This venue is now closed.
When owner/chef Roy McVeigh first established his modern Australian restaurant on Cleveland Street, he called it “Dragonchello”. That bogan-leaning ‘h’ is – in our eyes – quite a sweet “modern Australian” take on restaurant naming, but alas, he has since swapped it out for a more chic Italian spelling.
The fitout also aims for chic. Puckered leather lounges line one edge, while industrial (but sparsely populated) wine racking covers another. The wall finish is rustic – and at odds with the pop-style art that sits atop it. If they’re after small-bar vibes at this street-level space (a restaurant is slated to open upstairs soon) we recommend at least turning down the lights and turning up the tunes; we had to really concentrate to catch the agreeable sound of Morcheeba. They also need more bar tables. Much of the space is taken up by low, formal settings that promise a three-course meal, rather than a couple of casual drinks – which was our intention.
There was only one red wine on offer by the glass – a delicious Ad Hoc Cruel Mistress Pinot Noir. This is fine if you visit in a group and you’re ready to get deep into bottle-for-bottle, but a damn shame if you’re on a date and that date’s poison is beer. And if you want a classic cocktail shaken with anything other than the house spirit? You’ll be shelling out $25 a pop. Yikes!
Food-wise, things are more promising. As we dip a crisp, oily potato skin into creamy Sydney rock oyster mayo topped with leek and citrus gel, it dawns on us that the joint has big restaurant potential. McVeigh has stints at Berowra Waters Inn and Guillaume at Bennelong on his CV, and now as the captain of his own kitchen the food he is making is wacky, rich and really fun. There’s fig cream and liquorice to be scooped onto a beautifully sweet, glazed chunk of sweet potato. Or how about elderflower mousse cresting a delicate scallop sashimi with ribbons of fresh cucumber? They certainly have our attention.
As a bar, Dragoncello won’t be our first choice for a nightcap in Surry Hills. But we’ll be heading back to give its dinner menu the attention it deserves when they start welcoming visitors upstairs. Count on that.
466 Cleveland Street
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu 5.30-11pm; Fri-Sun noon-late|