SYD­NEY

WHERE TO EAT NOW

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DIVINE IN­SPI­RA­TION Young chef Jonathan Barthelmess in the din­ing room of his Potts Point restau­rant Apollo.

A con­fes­sion: hav­ing spent most of my life in Mel­bourne, I tend to wear black a lot, I love cold, dreary weather—re­ally, I do—and when­ever there’s talk of a Syd­ney-Mel­bourne ri­valry, I can’t help but count the rea­sons why Aus­tralia’s sec­ond city ap­peals more than its largest. Food is cer­tainly one of the ar­eas in which Mel­bourne, with its at­mo­spheric laneways and mul­ti­cul­tural en­claves and chefs push­ing ev­ery boundary imag­in­able, excels. But hav­ing lived in Syd­ney for the last three years, I’m be­gin­ning to see the at­trac­tion.

Look past the ob­vi­ous al­lures of Syd­ney’s in­ner-city beaches and long days of sun­shine and you’ll find yourself in a city on the cusp of a din­ing re­nais­sance. There are restaurants with herb gar­dens and bee­hives; there are kitchens that do their own smok­ing, cur­ing, and pick­ling on-site; and there are chefs rein­vent­ing age-old recipes, giv­ing tra­di­tional eth­nic dishes a new look. Aus­tralia’s Har­bor City is fi­nally carv­ing its own culi­nary des­tiny—one that be­comes more ex­cit­ing with ev­ery bite. Here are the re­cent high­lights.

AUS­TRALIAN: MOD­ERN AND HOMELY

“I get such a kick out of beau­ti­ful food,” says Grant King, the New Zealand–born chef and owner of Gas­tro Park. And it shows: King’s dishes are among the pret­ti­est in town. His liq­ue­fied but­ter­nut squash “gnoc­chi” is served in a glass sphere with mush­room con­sommé added ta­ble­side, while a fil­let of snap­per is cooked with the scales lifted and crisped, then plated with driz­zles of squid-ink sauce, pureed potato, and a wafer of ta­pi­oca and squid ink that re­sem­bles a shard of hematite.

Hav­ing cut his teeth at Syd­ney’s Pier restau­rant, King opened this pared-back Kings Cross din­ing room in 2011, caus­ing a stir as much for its name as for its molec­u­lar-lean­ing menu. But you’ll have for­given the for­mer by the time the amuse-bouche ar­rives at your ta­ble. On my visit, it’s a frond of crispy Parme­san stud­ded with capers and an­chovies, tomato and olives, wedged into a smooth river stone like a fan of co­ral. Yet de­spite the show, King is re­mark­ably down-to-earth about cook­ing. Hav­ing grown up with “awe­some gar­den­ers” for par­ents, he was sur­rounded by food from an early age and is still in­spired by fresh, sea­sonal hand­picked pro­duce. “I grow at home and for­age, and I’m plan­ning set up an ur­ban bee­hive,” he says. Keep a watch on the menu for honey-in­spired desserts, then.

Two chefs who are al­ready comb­ing through honey are Six­penny own­ers James Parry and Daniel Puskas, both un­der 35 and both with shim­mer­ing re­sumes: Parry’s lists stints at Mu­garitz in Spain and Copen­hagen’s Noma, while Puskas earned his stripes at WD-50 in New York and Alinea in Chicago. The tell­tale signs? Parry and Puskas bring food to the ta­bles them­selves à la Noma; squares of rye bread are smeared with “vir­gin but­ter” (freshly churned be­fore it splits and the but­ter­milk sep­a­rates), an­other Noma flour­ish; and there’s a whimsy in the dishes that can only be at­trib­uted to WD-50’s Wylie Dufresne.

Like their men­tors, Six­penny’s chef duo are com­mit­ted to farm-totable din­ing; the vast ma­jor­ity of their menu is sourced from a fam­ily farm in the South­ern High­lands of New South Wales. There’s a small

on-site kitchen gar­den for herbs and honey, not to men­tion an en­vi­able smoke oven.

The de­gus­ta­tion-only menu comes in six or eight cour­ses, with a hand­ful of snacks brought to your ta­ble as soon as you sit down. These bites vary but might in­clude a “knuckle sand­wich” (a pe­tite brioche toastie of soft ham hock with ap­ple-and-mus­tard-seed jelly) and a plate jeweled with pick­led veg­eta­bles: daylily buds, mouse mel­ons, crunchy radish quar­ters, heir­loom car­rots. The rest of the menu is also sea­sonal, though one peren­nial fa­vorite is the mud crab, its cloud­like meat bound with a macadamia cream and redo­lent of chamomile.

When he’s not mak­ing cameo ap­pear­ances on TV cook­ery show Mas­ter Chef Aus­tralia, Matt Mo­ran can be found in the gar­den be­side his new ven­ture Chiswick. Sit­u­ated in the east­ern sub­urb of Wool­lahra, the light-filled, white­washed din­ing room—orig­i­nally the sta­bles of a 19th-century es­tate—is en­veloped by a lush patch of grass, pine, and palm trees known as Chiswick Park; French doors open to the sound of birds and bees in sum­mer.

