Survival is never guaranteed in the Sydney hospitality scene. Even if you’re a seven-year-old fine dining venue with a loyal following, an infrastructure project like the light rail extension can choke the high street, leaving you and your Surry Hills neighbours to languish at the side of a construction site.

“It was bittersweet to close The Devonshire as I was very proud of everything we did there,” says chef Jeremy Bentley. “Running a small business always has its challenges, and the light rail project really hit us hard.”

But Bentley is resilient. After a 12-month break he started thinking about his next project, the newly opened Eliza on Victoria Street in Darlinghurst. “It was never intentional to take a year off, but the freedom and creativity it provided meant I could think about what I really wanted to focus on,” he says.

“The Devonshire was a fine dining and special occasion restaurant. We want Eliza to be a restaurant for every occasion, and this time the menu is about dishes you can share.”

The Devonshire’s interiors had the seriousness of a fine dining venue, but Eliza is youthful and fresh. Colours of pale salmon pink and muted teal combine with cognac leather and natural wood to give the space a modern look. The white-framed picture windows slide open to let in fresh air and the noise of Victoria Street. There’s seating along the bar, comfortable banquets, and a high chef’s table near the kitchen pass where customers can enjoy the affable hosting of Bentley and head chef Shaz Akbar.

From the kitchen come tried-and-true contemporary Australian dishes, such as slow-cooked roast lamb shoulder and pork belly with incredible crackling. But there are also some surprises, like the salt-fish beignets (fried dough) served on a light-as-air taramasalata, and paper-thin slices of serrano ham accompanied by glazed peaches and pork crackling – an exquisite trifecta of fat, salt and crunch.

And then some dishes are almost cheeky in their simplicity – like the whole roast carrot that arrives with carrot mousse, peas, sourdough crumbs and smoky black garlic. “This is one of my favourite dishes,” says restaurant manager Rory Fitzpatrick.

It’s easy to be dubious about a dish that is essentially a single carrot sitting on a plate, but it’s tender, buttery, and sweet, and the embellishments offer the right balance of saltiness and texture. This might be the most remarkable carrot you ever eat.

The cocktail list is still in development, but the wine list showcases drops from Australia, New Zealand and France and complements the menu well.

Asked if Bentley is worried about opening again in a city with a constant parade of great new openings, he says he’s happy to have the chance to do it all again: “I’m really excited to be starting fresh and am thankful for the opportunity.”

Eliza
247 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst

Hours:
Wed to Thu 6pm–10pm
Fri to Sun 12pm–4pm, 6pm–10pm

facebook.com/elizafoodandwine

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on February 18, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.