Four guys get together and decide to open a venue – the sort of place that they want to eat at. The first letters of each of their forenames happens to make up the acronym 'ACME', which ain’t a bad name for a restaurant, right? So goes the tale of ACME in Rushcutters Bay.
“By God, this is a beautiful place to eat a meal.” The thought is almost certain to strike at some point as you dine under the dominating, post-Brutalist arches of executive chef Peter Gilmore's new restaurant inside the Opera House sails. And that’ll be before you even see the food.
Sydney loves a bit of smoke. The smoker at Vic’s Meat Market produces brisket that is the stuff of Sydney legend. Lennox Hastie at Firedoor cooks his ingredients over fire with the most tender, gentle results. But it was Porteño’s fire pit, sited within the restaurant itself, that first showed us how to do things back in 2010.
Let’s get something straight: Sepia is a fancy restaurant, but there is nothing pretentious about it, and therein lies its magic. When you walk in the doors, you are invariably greeted in the warmest way by co-owner Vicki Wild (who also happens to be the partner of head chef Martin Benn).
Edition Coffee Roasters is a pretty special café. Not only is it beautiful to be in – all mid-century-style Nordic furnishings, white walls and wide open, galley kitchen – but the food crossing the pass is right on the cusp of what eating in Sydney in 2015 is all about.
Salt Meats Cheese have swung open the steel doors of a new tasty venture. These guys, famous for their deluxe produce and glorious providore, have invested in a pizza oven - shipped all the way from Naples. The traditional wood-fired oven is the roaring in the heart of the fittingly named The Pizza Box - an eat-in pizzeria in the middle of their Alexandria warehouse store.
You don’t expect much from a food truck – some quick tucker in the wee small hours, maybe a burger, some tacos, or a slice of pizza. But that was before Yang’s Malaysian Food Truck came along. Because this is food you don’t just want to grab when you’re passing by. It’s the sort of food you need to seek out.
Is it just us, or does everybody long for an eatery filled with the gentle caress of Ella Fitzgerald’s voice, strong cocktails that satisfy and food that is exceptional, rather than just nice? Sydney has those places, but it can be hard to muster up the funds to commit to going there. Until now.
What makes this modest Chippendale establishment Restaurant of the Year? That very thing. Eating in Sydney in 2014 is as much about the good times as it is about what’s on the plate and in the glass. We don’t just open our wallets and say ‘aaaaah’ anymore. More importantly, there isn’t a single place we want to eat at more.
It’s a menu of earthy delights at this brilliant Chippendale restaurant. There’s something kind of wholefoods about the gear chef Mat Lindsay’s serving up here. Sort of, at least, if you don’t count the DIY roast pork belly pancakes and turbo-charged steak smothered in anchovy butter. Or the experimental duck rotolo. Raise a glass and pick up a sandwich for this year’s best new restaurant.
It was, at one point, Darlinghurst’s best kept secret: a tiny shoebox-sized Italian restaurant run by chef Nigel Ward. His preternatural talent when it came to making pasta was like nothing we’d seen in Sydney before.
A perfect espresso is a given at this Waverley café. But they're also pushing a mellow, almost toasted-wheat Moccamaster filter, pour-over, and of course the ever-frightening bulletproof. To us, Ruby’s ticks the ever-challenging box of ‘cafés that serve food that’s as good as their coffee’.
This is how it works: you join the queue and order your hot sambo, which is essentially a pillow-soft piece of pita bread spread with garlicky yoghurt sauce, then stuffed with chunky shreds of spit-roast pork (replete with crackling, which you may consider mainlining if it’s been a particularly boozy night), a salad of raw onion, parsley and tomatoes and hot chips. It’s rolled into a cone shape and is yours for just $7.80.
Meet O Tama Carey, head chef at Surry Hills’ Italian (ish) diner, Berta. It’s a restaurant we’ve loved since they first swung open the doors in 2010, and has never failed to serve up delicious, comforting food in a friendly and welcoming setting.
Sydney, you’ve got great taste. That you chose something as forward-thinking and technically brilliant as this pop-up for your People’s Choice Award winner deserves a group bear hug. Bring it in.
Ask any bunch of young Sydney chefs who they’d like to work for most in the city, and you can bet on a resounding “Strodey”. The British ex-pat’s spent the past 22 years cooking in Australia, honing his flavour of pared back simplicity, high on hidden technique.
It’s the restaurant that opened on a pocket full of dreams and coins scraped together from the back of the couch. And it’s the restaurant you’re most likely to find all of Sydney’s most devoted food fanatics on a Sunday afternoon.
