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  • Restaurants
  • Sydney
  1. Seta
    Photograph: Jacquie Manning
  2. Steak
    Photograph: Jacquie Manning
  3. The vault at Seta
    Photograph: Jacquie Manning
  4. Chef at Seta
    Photograph: Jacquie Manning
  5. Steak tartare
    Photograph: Jacquie Manning
  6. Oysters
    Photograph: Jacquie Manning
  7. Seta
    Photograph: Jacquie Manning
  8. Seta
    Photograph: Jacquie Manning
  9. Seta
    Photograph: Supplied
  10. Seta
    Photograph: Supplied
  11. Seta
    Photograph: Supplied
  12. Seta
    Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

Creativity meets old world grandeur at this CBD fine diner

In the understatement of the century, a global shutdown and border closures can be tough on a new restaurant. Even the best laid plans to create one of the best Italian fine-diners in town like, for instance, enlisting a Michelin trained Italian chef to work in a stunning heritage listed former bank in the beating heart of a major city like Sydney, can get thrown off course. This is exactly what former Wildfire and Ocean Room operator Tonci Farac dared to dream way back in 2017, when the sparks of Seta began to smoulder.

Situated in the aforementioned heritage listed former bank, built in 1849, Farac’s less-than-humble dream of transforming this intimidating Greco-Roman vault into an elegant and cathedral-esque restaurant during a global shutdown was no mean feat. His intended head chef, Matteo Vigotti of Italy's Novecento and Peck, was adrift in Milan, and in a landscape of job losses and tightening of belts, an old-school, traditional and ambitiously expensive establishment such as Seta hit the right note at the wrong time.

Fast-forward to 2022, and the world is getting back to a semblance of normal. Restaurants are opening in swathes at higher calibres than ever, Chef Vigotti has been released from Italy and the work has well and truly started. Seta’s transformation has been a three-year, six-million-dollar operation and at this stage, every night counts. Polished, professional and knowledgeable service, luxurious accents of blonde leather booths, marble tables, an entire double height wall of wine on display as well as a dedicated wine room (future parties are in the works) mean that this venue is wearing its heart right on its sleeve. There is no mistaking that Seta is dressed to impress and, with a bit of luck and a couple of Michelin stars, the food is going to want to match.

Vigotti has held no punches since taking over the show. We say show because so much about Seta is theatre – in the best way. The expansive open kitchen bustles with eight or nine chefs in tall white toques tending to a custom 10-station cooking suite including wood-fired grill, gas range, induction, plancha, pasta cooker, fryers and refrigerated drawers that cost a cool $400,000. Side of stage is a separate pastry kitchen, cooled to an ambient temperature more fitting to hard butter pastries and shards of tempered chocolate. 

From the list of starters and crudo, we highly recommend opting for the lightly aged hiramasa kingfish. Yes, we’ve seen kingfish crudo a thousand times but the velvet texture achieved from a 72 hour dry-age along with the gentle hum of heat from a spiced yuzu, the shock of charred citrus and a viscous passionfruit and carrot gel? This is nothing short of genius.

We would be remiss if we went to an Italian restaurant and skipped a pasta dish and were presented with bottoni di patate dolci, otherwise known as sweet potato ravioli with discs of ultra tender WA octopus in a savoury leek broth. Layers of sweetness bounce across your palette and the sweet potato in tandem with braised leeks border on saccharine until the clean, lightly pickled splash of saline from the octopus reels it all back in.

On the aquatic front, the omnipresent Murray cod swims its way in, this time teamed with a foam jacket of kipfler potato, blanketing an unusual bed of pomodoro pappa (bread soaked in tomato puree). Both elements only serve to highlight the muddy nature of the fish which despite being cooked perfectly, is a bit of an earthy miss in our book.

If we had an entire chapter to dedicate to the 40-day aged bistecca alla fiorentina, oh that we would. Just take our word for it, as well as several very hungry friends because this bad boy is a serious steak. Grilled to medium rare, served needlessly beside a trio of sauces, we suggest keeping things pure. The Angus t-bone does all the talking required.

Head sommelier Franck Goze has lovingly curated a wine list worthy of any cellar in the world, with fiercely specific regional selections straddling the old world and the new and primarily Italian fare as to be expected. However the beauty of the list lies in exploring the diversity of cool and warm climate and L’Episcopo doesn’t shy away from viticultural adventure. 

But the way a meal finishes can be an emotional clincher that transports an experience from good to great. At Seta, dessert comes by way of a super fun disc of cocoa covered chocolate with, of course, gold leaf. Hark back to your childhood and excitedly crack the surface to reveal pillows of booze-soaked sponge and whipped chocolate cream. There’s tiramisu, then there’s this tiramisu. Heady with bitter cocoa, hot with alcoholic warmth and light-as-a-feather whipped cream. If you’re wondering what 'la dolce vita' tastes like, it tastes like this.

After more oputence in your life? Check out the best restaurants in Sydney's CBD right here.

Written by
Elizabeth McDonald


11 Barrack Street
Opening hours:
Tue-Fri, noon-11pm; Sat, 5:30-11pm
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