Few names conjure up a golden era of Sydney’s dining scene quite like Machiavelli. For more than 30 years, movers and shakers of all stripes have descended on the Toppi family’s Clarence Street institution for bowls of prawn tagliatelle and sloshes of good, affordable Italian vino. At Machiavelli’s younger sibling, Bar M, it’s more of the same – albeit in a chic, contemporary space that belies the rustic, home-style cooking of second generation chef-owner, Paola Toppi.
Set within a historic former tyre factory, the space is vast enough to host a big Italian wedding (which it often does, comfortably). Projections on the towering walls change often – one night it might be static photographs of old Italian film stars, the next it could be a Betty Boop cartoon or photos of rock stars such as David Bowie.
On the menu you’ll find the Toppi family’s signature: house-made tagliatelle bathing in a light bisque with king prawns, fresh cherry tomatoes, chilli, basil and garlic. In fact, every pasta shape, lasagne sheet and ball of gnocchi is made here in the open kitchen.
There’s also antipasti (from both the land and sea), plus a tight selection of secondi that includes market fish, spatchcock and black Angus steak. And while it’s mostly about seafood here, Bar M is one of the few Italian restaurants in town with a vegan offering worth its salt.
For dessert, you’ll find classics such as affogato and crème brûlée, and "liquid" sweets: chocolate and tiramisu-inspired Martinis, fortified wines and huge selection of Italian digestifs.
This being a bar as well as a restaurant, the cocktail list is something to behold. It’s all about the Martini here, served every which way with your choice from the house gin selection. Otherwise, you’re in for imported Italian beer and wine – lots of it.
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