There’ll always be room in Sydney for the fine-dining behemoths fed by deep-pocketed backers. But it’s places like Dan Puskas and James Parry’s restaurant Sixpenny – the chefs won last year’s Hot Talent award – that can bob and weave between the lines, flexing and collaborating with other chefs, bringing a level of sensitivity and earnestness to the fore.
Dim sum by day, barbecue by night, crabs any time you want them. That’s the Dan Hong and Eric Koh way. A wall of de-feathered, dangling ducks greets you on the way to the bathrooms, destined to become deep-golden barbecue.
Sydney, we’d like you to meet Flavio Carnevale and Fabio Dore – the two restaurateurs who have created a restaurant so eminently likeable we never want to leave. In fact, we’ve been known to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at Popolo (though like many successful Sydney restaurants who have had the idea of opening for brekky, it's ended up being a weekend delight only).
Excelsior Jones is an absolute pearler of a café with its beautiful, bleached-wood space, high windows and vintage, dusty-green awning. It’s pretty much a giant breakfast welcome sign.
What do you get when you take a gang of chefs from Rockpool who are sick of cooking tasting menus and just want to make delicious slabs of pizza instead? You get Cipro al Taglio, the Alexandria hot spot where a large slice of Roman-style pizza will set you back $11 and you will very likely have leftovers for dinner.
When this neighbourhood trattoria first swung open its doors early in 2012, they were going through one gigantic parmesan wheel a month for their cacio e pepe – that classic Roman pasta dish of spaghetti tossed with olive oil, pecorino cheese and pepper. “Now,” says heavily tattooed and well quiffed co-owner Marcelo Garrao, “we go through one a week.”
Sean’s Panaroma chef and owner Sean Moran cooks his own food his own way. And he has done so since he opened the restaurant in 1993 – that’s 20 years of snacking pleasure. Sean’s is freshness, simplicity and fun on a plate and the antidote to every bad meal you’ve ever had.
Over the five years we’ve been running the Time Out Food Awards, it’s been the young chefs with a clear idea of their own identity and a certain courage of their convictions that get us sitting up, forks poised and plates at the ready. Daniel Pepperell, the young chef who’s making a name for himself at 10 William Street, has made bold but smart decisions when it comes to where he’s worked lately.
“What’s a Momofuku and why do I care?” we hear you say. Momofuku Noodle, Ssam Bar, Ko, Milk Bar and Ma Peche are a bracket of restaurants in Manhattan owned by chef David Chang.
Jonathan Barthelmess has long been one of Time Out’s favourite chefs. We sang his praises back at Coast in 2008/2009 when he was doing his elegant, restrained Italian food and then again when he opened Manly Pavilion. He’s back on the mainland now, doing Greek food. And we couldn’t be happier.
You might recognize chef Kenji Maenaka from Bodega – he worked for years alongside Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz. He’s joined here by sushi chef Taketoshi “Take” Iwama, who wields his razor sharp sushi blade with quiet confidence, making pristine sushi and sashimi.
Alright, Sydney. We know about the queues. And we know it’s not all that cheap. And yeah, service can border on downright irritating. But try as we might, we can’t help but love Kitchen by Mike. For starters, no café in Sydney comes close to offering the level of food ex-Rockpool chef Mike McEnearney does. And it’s in one of the most beautiful design spaces in Sydney.
Here’s the deal: we’ve chosen Al Aseel in Newtown because it’s delicious. Because it’s cheap. Because we have a great time every time we visit. Because it’s brilliant for veggos and carnies alike. And because they open for breakfast on the weekends.
The fires are still burning hot at this Argentinian bar and grill. And don’t you know it, Sydney. This is, after all, your award and Porteño is the product of your keen-as-mustard voting. None of the sheen has gone off the restaurant, either, which opened back in 2010. If anything, they’ve just hit their straps.
Beau and Suzie Vincent (together they make – wait for it – Subo) have taken residence on Hunter Street in Newcastle. This might be the couple’s first restaurant, but they boast quite the dance card between them.
There’s good reason people are bananas for this new Stanmore restaurant, run by chefs James Parry and Dan Puskas. The talented two used to work together at the popular Newtown restaurant Oscillate Wildly, in a kitchen barely large enough to swing the bucket they’d been sous-viding in.
You’re driving down a perilous road with a sheer cliff face on one side. Cicadas are screaming while bellbirds trill and blip. There’s no land access to Berowra Waters Inn but waiting for the restaurant’s own ferryman to take you for a ride from the wharf is part of the adventure. Once upon a time they’d greet you onboard with a glass of Champagne. These days, it’s Adrian Birkensleigh in a Drizabone and an Akubra.
