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King Clarence

  • Restaurants
  • Sydney
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. King Clarence's dining room
    Photograph: Supplied/King Clarence
  2. A pork dish at King Clarence
    Photograph: Supplied/King Clarence
  3. The dining room at King Clarence
    Photograph: Supplied/King Clarence
  4. A kingfish dish at King Clarence
    Photograph: Supplied/King Clarence
  5. An impressive meat dish at King Clarence
    Photograph: Supplied/King Clarence
  6. The fish finger bao
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  7. The King Clarence team
    Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Fun and delicious in equal measure, The Bentley Group’s latest restaurant rules

One of the many excellent things about Korea – alongside its neon-karaoke bars and snail serums (they work) – is Korean barbecue. You walk in, sit down, and immediately the action happens: the grill gets fired up, thousands of banchan are placed in front of you, Cass and a couple of bottles of soju are ordered, and you get to work, barbecuing the meat until it’s caramelised and golden, the fat glistening and perfect. Wrap it, eat it, and repeat until you’re about to burst. This experience is replicated beautifully at King Clarence, the latest restaurant from The Bently group (the masterminds behind leading Sydney venues Bentley, Monopole, Yellow, Brasserie 1930 and Cirrus). Though, more specifically, with wood-roasted pork belly ssam. A huge platter arrives holding slices of pork belly – the crackling all bronzed and bubbly – with an assortment of perilla, lettuce, radicchio and witlof leaves, and small bowls of kimchi, confit garlic, creamy oyster sauce and chilli sauce.

I pick up a leaf, place some meat in its curve, top it with kimchi, a drizzle of chilli and a dollop of oyster sauce. It’s a flavour and texture explosion: crunchy, salty, fresh, creamy, fatty, sweet, fiery and sour – and absolutely delicious.

King Clarence's food is inspired by the flavours of Korea, China and Japan. To nail this, co-owners Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt persuaded top chef Khanh Nguyen to take charge. Most recently, Nguyen has been spearheading Melbourne’s award-winning Aru and Sunda. Though, being on the pans in Sydney isn't new territory for Nguyen, who worked with The Bentley Group, and also at Mr Wong, before he moved to Melbourne.

King Clarence’s fit-out is refreshingly different to what we’ve seen in recent Sydney openings. There’s a lot of grey and sandy tones – polished concrete floors, blonde wooden chairs, random bits of linen draping over the lights – but it doesn’t feel bland or stark, thanks to the neon pops of colour, a discrete disco ball and red ladders. There are fish tanks holding live seafood, as well as a DJ spinning Y2k tunes. The room is packed, the vibe is upbeat, and I’m bopping along to ‘Groove is in the Heart’.

A dish of yellowfin tuna is executed to the same gold-star level that we’ve come to expect from the team. The fish is sliced and lying in a bath of smoked tamari with splashes of paperbark oil, and topped with dainty rings of onion purple. There’s a light smokiness to the meaty, clean-tasting fish, thanks to being lightly charred, and the sauce has a lovely sweetness and acidity.

Of course I order the fish-finger bao – Nguyen's playful spin on a Macca’s Filet-O-Fish – that I’ve seen it all over my Instagram. Thankfully, it delivers. The bao bun is light and pillowy, and the usual fillet is swapped for a shredded and piping-hot filling that bursts as soon as you take a bite. American cheese brings an element of nostalgia, and the mustard greens-spiked tartare and pops of salmon caviar bring it very much into the now. Fun and yum, big tick.

Our waitress recommends we try the duck tsukune. She says it’s Nguyen’s take on the Bunning’s sausage sanga. It indeed resembles one, and it's similar to his one at Aru, but with a Japanese sausage placed on top of soft and fluffy white bread, next to blackened onions, and a line of creamy orange sauce. There's a bowl of hoisin with a yolk in the centre, intended to be mixed together and then used as a dipping sauce. There’s a lot of good, concentrated flavour in the duck, and the sharp sauce cuts through and balances the fat, though after the bao and this, I’m craving freshness (and it's hard to top the Bunning's OG).

Hot off winning the Judy Hirst Award for Cirrus taking home Australia’s Wine List of the Year in 2023, sommelier Polly Mackarel is here to guide us through the booze. The wine list features new-age and classic vinos, with 40 wines by the glass curated to pair with Nguyen’s menu. But when in Rome... So we opt for a glass of Moriki Shuzo Omekashi sake made by Rumiko Moriki, the first female to make sake in Japan. It’s sweet and mellow with hints of vanilla, and pairs well with spicy cold buckwheat noodles twirled with enoki mushrooms, strips of potato, crispy rice puffs and a stock that bursts with vegetable flavour.

A mango and coconut dessert lures me in like a witty line on Hinge. It’s thoughtfully plated, with a silky mango pudding down the bottom, outlined with white tapioca that looks like a shell necklace, and topped with a textbook quenelle of coconut ice cream, marble-like balls of passionfruit juice, and two strips of charcoal meringue. It’s great and balanced, though I would be just as happy with a scoop of that glorious ice cream and fresh mango.

Found on the corner of King and Clarence Streets (yep, that explains the name), King Clarence holds court amongst Sydney’s top diners. You know what they say: All hail the king.

Time Out Sydney never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.


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Avril Treasure
Written by
Avril Treasure


171 Clarence St
View Website
Opening hours:
Mon-Sun noon-3pm; Mon-Sun 5.30pm-late
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