Ab­sent are the foams and gels that you’ll see at Mo­ran’s flag­ship restau­rant Aria, hug­ging Cir­cu­lar Quay in the shadow of the Syd­ney Opera House. In­stead, Chiswick fo­cuses on hon­est, rus­tic shar­ing plates. The wood-roasted lamb with cher­moula and cous­cous fea­tures meat from the Mo­ran fam­ily farm in the Cen­tral Table­lands and comes with sides of broc­col­ini, cavolo nero (black-leaf kale), and snow peas pulled from the soil just hours ear­lier. Even the so­das here use gar­den herbs such as co­rian­der, Thai basil, kaf­fir lime, and le­mon­grass.

Nearby in Surry Hills, Ir­ish-born Colin Fass­nidge’s sec­ond restau­rant, 4Four­teen, continues the snout-to-tail phi­los­o­phy of its older sis­ter Four in Hand, but with an up­dated din­ing room and some very clever fla­vor com­bi­na­tions. Of­fal-y in­gre­di­ents that many other chefs shy away from are all on the menu here: pig’s ears, pig’s tails, pig’s kid­neys. Go all out on the whole suck­ling pig, served with dreamy Cal­va­dos and Pe­dro Ximénez–poached prunes, but leave room for the daily pop­si­cle—the fla­vor du jour, which might be Nu­tri-Grain or peanut but­ter and banana, is served on a wooden slab along­side a wedge of honeycomb from the rooftop api­ary.

THE FIVE- AND EIGHT-COURSE DE­GUS­TA­TION MENUS AT CLAUDE’S CHAN­NEL CHEF CHUI LEE LUK’S MALAYSIAN-CHI­NESE HER­ITAGE IN DISHES SUCH AS WEST AUS­TRALIAN CRAY­FISH WITH CON­FIT POTATO, SE­SAME, AND PER­ILLA LEAVES, OR QUAIL IN RED RICE WINE WITH BEET­ROOT AND FRESH TOFU

There isn’t space for a full gar­den at Owl House, a hole-in-the-wall bar-cum-restau­rant in the same sub­urb, al­though owner and som­me­lier Amir Halpert hangs herb pots from the town­house’s bal­cony and makes monthly treks to re­gional foodie hubs for in­spi­ra­tion and prod­ucts. Re­cently, Halpert and his ex-Rock­pool chef Roy Mer ven­tured to the South­ern High­lands where they picked up ex­otic mush­rooms from Bowral, a hand­ful of dif­fer­ent potato va­ri­eties from Wildes Meadow, and a cou­ple of bot­tles of pinot noir from 5th Chap­ter Es­tate in Avoca, which they high­lighted in dishes over the course of a month. (We’re happy to hear that they’re off truf­fle-hunt­ing soon.)

“I don’t do bad wine, and I don’t do bor­ing food,” says Halpert. He’s right: Mer’s meals might be­gin with a yolk-like sphere of con­cen­trated

THE SHANG­HAI-CHIC DE­SIGN AT MR. WONG—THINK CHRYSAN­THE­MUM PRINTS, SLOW-TURN­ING CEIL­ING FANS, SHELVES OF CHI­NESE TCHOTCHKES—IS OUT­SHONE ONLY BY THE CAN­TONESE-IN­SPIRED FARE OF CHEFS DAN HONG AND ERIC KOH

Cos­mopoli­tan cock­tail, served in a Chi­nese spoon, be­fore mov­ing on to earthy dishes such as quail Scotch eggs on smooth potato foam with crispy ham, a smat­ter­ing of shimeji mush­rooms, wa­ter­cress, and pur­ply potato chips. It’s like New South Wales on a plate.

Lo­cal pro­duce also stars at Mono­pole, the brain­child of Brent Sav­age and Nick Hilde­brandt, whose pi­o­neer­ing Bent­ley Bar & Restau­rant in Surry Hills will have sadly served its last meal by the time you read this. Mel­bourne ar­chi­tect Pas­cal Gomes-McNabb has de­signed a re­strained space of rich dark woods and in­dus­trial metals, with lit­tle to dis­tract from Sav­age’s plat­ters of house-cured char­cu­terie and pick­les—wispy slices of smoked duck breast, pork neck, veni­son sausage—and art­fully strewn shaved heir­loom veg­eta­bles. And while Mono­pole was con­ceived as a ca­sual out­post of its now-de­funct sis­ter restau­rant, some of the dishes are so like­able that it’s hard not to imag­ine them car­ry­ing over to Bent­ley mark two—Sav­age and Hilde­brandt are on the hunt for a new lo­ca­tion.

EURO­PEAN: CLAS­SIC AND CUT­TING- EDGE

Young chef Jonathan Barthelmess made a name for him­self at Manly Pavil­ion, on the wa­ter in the north­ern beach­side sub­urb of Manly, be­fore re­turn­ing to his Greek roots at Apollo in Potts Point. Eat­ing here proves a ma­jor chal­lenge to my culi­nary bi­ases. Mel­bourne—home to the largest Greek com­mu­nity out­side Europe—does Hel­lenic food such jus­tice that it’s hard to be im­pressed with it any­where else (be­sides

and pol­ished cut­lery up­stairs, and Turk­ish su­per­hero posters and mezes on the ground floor, where spe­cials are scrawled on a wall of black­boards and ta­bles spill out to a sun-kissed street­side pa­tio.

