We all spent most of 2020 hoping 2021 would bring better days. And while that may not have turned out to be the case in all aspects of life, there’s plenty to look forward to when it comes to what’s planned for Sydney’s drinking and dining scene in 2021. The list below has a new eatery from Sydney legend Kylie Kwong, a waste-conscious bar from a mixologist who devises his drinks in a “lab”, and two new venues from the team behind the number 11 bar in the world.

Kylie Kwong at South Eveleigh
Sydney dining legend Kylie Kwong is behind not only a new eatery at the in-progress South Eveleigh precinct (formerly Australian Technology Park), but is also the precinct’s ambassador.

Her venue within the precinct is due to open in mid-2021. But don’t expect another version of Billy Kwong, her restaurant that fused Cantonese food with Indigenous ingredients and redefined Chinese dining (it closed in November 2019 after 19 years). “Get rid of [the word] ‘restaurant’ right now,” Kwong told Broadsheet in November 2019 when news broke of her new venue. The plan is for a “casual eatery” that takes her back to what’s important to her as a cook. “It’s going to have a very simple menu, but a very meaningful menu,” she said.

But Kwong will again be lacing her Cantonese food with Indigenous ingredients, and Kwong classics will be on the menu – specifically the steamed savoury pancakes that drew crowds to her Carriageworks Market stall.

“This pancake is going to tell you the story of South Eveleigh. It’s going to convey to you my values and philosophy around social issues and celebrate the First Nations people, it’s going to talk to the importance of sustainable seafood, the importance of sourcing locally grown produce rather than importing produce. It’s a humble pancake, but it will pack a punch.”

She’ll also be serving seafood from Josh Niland’s Fish Butchery and native ingredients from the South Eveleigh Native Rooftop Garden.

Deans on 22 and Sammy Junior
A new bar from the crew behind Maybe Sammy, which is number 11 on the World’s 50 Best Bar list, and the Maybe Frank pizzeria is worth the hype, we reckon.

Its current name is Deans on 22, but that could change, and it’s slated to open in the first half of this year. What won’t change is the quality of the drinks and the fancy-good-times attitude this group’s Sydney venues have brought the city already. It’s planned for inside a hotel on the corner of Hunter and George Streets in the CBD.

Sammy Junior, another new venue from the same gang, is also on the way. Due to open in February, it’s the first daytime spot for the group and it’ll cover the cafe basics (great coffee, a menu of salads and sandwiches to eat in or takeaway), plus cocktails on tap in the afternoons. Bar manager Martin Hudak says the DNA of Maybe Sammy will be evident but the drinks will look simpler, even though they’ll be just as sophisticated. “Don’t expect a proper bar station with tools and garnishes. It will be very minimalist,” he told Broadsheet.

Like the Rat Pack, all the venues by this team channel ’50s Las Vegas, and Deans on 22 and Sammy Junior will do the same.

Core by Clare Smyth at Crown Sydney
Clare Smyth’s fine diner in Notting Hill, London – Core by Clare Smyth – has two Michelin stars. She catered Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s private wedding reception and was named the world’s best female chef in 2018 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants committee. In February she’s due to open another Core at the controversial casino complex Crown Sydney.

Smyth plans to focus on local and sustainable ingredients particular to the harbour and its surrounds at the Barangaroo venue, and wines will come from across Australia.

Aria Wine Bar
When Aria Wine Bar opens you’ll be able to dine and drink staring out at that view without splashing out on the full restaurant experience. At first planned for the end of 2020, and now due sometime in 2021, Aria Wine Bar will make the restaurant’s wine list (80 by-the-glass options and 1700 bottles) available to those who just want to pop by (no booking needed). Bar snacks will be by head chef Joel Bickford – the options will be more casual, but will rely on the same topnotch produce as the main restaurant menu. The wine bar will take up a section of the existing space and offer a less expensive way to enjoy a night at Aria. Also planned are collaborations similar to Maybe Aria (Maybe Sammy’s 2020 pop-up at Aria), which signals the direction the bar will go in.

This is another bar opening from a team with a reputation for blowing Sydney’s drinkers’ socks off.

Matt Whiley opened a version of his London bar Scout (currently number 51 on the World’s Best Bars List) in Surry Hills (above the Dolphin) in March 2019. He used ingredients such as parmesan and green ants in his cocktails, and made wine from fermented bananas. It shut in December of the same year, and Whiley’s next move is slated to open in March.

It’s going to be a waste-conscious bar. Food that would otherwise go to landfill (surplus from restaurants, and blemished or imperfect produce rejected by supermarkets) will be used in the cocktails, and the majority of materials used to build the bar will be recycled. “It’s about how do we limit and minimise the waste we bring into our building, and how much waste are we creating?” Whiley told Broadsheet last year. The focus will also be on spirit-heavy options and experimentation: “We’ll be pushing the boundary of what we think is a drink.”

The bar will be in the new South Eveleigh precinct (see Kylie Kwong’s new venture above) in a heritage-listed site.

Neil Perry in Double Bay
Notable Sydney chef Neil Perry (Rockpool, Spice Temple) will be opening a neighbourhood diner in Double Bay towards the middle of this year. While Perry is known for blockbuster CBD venues, this as-yet unnamed diner will be more stripped back – he wants it to be a spot patrons can visit multiple times a week.

“I think it will be very beautiful and sophisticated, but in a very approachable way,” he told Broadsheet. “I hope it’s a restaurant people use for various things at various times of the day.”

Diners will be able to stop by on weekend mornings for brunch, settle in for lunch or dinner, or just prop themselves up at the bar with a glass of red and a burger. Perry says he hopes Double Bay becomes “great again”. He adds: “Once upon a time in my youth, in Double Bay, there were a lot of really fantastic restaurants and cafes, and I think that time is springing up again.”

Additional reporting by Che-Marie Trigg and Sarah Norris.