorn, The Paddington, East London and the Light Brigade renovation comes a restaurant-bar inspired by the cuisines and drinks of South America. Founder Michael Fegent has brought in Regan Porteous (Toko, Riley Street Garage), Gabriel Valenti (Maido) and Matt Taylor-Watkins (Bentley) to work on mixing the flavours of the South American continent with modern techniques and Australian produce.
Opening August

All opening dates are subject to change. Stay tuned for updates.