My fa­vorite meal here is brunch, when Sivri­oglu plates up mod­ern­ized fa­vorites from Van, a city in east­ern Turkey known for its break­fast houses and cheeses. More than 30 small dishes cover ev­ery­thing from muham­mara (a hot-pep­per dip) and kay­mak (clot­ted cream) with fresh honeycomb to pome­gran­ate hu­mus and tu­lum börek, a deep-fried pastry par­cel stuffed with wild net­tle, spinach, and ripe goat’s-milk cheese.

“My recipes are proven taste com­bi­na­tions, like egg­plant and lamb, milk and mas­tic, eggs and spicy sausage,” says Sivri­oglu, who sources stel­lar pro­duce from a ros­ter of lo­cal sup­pli­ers. “I give tra­di­tional dishes a more mod­ern pre­sen­ta­tion with­out sac­ri­fic­ing on the au­then­tic­ity.”

At Barcelona-born Frank Camorra’s new MoVida out­post, trans­planted from Mel­bourne af­ter a decade of suc­cess, shar­ing plates put a fresh spin on clas­sic Span­ish dishes. The Surry Hills din­ing room is a slick space of re­cy­cled tim­ber, brick walls, and con­crete floors with em­bu­ti­dos (char­cu­terie), tapas, racións (larger dishes), and grilled meats pre­sented on col­or­ful earth­en­ware dishes.

The menu be­gins with tex­tu­ral bites like the “ar­ti­san” Cantabrian an­chovy dol­loped with smoked-tomato sor­bet be­fore mov­ing on to mor­cilla blood sausages (made by Camorra’s fa­ther) with quince paste and crispy duck leg braised in Mosca­tel and served with pick­led cab­bage. It’s sim­ple, play­ful, and fla­vor­ful, and a con­cept that looks set to thrive here as it has down south in Mel­bourne.

From one of Syd­ney’s new­est restaurants to one of its old­est: Claude’s first opened in 1974 with chef Chui Lee Luk tak­ing over the

HOMETO THE LARGEST GREEK COM­MU­NITY OUT­SIDE EUROPE, MEL­BOURNE DOES HEL­LENIC FOOD SUCH JUS­TICE THAT IT’S HARD TO BE IM­PRESSED WITH IT ANY­WHERE ELSE (BE­SIDES GREECE, OF COURSE). BUT WITH APOLLO, SYD­NEY FI­NALLY HAS A CULI­NARY CON­TENDER FOR THE NU­ANCED CUI­SINE

Greece, of course). But with Apollo, Syd­ney fi­nally has a culi­nary con­tender to take the del­i­cately nu­anced cui­sine to the next level.

Start with the tara­masalata, a tra­di­tional dip of yo­gurt and mul­let roe that Barthelmess rein­vents in a fer­ment­ing jar along­side just-baked pita, pick­les, and olives. A de­cep­tively sim­ple Greek salad comes with a slice of house­made feta laid over the top of chunks of cu­cum­ber, tomato, red onion and finely chopped oregano, and a big bowl of sticky roast lamb ribs is per­fectly paired with a side of lemony roast pota­toes. The choic­est dessert is a toss-up be­tween ouzo-mar­i­nated pineap­ple served with a dol­lop of vanilla cream and louk­oumades (honey dough­nuts) with a zingy pome­gran­ate-pis­ta­chio yo­gurt.

A cou­ple of bays away in Bal­main, Somer Sivri­oglu helms his re­cently re­freshed Turk­ish restau­rant Efendy. There’s starched linen

HOUSE RULES Glimpses of Syd­ney’s Opera House and Har­bour Bridge from the Royal Botanic Gar­dens, left. Right: Grilled oc­to­pus, on the menu at mod-Greek restau­rant Apollo. Op­po­site, from left: The menu at Apollo is in­spired by chef Jonathan Barthelmess’s child­hood; the park-side din­ing room at Chiswick; Grant King, chef-owner of the ill-named but much ac­claimed Gas­tro Park din­ing room.

ON THE WONG TRACK Clock­wise from right: Mr. Wong chef Dan Hong at work in the kitchen; ducks dry­ing at the same Bridge Lane restau­rant; Shang­haichic stylings in Mr. Wong’s din­ing room. Op­po­site: A sea­sonal of­fer­ing of roast scal­lops and veal sweet­breads with wa­ter­cress branch, cau­li­flower leaves, and wild sor­rel at Grant King’s Gas­tro Park.

FARE ENOUGH Clock­wise from right: Out­side Chiswick; lunchtime at Barcelon­aborn Frank Camorra’s new tapas joint, MoVida; a pork slider, pick­les, and lemon chicken à la chef Chui Lee Luk at Claude’s. Op­po­site: MoVida spe­cial­izes in Cata­lan and Gali­cian fa­vorites in­clud­ing pan-fried tur­bot with parsnip puree and wild mush­rooms in brown but­ter.

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