What makes a dish a “classic”? Sydney has many of them – old and new, traditional and unconventional, and many that their makers couldn’t take off the menu even if they wanted to. Their magic comes from something intangible, but you can say these three things about all of them: they’re widely beloved, they’re dishes we reminisce about often, and they’re undisputedly delicious.
They span everything from a simple hors d’oeuvre to a mascarpone-rich Italian dessert to a fiery, non-traditional ramen.
Because many of Sydney’s restaurants are on a Covid-19 hiatus, this isn’t a comprehensive round-up of every cult dish in the city (alas, Golden Century’s pipis in XO remain elusive) – these are the classics you can now eat in your home. Yep, because of the lockdown these dishes are all available for takeaway (and sometimes delivery), so you can eat them in your fanciest PJs in front of the TV if you want.
Bella Brutta’s clam pizza
In non-pandemic times, Bella Brutta is one of Sydney’s hardest-to-get-into pizzerias. Thankfully it’s still making its pies for your home-dining pleasure, including one of the city’s most famous – the clam pizza ($30). While the chopped Cloudy Bay clams add texture, most of the flavour comes from a rich, thick wine-and-clam sauce (it’s like a cross between chowder and veloute). Fermented chilli sauce, raw-garlic oil and lemon juice go on top to add further vibrancy, then it’s fired for 90 seconds in a 450-degree, ironbark-fuelled oven, emerging with Bella Brutta’s signature charred black blisters. Order it here (and learn more about how it’s made here).
Continental Deli’s Gilda
This slick Newtown diner (which also has a CBD outpost) didn’t invent this perfect one-bite bar snack (it hails from Spain’s Basque region), but it does it very well. Here, the Gilda is made with an olive that’s been stuffed with a sliver of lemon, which is spiked on a toothpick alongside a salty Ortiz anchovy and spicy guindilla (a kind of pickled pepper). It’s a faultless hors d’oeuvre that you can down in one go, and an ideal partner to a stiff cocktail. Many fans will say there’s no finer thing to do in this city than slide into a seat at Continental’s stylish bar and order a Mart-tinny (the signature Martini, served in a can) and a couple of these tasty morsels. Since we can’t do that right now, live the high life at home and get a Gilda to takeaway here for $3.50 a pop (seven days a week, between 11am and 8pm).
Fratelli Paradiso’s tiramisu
There’s so much to love about dining at this Potts Point institution, but the thing we almost love the most is this: “You can tell a tiramisu customer a mile off,” co-owner Enrico Paradiso says. “And we know all the people who come in on a regular basis and order it. If they don’t order it, then we give them a spoonful just to make them smile.” Now you can smile at home with a family tub ($30) or a small serve ($10) of this immensely creamy version of the grand Italian dessert, which is all about the quality of the mascarpone. You can order it Tuesday to Saturday (5pm to 9pm) here. (And the truly dedicated can try making it at home.)
The Old Fitzroy’s hot-chip butty
This new Sydney classic is significantly better than the hot-chip sandwiches mum made you at the beach when you were a kid. It helps that Nicholas Hill, the guy who masterminded it, has done stints at Michelin-starred London diner The Ledbury and upmarket Sydney joints Quay and Sepia. While part of this dish’s charm lies in its novelty and nostalgia, it’s Hill’s level of care – the same that he’d apply to a pie or a terrine – that takes it to the next level. The chips are crisp, the bread doesn’t get soggy, and the takeaway version ($18) comes with mushy peas and a curry sauce that’d make the best chippy in England cry with envy. Order here.
Chaco Ramen’s coriander chilli ramen
Coriander in chicken-broth ramen isn’t exactly traditional, but none of Keita Abe’s ramens are. Abe has no formal ramen training, which explains why, when one of his staff members ordered 36 bunches of coriander instead of just six, he decided to build a ramen around it. Thus the coriander chilli ramen ($28 for two serves) was born. The chook broth is nuanced and laden with a house-made chilli paste that gives it a rich red colour, and it’s topped with thinly sliced chicken and noodles with excellent chew. You can order a ready-to-eat, hot version on Instagram, or get a frozen version here for future meals.
Chiswick’s lamb shoulder
If you had to pick a signature dish at this elegant paddock-to-plate diner in Woollahra, it’d be the lamb shoulder ($76). The Sunday roast is not only beloved in executive chef Matt Moran’s household, it’s also a crowd fave. The meat, which comes from Moran’s property in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, is extremely tender because it’s been slow roasted with rosemary and garlic, then finished off in the woodfired oven for a hint of smokiness. It comes with a zesty mint salsa, and we reckon you should add a side of potatoes roasted in duck fat ($12) and a simple green salad ($10) for a delightful feast. Order it here, and if you’re craving it again next week, try cooking it yourself.
A1 Canteen’s scrambled eggs
Chef Clayton Wells might be known for his work in fine-dining, exemplified at modern Aussie restaurant Automata, but his tricked-up scrambled eggs ($16) at sister venue A1 Canteen prove he doesn’t just trade in fancy. This tumble of textural, curd-y eggs would be excellent on its own, but Wells has gone one step further, adding pork sausages from LP’s Quality Meats. Now that the diner’s menu has gone takeaway, the eggs are served in a toasted bun instead of the usual English muffin. Together, the three components are like an elevated McDonald’s sausage and egg McMuffin, with way more flavour and way less shame factor. Order here.
Totti’s woodfired bread
How Totti’s gets its “flat” bread so puffy is one of Sydney’s great mysteries, up there with why tourists swim outside the flags at Bondi and whether there really are bodies of construction workers entombed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Whatever sorcery head chef Mike Eggert uses to get his bread simultaneously dense and puffy, we can attest that it’s well worth the $10 you’ll spend ordering it takeaway. (Plus, there’s that ultra-satisfying deflation when you stab it with your knife.) By itself it’s an excellent, salty, carby, charred number. Throw in some antipasti – we recommend burrata, mortadella and chicken-liver parfait – and it’s damn addictive. Order it hot here or in a prep-at-home meal pack here.
Ester’s sourdough ice-cream
Ester’s leftover-sourdough ice-cream ($15 for 400 grams) is what happens when you combine two of the best foods in the world, ice-cream and sourdough bread. It’s the perfect dessert for those who don’t want something cloying or chocolatey, and it’s a creative way to use leftover bread. The flavour is malty and it’s a textural delight, sort of like a grown-up cookie-dough ice-cream: a bit soft, a bit chewy and a bit crispy. Order here.
10 William St’s pretzel and whipped bottarga
Dan Pepperell’s pretzel with a side of whipped bottarga ($15) has outlasted several chefs at this Paddington wine bar, and remains a menu staple under head chef Trisha Greentree, who took on the role last year. It was designed as a sidekick to the bar’s unparalleled wine list, but over the years it’s become a reason to visit. The pretzel is seeded, with a crisp shell and a doughy centre. Drag it through whipped roe with shaved bottarga and dream of future visits to this diminutive institution with friends. Order here.
Want more takeaway? Check out our live list of restaurants that are now doing takeaway and our picks of the best things to eat (and do) in Sydney this month.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 12, 2020. Menu items and availability may have changed since publication.