The former Deus Cafe is looking fresh. It’s as if everything that stood here before – the menu, furniture, bar – has been wheeled, like a haggard motorcycle, into Deus’ own workroom for a complete overhaul. “The cafe here was getting old so Dare Jennings [Deus Ex Machina’s owner] called us up and asked if we’d like to collaborate,” says the restaurant’s new co-owner–operator Andy Ruwald (Bucket List). “So we gutted the place.”
The “we” includes chef Tom Walton (ex-Bistro Moncur) and bar manager James Prier. Along with designers Studio Gram, the team has stripped the print-covered walls, ditched the old wooden tables and thrown out the previous community theatre–style red curtains. The relatively simple, homely vibe stays, albeit with a few modernising touches, namely a giant neon sign (still in the works), greenery, a few tiled bars (all equipped for dining) and some beautiful asymmetric crockery by Ode ceramics.
As the trend-aware but relaxed fit-out indicates, the food isn’t revolutionary (Walton happily admits to that), but it certainly isn’t boring. At lunch you can get a great sandwich or soup (the pumpkin, pistou and crisp brussels sprouts is ace), or some of Walton’s drink-friendly bar snacks, such as kombucha-pickled cucumbers with black-olive labne or gooey-centred eggplant fritters with chilli mayo.
The best combo is probably Walton’s chicken-skin crackers topped with raw kingfish, baba ganoush and togarashi (the spice mix you see in little orange jars in Japanese restaurants) with Prier’s beautifully layered Scorpio V1, a margarita twist with Herradura Plata tequila, jalapeños and a spiced rhubarb syrup. “The cocktails are our staple. They’re all named after the bikes that Deus build. I didn’t want them to be corny but I wanted the drinks to be within the theme,” says Prier.
The bar snacks double as sides at night to match some deluxe Sunday-night roast–style share plates. One caramel-skinned lamb shoulder (from Mirrool Creek) is so absurdly soft it can be shaken off the bone. “Basically where I want to get to is slicing porchetta on the bar, making fresh tarts on the weekend. More old-school homely stuff but freshened up.”
Deus Bar & Kitchen
98–104 Parramatta Road, Camperdown
(02) 9519 0849
Mon & Tue 8am–3pm
Wed to Sun 8am–11pm