When Neil Perry’s new restaurant Margaret finally swings the doors open tomorrow, it will cement Double Bay as Sydney’s hottest food suburb on the rise, joining Matteo, Bibo, Sinaloa, China Diner, Chinta Kechil, Lotus and bills.
Yes, that’s right – bills. Through all the lockdown confusion over the past three and half months, we almost forgot that Bill Granger opened his fourth Sydney cafe in Cross Street, Double Bay, at the end of May. The kitchen was just getting into the swing of flipping hundreds of ricotta hotcakes each week before staff found themselves packing kimchi cheese-toast and cocktails to go.
Bill Granger’s fourth cafe has opened in Double Bay, ready for your ricotta hotcake needs. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Opening a restaurant is a slog at the best of times, and nothing short of a nightmare and small miracle during lockdown. However, Granger’s slick new outpost is far from the only venue to launch during or just before lockdown. Here are the best new places to put back on your radar as Sydney reopens, with much love and kudos to all the operators who have pushed through.
For end-of-lockdown celebrations
High-end tasting menus at home have been a lot of fun – and here’s hoping delivery platform Providoor continues to thrive post-lockdown – but, gee, we have missed fine dining at the hands of talented chefs and floor staff. No one at home refolds my table napkin between trips to the loo.
Hinchcliff House (5-7 Young Street, Sydney) – not to be confused with Rocks distillery Hickson House, set to open soon – boasts four levels of boozing and dining options in a heritage wool store at Circular Quay, and Mediterranean-inspired Lana is the fanciest offering.
Lana has opened as part of the new Hinchcliff House development at Circular Quay, and the Seafood Experience is a grand way to celebrate the end of lockdown Photo: Jiwon Kim
Diners lucky to visit the plush restaurant when it cut ribbon in mid-June were treated to an $89 tasting menu starring kelp mayo-licked crab toast, raw scallops sharpened by cumquat and yuzu kosho, and prawn-stuffed cappelletti verde. Expect more of the same when the pink-marbled dining room reopens on October 19.
Meanwhile, Margaret isn’t the only Double Bay opening to be excited about. Damien Monley, former owner of Woollahra’s Flat White Cafe, was set to open Roxy’s (Shop R2, 30-36 Bay Street) next door to Mr Perry in July, but will now welcome guests from next week and provide a more casual small bar vibe than its neighbour. That’s not to say you can’t let loose with a Middle Eastern-ish feast menu, though – Jerusalem bagels, hummus, pickled beetroot and lamb shoulder cooked overnight, hello.
Mud crab with black pepper curry and other delicious Malaysian dishes from Amah by Ho Jiak in Chatswood. Photo: Supplied
Further feasting can be had at Amah by Ho Jiak (The District, 436 Victoria Avenue Chatswood). Chef Hun Loong opened the 200-seat Malaysian eatery – a tribute to the homestyle cooking of his late grandmother – two weeks before lockdown. Spicy wok-fried rice noodles with spanner crab and Chinese sausage is a signature, but we’re highly inclined to push the boat out with lobster from the tank steamed with ginger and soy.
Also, a quick reminder that pioneering Greek chef Peter Conistis reopened Alpha (236 Castlereagh Street, Sydney) in May after 15 months of closure and a dramatic revamp. There’s no better time than now to enjoy spit-roasted lamb shoulder served with tzatziki and horta greens while surrounded by gleaming marble and white-washed walls.
Galaktoboureko, Greek coffee, medjool dates, Metaxa and halva on the menu at the revamped Alpha. Photo: Edwina Pickles
For cocktails at a real-life bar
This year has been a bit of a Barry Crocker, so a few drinks at The Barrie (107-109 Regent Street, Chippendale) probably won’t go astray. Former Employees Only bar manager Chris Garner opened Bazza at the old Freda’s site in June, and the neighbourhood boozer will rock a mean Manhattan again from October 12. Oh, how we’ve missed cocktails stirred to order by a professional. Three cheers for the end of overly diluted homemade martinis.
