Parramatta is seeing an influx of on-trend restaurants and cafes to meet the demands of a population hungry for a greater array of fine dining outlets.
The entire hospitality scene is flourishing as lower overheads, less competition and a growing population of discerning diners attract new openings.
Demand has seen independent newcomers such as Mediterranean fine diner Willo and parkside brunch spot Misc open recently. Larger hospitality groups are also jumping on the opportunity. In the past month, both Mamak and Al Aseel have opened in Sydney’s second city.
“It’s a strategically important location for us,” says Mamak director Julian Lee.
“The demand is very strong and the market is evolving quickly.
Ahmad Harb, general manager of Lebanese restaurant Al Aseel, says the Parramatta restaurant is fully booked until Christmas.
“It’s a hotspot for dining,” he says.
Misc co-owner Jad Nehmetallah says the 300-seat venue has been consistently packed since it opened in October.
“To get this kind of response from opening a venue is rare,” he says.
“The people of Parramatta keep telling us that this is exactly what they’ve been needing.”
Parramatta, which recently scored higher on a quality of life metric than its northern counterparts, is one of the fastest-growing local government areas in western Sydney, with an annual population growth rate of around 2 per cent, more than double the state average.
In the residential area of Winston Hills, “very reasonably priced” rent meant 22-year-old Hannah Kassis was recently able to open her first specialty coffee cafe, June. She says she was surprised by the lack of local eateries given how many people live in the area.
“There was a really big need and a big want in the community for a cafe here,” Kassis says.
“So many people have come in and told me, ‘We were waiting for this, we knew something like this should be here’.”
New developments, such as the $130 million Parramatta Square, and an influx of office workers have further increased demand, says Willo restaurant manager Sofie Patten.
“We are getting a more corporate crowd who appreciate fine dining and have discretionary income to spend on fine dining restaurants,” she says.
Mamak, also positioned in the CBD, attracts a strong lunch crowd from surrounding offices.
“There’s a lot less competition than our other locations in the CBD and Chatswood, where the market is absolutely saturated,” Lee says.
Patten says less competition has given Willo chefs the confidence to be creative with different cooking techniques and unusual flavour combinations, such as kalamata olive ice cream. At June, Kassis is emboldened to “get a bit more experimental with food and drinks”, particularly specialty brews.
The buzz around these restaurants is attracting diners from all across Sydney, says Nehmetallah. At Misc. they’ve welcomed guests from the northern beaches, eastern suburbs and the shire.
“What excites me is that our restaurant is bringing people here who haven’t been to Parramatta before,” he says.
Five new places to try
This glamorous riverside restaurant takes inspiration from Sydney’s cultural diversity with meals that pay homage to Middle Eastern, South American and Mediterranean cuisines. Standouts include hotcakes with whipped ricotta and aniseed maple syrup and sardine pollastrini with pickles and house made focaccia.
Little Coogee, Byrnes Avenue, Parramatta; instagram.com/misc.parramatta
It’s all about gathering family and friends together at Middle Eastern restaurant Al Aseel. Their dine-in menu boasts an extensive selection of hot and cold mezze, including shanklish (cheese aged in za’atar and mild chilli with tomato, red onion and olive oil) and haloumi caramelised in honey and thyme.
Shop 1/85 Victoria Road, Parramatta; alaseel.com.au
Mamak’s Parramatta venue stays true to its street food ethos but smartens up its interiors in this restaurant which also has plenty of covered outdoor seating and serves the same range of roti, nasi lemak and curries that earned it a heart in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2023.
Shop 6.02 Parramatta Square, 10 Darcy Street, Parramatta; mamak.com.au
Mediterranean restaurant Willo looks expensive, with marble counters, high ceilings and contemporary gold finishings, but the chef’s menu comes in at a reasonable $105 per person for nine dishes. Diners can expect dishes such as king fish ceviche and baby pork ribs with roasted capsicum and lemon.
32 Smith Street, Parramatta; willoparramatta.com.au
Young entrepreneur Hannah Kassis may have pivoted from graphic design to hospitality, but her aesthetic eye shines through in this stylish neighbourhood cafe. The menu offers brekkie basics with a Lebanese twist, such as fried eggs served with labneh, za’atar, avocado and olives.
11 Lomond Cresent, Winston Hills; instagram.com/june_winstonhills