One of the most anticipated restaurant launches of 2021 finally arrives this week with the opening of Ursula’s, the Paddington restaurant from former Eleven Bridge and Pt Leo Estate chef Phil Wood and his wife, Lis Davies.

Its arrival is part of a rash of restaurants named after family members (Margaret, Lola’s and Roxy’s), Ursula being the middle name of Davies’ mother. Fittingly, it has found a home in the former site of Darcy’s restaurant, which opened in the former grocer in 1975.

And there are more than a few nods to Darcy’s at Ursula’s.

Chef Phil Wood has sought menu inspiration from old cookbooks.
Chef Phil Wood has sought menu inspiration from old cookbooks. Photo: Louise Kennerley

“Locals talk about Darcy’s with such fondness, we wanted to pay respect,” says Wood. “Beef carpaccio seems old-school, but it was ground-breaking back then.”

The chef has updated the dish with hints of lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime.

In a restaurant where designer Brahman Perera has splashed the walls in a warm caramel, Davies explains they were keen to keep some of the wood panelling, updating it in a more modern grey.

But while mindful of the past, Wood is clear they want to create their own history at Ursula’s. The menu will ride the classics (hello, peach Melba) while adding a contemporary Australia riff.

Trawling old cookbooks for inspiration, he found a tome penned by the queen of the pumpkin scone, Flo Bjelke-Petersen, which tapped a CWA classic, golden syrup dumplings. It provided a starting point, Wood injecting his own flavour hits with rum and raisin and a crescendo of malt whipped cream.

Is it an everyday local or a special occasion destination restaurant? “Can I say all of the above?” Wood fires back. Ursula’s will let you decide.

Open lunch and dinner Tue-Sat.

92 Hargrave Street, Paddington,