We’d like to issue a two-fist salute right now to the most exciting restaurant to have opened since last August. At Porteño, smoke, meat, salt, fire, beers, rock’n’roll and a metric eff-load of Brylcreem all mingle in pursuit of the ultimate good time.
It’s been a year of astonishing restaurant openings, and yet very few of them have been at the pointy end of Sydney dining. Most, like Bar H, are stop-drop-and-eat places – accessible any day of the week rather than just triple-cloth-date-night Fridays. This place of wonder and great snacking is brought to you by husband-and-wife team Hamish Ingham and Rebecca Lines.
In the past, we’ve given this award to inner-city digs Black Star Pastry and House. We’ve favoured places like Gumshara Ramen and Mamak, just off Haymarket’s street of wonders. But a recent trip out to Thornleigh has changed the game. Because hidden amongst the Pizza Huts, the McDonald’s and the Bunnings is this incredible (and cheap – a meal for two will set you back around $45) Malaysian restaurant.
Once again, Sydney, you’ve voted with your cake holes. This year you’ve crowned Duke – the Flinders Street restaurant serving smart, exciting snacks till late into the night – your People’s Choice Winner for 2011. Nice work. If you haven’t been then you’ll find Duke up a separate staircase to the side of the Flinders Hotel – where boozy dreams really do come true and healthy livers go to die.
There are those restaurants you wished were in your home town. Garagistes, say, in Tasmania. The Royal Mail, all the way out in Dunkeld. Biota, in the middle of Bowral, is another one. This is a restaurant with a sense of place and a very distinct indentity.
Pop quiz, wise guys: what brings you back to a restaurant and gives you that special feeling, knowing you’ve made the right choice to be out, rather than eating cold beans out of a tin in front of the telly? Hint: it rhymes with schmervice. Sure, the food helps. It helps a lot. But it won’t save a restaurant experience if the service sucks.
This is a new Time Out award and we’re very excited to be able to give it to two of Sydney’s brightest young kitchen talents. These two superstar punks are the chefs behind Duke – the bistro upstairs from the Flinders. It’s the first restaurant the duo have ever run together and there’s no arguing with the culinary might on display here.
You won't find a restaurant in Sydney so burdened with the expectations of diners as Rockpool. There's something particularly special about the flagship restaurant. Maybe it's the thick white tablecloths; the plushly carpeted catwalk up the middle of the restaurant; the rubbernecking to see who's dining around you; or the incredibly professional service. Or maybe it's the food.
Sydney, meet Berta – the new restaurant from Vini owner and chef Andrew Cibej. Berta is a concrete bunker on Alberta Street filled with Italian wine, share plates of Italian food and people having a good time. While Berta is distinctly un-Vini-like on the plate, there's a very similar aesthetic at work: the food and wine menus written on big chalkboards; the dark palette; the dim lights; the lively atmosphere.
Bridging the gap between Newtown's cheap ethno offerings and a nine-course molecular journey Oscillate Wildly, Bloodwood is a very welcome addition to the Inner West. Don't expect a fine diner when you visit - it's not that kind of place.
Why is this unassuming little Surry Hills café pretty much kicking the arse of every other of its ilk in town? Well, they're serving exceptional food, great juices (watermelon, lemon and mint, for example) and Single Origin coffee, and although they're a little herbal (they sling chai and serve organic soft drinks, small-estate teas and the like), they're not big posers.
Disappointed by Spice I Am's Victoria Street branch? Love the original on Wentworth Street but can never get in? We hears ya. But never mind, because here's House. It's the same team from Spice I Am, doing not the tricked-up top-dollar stuff that Darlinghurst is known for, but the street food of northeast Thailand. That means plenty of salads, grills and fermented, dried and sour gear.
Since nabbing chef Sam Bennett from Glebe Point Diner, this restaurant/wine bar has been going from strength to strength including funkifying their wine list. Right now they're even giving each customer a free glass of wine, no strings attached, between the hours of five and six. One week it could be Dubbonnet; the next, lillet.
Phillip Searle and Barry Ross open their restaurant three days a week, nine months of the year. It's BYO only and take it from us – it's no bad thing to overcater when it comes to the booze. So what makes Vulcans the restaurant you should hop in your car or brave the country train and travel two hours out of Sydney to visit?
Some people will argue that it's all about the food in a restaurant and that service shouldn't come into it. These people haven't been served by enough sub-standard waiters. A really great restaurant needs that mix of excellent floor staff and great food. And if there's a better equipped team than Traci Trinder and co at Buzo to deal with the hungry, loud hordes, we'd like to see it.