Sydney Dining – Relax a little more

My first hints at Sydney restaurants in 9 years suggest that Sydney is relaxing but it needs to relax a little more.  Here’s a short medley of some of the places I’ve been to in the past 10 weeks.  Evidently the old industrial areas of Zetland, Rosebery, Alexandria and Mascot are the hotspots for innovation and modern dining thanks to gentrification marching on.

Cipro Pizza al Taglio – in an almost deserted ground floor of an old Alexandria office block, Angel Fernandez, ex-Rockpool, has set up a pizza bar also with sharing plates that change daily. It’s a modern revival of classic Italian but canteen style. Get there early at the weekends but tables are easy enough to come by weekdays. Cipro is a place that you want to go back to, often.

Kitchen by Mike – keeping with the canteen style, Mike McEnearney, also ex-Rockpool has taken over a sizeable chunk of a furniture and design warehouse in what used to be the old Rosella factory in Alexandria. Naturally the food changes daily and you’ll find Mike at the pass filling customers’ plates with what’s on offer.  Your eyes can be your enemy here as everything is designed to tantalise and tempt. That’s no great problem however once the tastes and flavours match that expectation.

Grounds Roasters – Continuing in Alexandria, Grounds Roasters – a coffee roasters and café . It also has an outdoor garden with live animals, including a pig known as Kevin Bacon’s Bacon. Most city-dwelling parents who you’ll find at Grounds may not have the heart to explain that Kevin’s destiny lies at the on-site bacon sandwich BBQ. Breakfast is the highlight with a board of smoked trout, beetroot relish and courgette salad my favourite.

Hong Ha – They serve Banh Mi in Mascot. The rolls are punchy and fiery; crunchy and lively. No matter when you get there, expect to queue down the street and wait about 20 minutes. It’s the best wait you’ll have in Sydney.

Fish & Co – Tom Kime, ex-Le Manoir, has opened a cosy restaurant in Rozelle that serves only sustainable seafood. It’s a gem of a place and the salt & pepper cuttle fish entree is a must try. The fish of the day (on the day I went) was Coorong Yellow Eye. The portions were incredibly, perhaps overly, generous but the seafood had substance, it was meaty, it was hearty. An unusual choice of location for such an niche seafood concept in a city renowned for its seafood but the residents of Rozelle are very lucky to have it in their town.

Quay – Voted the hottest restaurant in Australia and currently in the San Pellegrino Guide, is Peter Gilmore’s Quay. It served some of the most innovative and technically brilliant cooking you can experience. Mud crab congee with palm heart and egg emulsion was delightful. A dish with veal, wallaby tail, salsify, smoked bone marrow and chocolate blood pudding unique and the Jackfruit snow egg a thing of meringue and granita wonder.

The views are the best in Sydney looking across the harbour to the Opera House, though if a cruise liner was docked during dining, the view would be a porthole. The room was clinically clean and in any other restaurant the tables with nothing on them would have been out of place. Sitting, I felt that it was unfinished and they weren’t ready for us.  Service also, at this level, unforgivable mistakes like clearing plates even though one of the group was still eating – it was awkward.

Try it, the food is worth the experience and it has earned its accolades (but you will need to save or take a second mortgage, this is expensive even by Sydney standards) but I’d be happier over at Mike’s

Sydney’s food scene is as vibrant as ever. Hints of London are starting to show thanks to the likes of Mike McEnearney who thankfully has enough skill to forge his own interpretation. Sydney it’s still breaking off the shackles of regimented dining and struggling to emerge from the dripping chic of Merivale Group’s dominant cast of cool. Sydney dining will be more interesting once it grows into its adult self, and once it doesn’t care what others think of it.

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

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