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Poetica Bar and Grill

  • Restaurants
  • North Sydney
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. The dining room at Poetica Bar and Grill
    Photograph: Steven Woodburn
  2. A spread of delicious food at Poetica Bar and Grill
    Photograph: Steven Woodburn

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

With a dreamy dining room and expertly cooked woodfired proteins, Poetica is sure to light your fire

Poetica skews primal – you realise it as soon as you walk into the airy dining room and see all the meat and seafood in the glass-fronted dry-aging cabinet. It's clear from the get go: vegos, this isn't one for you. Pairing the protein with some old-fashioned funk from fermented and pickled vegetables is also one of the North Sydney restaurant’s hallmarks. Both speak to Connor Hartley-Simpson’s experience: as head chef at the two Michelin-starred Gastrologik in Stockholm, three Michelin-starred Quince in San Francisco and The Charles Grand Brasserie & Bar, in Sydney. Here, Hartley-Simpson takes the unpretentious idea of pairing woodfired meat and seafood with pickles and runs with it.

The overarching idea for the newish bar and grill by hospitality group Etymon Projects was for the hearth to be at the heart of it. The open kitchen is an integral part of the space and the woodfired oven and Josper grill the focal point. The theatre of the flames and glowing embers grab our attention throughout the meal. But our focus also regularly shifts to the chefs cooking food over an open flame. Or laying a piece of fish over the grill.

There’s also an adjoining 40-seat bar that opens out to its own covered terrace. The cosy alcove is all baby blue and steel hues with a focus on stone and copper accents. It has its own dedicated menu of moreish morsels like fried olives with goat’s cheese, spiced pork crackling and Poetica’s signature fries. Start your evening here with a Poetica Martini: a punchy concoction of Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin and raw vodka that gets its edge from smoked Lillet, saltbush and a flourish of dill oil.

Poetica was designed by COX Architecture to pay homage to the creative legacy of past locals William Blue and Brett Whitely. Worth mentioning is the large-scale mural by local artist Kristian Hawker, and the 700-odd wall of wines the eye is immediately drawn to upon entry. Then there’s the ceiling fixtures, which look like luminescent jelly blubbers. And the pared-down palette of timber tones from brushed oak floors to walnut and oak furniture. The perfect placement of key pieces, like ‘the colour of calming sea foam’, also define the dining room and connect it to the harbour city’s foreshore. Notice the zen-like placement of flower-filled vases. And the tan and burnt honey tones of the upholstery. The use of grey granite, concrete, walls of glazed tiles and marble also creates an instant mood.

During our most recent visit to the 120-seat restaurant we find a mix of diners: corporates perched nearby on the airy patio, who seem to be grazing through the entire menu; couples flirting over cocktails; and a nearby family with adult children scarfing down not one but two orders of the juicy black onyx flank, which is designed to share. The flambadou oysters dripped in beef tallow have received a lot of coverage since Poetica opened. That’s one of the reasons we forgo them. Also, I prefer my oysters to taste of the sea. Although natural oysters are also on the menu, we opt instead for sweet scallops that pop with the brightness of fermented jalapenos and celery. It’s a brilliant composition that is so pretty it’s like peering into a rockpool. An entrée of yellowfin tuna also shimmies on the plate under a layer of lightly pickled cucumbers and ginger counter-balanced with the crunch of puffed rice.

Order the wedge salad if you’re after a hefty side. It comes drenched in a tangy buttermilk dressing loaded with sun-dried tomatoes and rounds of fried garlic and presents like an edible bouquet. Our main of lamb saddle has been dry aged for a month and gets its second hit of flavour from being roasted over the embers in the woodfire. It arrives at the table perfectly pink with a caramelised crust where it is then bathed in a sauce made from basil, zucchini and garlic and served with a delicate white anchovy and pickled lemon blossom salad. The main course of black onyx flank and a beautifully hued vegetable salad are completely unadorned save for the smoky kiss of fire and char. This is cooking of the highest order.

The 450-strong wine list of mostly Australian vinos curated by director of wine Paolo Saccone (The Charles Grand Brasserie & Bar, Loulou Bistro, Mimi’s) rivals those in the city’s best restaurants. A 2023 Rieslingfreak ‘No. 12 Flaxman Valley’ from SA’s Eden Valley was the perfect pour with the seafood entrees. And the 2021 Torbreck ‘Cuvee Juveniles Grenache Shiraz Mataro’ from the Barossa Valley was so good with the flank we ordered a second glass alongside the Bruny Island cheese served with mustard fruit.

There’s still an air of excitement around the idea of heading to a great bar and restaurant in North Sydney. And, like sister venues, Loulou Bistro, Boulangerie & Traiteur, Poetica offers plenty of thrills for workers in the nearby office towers.

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Written by
Carla Grossetti


1 Denison St
North Sydney
Opening hours:
Tue-Sat Restaurant: noon-3pm; 5pm late Bar: noon-late
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