Speaking of, the martini wizards at Maybe Sammy began pouring beautifully balanced cocktails at Dean and Nancy on 22 (2 Hunter Street, Sydney) in late May. The swank bar reopens next Wednesday for mid-century luxury and oscietra caviar.
Tacos, cocktails and good times roll at Case Merida in Potts Point. Photo: Lauren Gray
For somewhere you can feel more comfortable in shorts, Casa Merida (1/5 Kellett Street, Potts Point) is taking bookings for October 19 onwards. Inspired by the mezcal and good times to be had in Yucatan, Mexico, the anticipated bar (it was set to launch in September) will open in a renovated terrace decked with gold fittings and the odd chandelier. Note the bottomless margarita lunch sittings every Saturday.
Meanwhile, punters craving the sweet relief of beer from a tap can add the Lord Wolseley Hotel (265 Bulwara Road, Ultimo) to their schooner list. Pub Life Kitchen returned to the old watering hole in July and chef Jovan Curic couldn’t be happier to finally serve his cult burgers in a bistro rather than through a window. New PLK dishes include sarma (smoked pork-stuffed cabbage rolls) and pork schnitzel with celeriac remoulade. Pilsner-friendly food doesn’t get much better.
For a casual catch-up with mates
The cherry kofta is back, pals. After burning bright and beautiful for a few months last year in a Marrickville warehouse, Baba’s Place (20 Sloane Street, Marrickville) returned to sling Lebanese snack packs and sangas during lockdown. Sit-down dining is set to resume in the coming weeks and our fingers are crossed the mango atayef pancake with cardamom cream makes a comeback too.
Staying in Marrickville, Rice Pantry (20 Smidmore Street) launched two weeks before lockdown as part of the Metro shopping centre’s new dining precinct. The modern Asian diner and bar reopened yesterday with a new menu featuring Vietnamese fried chicken, tamarind prawns, and chargrilled squid with fermented chilli and pineapple. It’s all highly shareable stuff for small groups or large families.
Over in Bexley North, My Mother’s Cousin (9 Shaw Street) pizzeria has been a lockdown hit since serving its first New York-style pepperoni slice in July. Due to COVID restrictions still in place (specifically the four-metre-square rule for indoor dining), the small parlour can’t reopen until December 1, but that doesn’t mean you can’t takeaway one of its thin, crisp and “proudly pineapple free” pies for a pizza party with vaxxed guests at home. Try the ‘nduja and salami number with fior di latte and fresh ricotta.
Back in the east, Acqua E Farina (117B Macleay Street, Potts Point) welcomes diners from October 19. Young chef Lucinda Khan has been keeping locals sated with curb-side tagliatelle since launching her tiny house-made pasta restaurant in August.
For a beachside picnic
See you later, five-kilometre travel limit! Fully-vaxxed Sydneysiders previously unable to visit Rose Bay can now queue with every second person in the eastern suburbs for Josh Niland’s incredibly crisp-skinned Murray cod at Charcoal Fish (670 New South Head Road). Don’t miss the benchmark fish-and-chips either, engineered to maintain crunch on the drive to Shark Beach.
Battered Murray cod and chips from Josh Niland’s new Charcoal Fish shop in Rose Bay. Photo: Rob Palmer
More battered seafood to scoff on the sand can be found at Fish Shop (87 Glenayr Avenue, North Bondi) where FSH MKT opens next week to handle the popular eatery’s takeaway orders. We’re very taken with the idea of a BYOP (build-your-own picnic) display for customers to curate their own spread with oysters, prawns and house-made taramasalata.
In less fishy news, just-opened Frank’s Deli (279 Bronte Road, Waverley) has also been creating line-ups in the east for Polish-style smallgoods and sandwiches perfect for eating on a rug in Bronte Park. Just wait a bit before swimming after tackling the Breakfast Sammy stacked with a cheesy egg fold and LP’s brisket pastrami.