Restaurants Sydney
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 (Photograph: Alana Dimou)
Photograph: Alana Dimou
 (Photograph: Alana Dimou)
Photograph: Alana Dimou
 (Photograph: Alana Dimou)
Photograph: Alana Dimou
 (Photograph: Alana Dimou)
Photograph: Alana Dimou
 (Photograph: Alana Dimou)
Photograph: Alana Dimou
 (Photograph: Alana Dimou)
Photograph: Alana Dimou
 (Photograph: Alana Dimou)
Photograph: Alana Dimou

Is this Sydney’s best value fine diner?

There are many things to love about this bunker-like fine diner. The fact that it is really affordable at $55 at lunch and $118 for eight courses at dinner (including snacks) is one thing. That the food is beautiful to look at, and even better to eat, is another. And there’s also that feeling you get when you’re scaling the stairs to below street level, chic Nordic wooden furnishings all around, Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo, staff only too keen to make you comfortable. It’s just a lovely place to be.

Whatever time you’re dining, go the matched wines, which are $50 for three glasses at lunch or $90 for eight at dinner. Try a Golden Sazerac cocktail to kick things off though. These guys weren’t kidding about the colour – made with edible gold dust, it looks like pure, molten, glittering gold as it’s poured from its carafe into our glass, already hosting a golden globe of chocolate, to be eaten when the cocktail is done for. We find ourselves oohing and ahhing at the sight. The drink, too, tastes gorgeous – not too sweet with strong, cleansing anise tones thanks to a hit of absinthe within.

We’re here for the lunch menu this time around and can safely say that this is one of our best Fridays at work, ever. We’re presented with little white vinegar and tomato marshmallows to start, and are delighted by the soft, light texture versus the robust punch of sprinkled Parmigiano-Reggiano. These are followed by soft, warm, rosemary and onion scones paired with Dijon and cheddar whipped butter and a little heap of caramelised onions.

The first dish-proper lands and it’s a vision of vibrancy: bright pink, lightly cooked rainbow trout on one side of the plate, tartare of the same on the other, atop a seeded cracker ready to scoop it up. It’s surrounded by the greenest pea soup we’ve ever seen, dotted with fresh peas and popping trout roe, and matched with a mineral-dense Tesch riesling from Langenlonsheim in Germany, which balances out the sweet fish.

We love a main dish of tender-fleshed, crisp-skinned barramundi dressed with soft rings of squid, confit tomatoes and a similarly vibrant green sauce made from rocket and cream. And can we tell you about the so-rich-it’s-creamy, 5 score marbled beef Wagyu flank served with rich nutmeg pomme purée, textural oyster mushrooms, charred green asparagus and scented mushroom foam? Matched with the Pirca Carmenère red from Valle del Maule in Chile, it makes us wish for winter every month of the year.

Lunch is almost over, but a plate of purest white coconut shards arrives as the last dish-proper. Hidden underneath is an explosion of textures and temperatures: mandarin sorbet, freeze-dried mandarin segments, coconut mousse, black sesame praline sauce and matcha crumb. It’s refreshing, clean and displays such skill you can tell patron-chef Nelly Robinson has a Michelin-starred background.

We get some soft guava and pistachio caramels (complete with edible, transparent wrappers) to send us on our way into what remains of the day. What a blissful way to spend an afternoon, or indeed an evening. In fact, if we weren’t so satisfyingly full, we’d probably never leave.

This venue welcomes American Express



By: Freya Herring


Venue name: Nel
Address: 75 Wentworth Ave
Opening hours: Tue-Thu 6pm-late; Fri noon-3pm and 5.15pm-late; Sat 5.15pm-late
Price: $$$
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