Winner: Danielle Alvarez, Fred’s
We might lose a lot of our acting talent stateside, but we even the score with Danielle Alvarez. The 33-year-old, Miami-born chef left San Francisco and famed Alice Waters restaurant Chez Panisse to open Fred’s in Paddo: a classic European bistro focussing on strictly seasonal produce from a handful of local farms and suppliers. The stage is set every night for a flawless performance of flames vs food in the open kitchen, the grand dining room feeling as comfortable as a country home because you’re sitting up at the same kitchen benches the chefs are using to prep soft, flaky King George whiting fillets wrapped in barely there prosciutto destined for the wood-fired oven. There’s medieval pleasure to be had in watching a whole leg of lamb spin languidly in the heat of the blazing brazier before it’s cut down, sliced up and served resplendently pink in anchovy butter and a red wine jus. Alvarez might be generally averse to having permanent menu items, because “seasons don’t work that way”, but in the face of people’s devotion the chef relented when it came to the lamb. Alvarez is a master of texture, crowning a soft peak of whipped ricotta with a country garden crown of fresh peas, broad beans, artichoke slices and mint. All that’s missing from this tiny shrine to spring are the Morris dancers. And the Fred’s potato and leek soup is the culinary equivalent of silk sheets, establishing a new tier of creamy luxury. Yes, that Robbins Island steak is $135, but as it fetches a premium price in Japan, Alvarez feels lucky to keep a bit here for her guests. There’s no better dining action to be had in Sydney right now than dinner at Fred’s.