In Sydney’s increasingly competitive vegan dining scene, Paperbark in Waterloo sets the standard for plant-based eats. It’s not a fine diner though – that is, according to its owners, Verd’s Grace Watson and Joe Pagliaro, and Hellene Algie and Joey Astorga, the pair behind popular pop-up Alfie’s Kitchen’s. Paperbark is probably best compared to Sydney’s top mid-range venues, offering premium Australian produce, good ideas and stellar drinks lists.

The style of food is hard to describe. The menu mixes cuisines, but is peppered with native Australian ingredients. Fat gnocchi dumplings arrive bathed in a rich mushroom and pepperberry broth; potatoes are cleverly transformed into savoury salt-and-vinegar churros; smoked portobello mushrooms are skewered on paperbark twigs and charred yakitori-style; and a doughy homemade rye flatbread is used to dip, scrape and package a sheet of roast capsicum, hummus and pickles.

Since 2019, Paperbark has been open for lunch. They haven't veered from the classic formula for lunch: choose from an eight-course menu that takes you on a journey from smaller to larger dishes, or opt for the four-course highlight package. If you just want to pop in for something small, though, you could also order some bar snacks that are priced from $4 (for almonds) to $15 (potato churros). We suggest you live large and put it all on the fried dough.

That stellar drinks list, filled with Australia’s best natural wine producers, and cocktails made with all-Australian spirits and native flavours, is available for both services. The wines are all vegan, too.

Paperbark opened in the old Allegra Dining space, and is well suited to both time slots. The glass facade on both sides means it’s flooded with natural light, while a forest of indoor plants and huge paperbark sculpture makes the dinner service feel like an evening spent in a greenhouse.

Updated: February 4th, 2020

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