Ashfield gets its first small bar
Ashfield isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you’re after a drink – but that might change as the suburb welcomes its first small bar. Owned by husband and wife team Paul Blasi and Yen Tran, Miss Celie’s is a labour of love. The pork belly served on egg noodle and coriander salad is slow-cooked for nine hours, and the crispy-skinned chicken is cooked in master stock, then fried to order and served with cauliflower puree, roasted tomatoes and za’atar. During the week Miss Celie’s operates only at night, but on the weekend it’s open from midday and switches focus to daytime dining. Three Young Henrys beers are on tap, the wine list is succinct and thoughtful, and the revolving cocktail list has a selection of inventive drinks (such as the bar’s signature: gin with Aperol, lemon and raspberry) alongside classics. Located on a side street off Ashfield’s main drag, Miss Celie’s is a good spot to settle in for the evening.

Enormous hero sandwiches and legit Philly cheesesteaks
The name isn’t the only thing that’s changed recently at Wetherill Park’s Fat Franks – previously known as Frank’s Original Philly Cheesesteak & Dogs. The classic cheesesteaks – thick chunks of rib eye and gooey orange Cheez Whiz on hoagie rolls – are still the stars of the show, but now there are also loaded “hero” sandwiches served on those same light-as-air long rolls. Each sandwich is an interpretation of a different cuisine. Representing Greece is a pulled lamb, Greek salad and fries sandwich, and there’s falafel, hummus, pickled turnips, tomatoes and fries topped with melted American cheese for the Middle East. If you’re not stuffed after your giant sanga, try an oversized apple-pie thickshake or deep-fried Oreos.

A transportive Chippendale bar
Entering Saga Bar’s ornately carved wooden double doors is like stepping onto a deserted tropical island, or maybe a movie set. The venue opened in early 2020, but post-lockdown it’s launched a new menu by chef Tom Oke (Prime Restaurant at GPO Grand), a refreshed cocktail list and home-delivered cocktails. Most dishes are tapas-style and, if you’re stuck for what to drink, you can order the recommended wine pairing. Have the house-made samosas with a Mornington Peninsula chardonnay, or lemongrass chicken skewers with a pinot noir-shiraz blend from Usher Tinkler. The hundreds-strong wine list has a mix of premium bottles and drops by the glass. For those seeking a dramatic drink to match the theatrical setting, try a premium cocktail crafted by general manager Quinton Seeto – our pick’s the Tres Rare Side Car, made with a 40-year-old cognac.

A classic inner-west boozer gets an update
At its heart, Petersham’s Livingstone Hotel is still a local pub where punters can get a pint of VB and watch the rugby – but the new sunny back terrace is a game changer. The space, along with the rest of the hotel, underwent a sophisticated refurbishment during lockdown. Tiled in green, black and cream, with geometric pavers and Parisian cafe-style chairs, the garden space is an oasis on the busy corner of Livingstone and New Canterbury roads. The new menu is all about refined pub classics. Sirloin is served with confit potato and broccolini; the chicken and beef burgers come on brioche buns; and there’s market fish with asparagus and a citrusy butter sauce. Paying homage to the suburb’s Portuguese heritage is a selection of chargrilled skewers: beef with chimichurri, peri-peri chicken, vegetables and haloumi, and pork rump with sweet pineapple sauce. Plus, it’s got a streamlined new menu of natural wines.

An upper-crust Southeast Asian diner
When Nessiana Pamudji and Ferry Tshai had to close The Sambal, their casual Indonesian CBD eatery, to dine-in trade during lockdown, one home delivery took them to Pennant Hills. The suburb caught their eye as a possible home for a fine-dining idea they’d been tossing around, and they launched Nasi Dining & Bar at the end of September. The menu has moved away from the couple’s Indonesian heritage and embraced the cuisines of neighbouring Southeast Asian countries. There are Queensland king prawns in Singapore-style chilli sauce; a pretty roasted whole cauliflower on a bed of fragrant green curry; and Sydney rock oysters served with a tart and sweet nam jim sauce. And fans of The Sambal will be pleased to see its beef rendang on the menu – but in Pennant Hills, it’s done with nine-plus grade Wagyu.