Kylie Kwong has written a clutch of books and starred in her share of food-related TV shows, but Billy Kwong might be her most personal project ever.
The 140-seat dining room is decorated with artworks of deep personal significance, including a yak skull from Tibet and works by local icons Brett Whiteley and Martin Sharp. Strategic shelves hold glass ghosts by Kwong’s partner, the single-name-only artist Nell.
Above it all is an enormous drum lantern from the original Billy Kwong in Surry Hills. This smaller site opened in 2000, with the help of Kwong’s former employer Bill Granger (bills) – hence the name Billy Kwong. He’s since passed the co-owner baton to restaurateur and seismologist David King.
The focus here is on ultra-fresh Chinese-Australian. When it comes to local produce and supporting the community, Kwong walks the walk more than most. Honey is supplied by bees at The Wayside Chapel; vegetables and herbs come from St Canice’s rooftop kitchen garden and Woolloomooloo Community Garden. She’s also a big believer in organic and biodynamic practices.
Start with mini pork buns with rooftop honey; or maybe saltbush cakes with chilli. Larger dishes include black-bean wallaby tail; fried chicken with spring onion and ginger; and crispy-skin duck with Davidson’s plum (noticing the penchant for native ingredients here?).
On drinks there’s a handful of carefully chosen Australian beers; and Euro and Australian wines. While you eat, admire the 18-metre native jarrah bar that borders the kitchen, part of the fit-out by George Livissianis (The Apollo).