Aurora | 63 Light Square
OK, so it opened in March and is not that new for the locals, but it sure is for the rest of us. Part of an ambitious cultural, technological and hospitality hub, Aurora is also home to the outstanding contemporary food of one of South Australia’s most accomplished chefs, Brendan Wessels (ex-The Cube, McLaren Vale).
Think wood-fired sustainable fish, a brilliant lime financier and top local wines in a heritage building that’s bringing a whole new cohort of diners to Adelaide’s newly buzzing West End.
And also …
♦ “Fun, accessible French” is the pitch at Garcon Bleu, a 90-seat restaurant and raw bar on level 9 of the new Sofitel Adelaide; and
♦ In McLaren Vale, get set for “an Italian-inspired wine and food experience” when Mitolo Wines launches Frankie, Italo Dining & Disco in March.
Oncore by Clare Smyth | Crown Sydney, 1 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
Clare Smyth is one of the world’s top chefs; a Gordon Ramsay protégé who went on to open a solo venture, Core by Clare Smyth, that made her the first female chef in Britain to win three Michelin stars.
Now, after a string of pandemic-related delays, Smyth has finally launched her new restaurant, Oncore, in the city she calls her second home.
Like the London mothership, Oncore is a contemporary fine diner; elegant yet relaxed and with its own discrete identity, informed by location. In Sydney, that means spectacular harbour views from Crown’s level 26 and a menu that celebrates regenerative farming practices in classic Core dishes such as Potato and roe, Beef & oyster, and Pear and lemon balm vacherin. Plus, there’s a grown-up wine list, a chef’s table and a 40-seat cocktail bar at the window’s edge.
Ursula’s | 92 Hargrave Street, Paddington
Just like his former boss Neil Perry (Margaret, Double Bay), Phil Wood has opened an upscale neighbourhood restaurant and named it for a matriarch. And in both cases, it’s a concept that seems just right for our times: warm, welcoming, seemingly effortlessly sophisticated in both food and design.
At Ursula’s, the classically trained Wood is having fun with a menu that riffs on retro recipes, native ingredients and the Paddington restaurant’s long-time former incarnation as Darcy’s. So, that’s lobster salad with mango, cashew and XO sauce to start, please, followed by golden syrup dumplings. Well, why not?
Chef’s take: “Long lunches are back and are no longer the exclusive domain of CBD restaurants. After the dominance of the share menu in recent years, many diners are now moving back to ordering their own dishes from à la carte menus.” – Phil Wood
Shell House | 37 Margaret Street, Sydney
Mark this down as one big vote of confidence in the future of Sydney’s CBD. From The Point Group, and set behind Wynyard Station, the Woods Bagot-designed Shell House has four venues, three levels and two very desirable chefs in Joel Bickford (ex-Aria) and Aaron Ward (ex-Sixpenny).
There’s the rooftop bar (Sky Bar) with rarely seen views of the city skyline; the Clocktower bar, housed within a 400-tonne Art Deco clock; the Dining Room & Terrace; and the ground-floor Menzies Bar, named in honour of the site’s former life as The Menzies Hotel.
Menu standouts include Yellow belly flounder, roasted whole with smoked vine leaf, caper & black garlic; and Slow-roasted cauliflower, burnt onion, comte, salted duck egg.
The bars are open now; the dining opens on November 26.
And also …
♦ Il Pontile, a seafood-leaning Italian diner helmed by Mario Percuoco has joined the serried ranks of restaurants on Woolloomooloo Wharf;
♦ Bay Nine Omakase, a 10-seat Japanese dining bar, will open early next month in The Rocks’ waterfront Campbells Cove precinct; and
♦ Also aiming for early December is Loulou, a neighbourhood bistro with adjoining boulangerie and traiteur, in Lavender Bay.
Society | 80 Collins Street, Melbourne
There were a few speed humps on the long road to Society’s launch, not least of which was the shock departure of original chef Martin Benn. But here’s the thing: judging by the big-spending crowds nightly filling up this second-floor fine-diner overlooking the Paris end of Collins Street, you could only conclude it was all grist for the publicity mill.
Le tout Melbourne is here. They’re here for the super-glam bar, for the wow of the wine list, for the warmth of service from some of the city’s best, and for the luxe, luxe, luxe menu from new chef Luke Headon. Did I mention luxe? Patagonian toothfish, southern rock lobster, caviar, pearl meat, crystal snow crab, smoked wagyu prime rib – it’s all here, and everyone’s lapping it up. High society, indeed.
And also …
Society’s two other restaurants, also at 80 Collins; Lillian Terrace, a casual all-day brasserie; and Yakimono, a 200-seat, charcoal-fired Japanese grill.
Di Stasio Pizzeria | 224 Faraday Street, Carlton
Most pizzerias are neighbourhood joints, not destination restaurants. But then, most pizzerias don’t have the combined forces of Ronnie Di Stasio and Mallory Wall behind them. The third venue from the famed restaurateurs has a courtyard with 17th-century Roman fountain, significant artworks and custom-grown ingredients for “the perfect margherita”. Worth crossing town for, we think.
Nomad | Adelphi Hotel, 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Nomad by name, nomad – finally – by nature, after the eight-year-old Sydney restaurant beat a string of mainly pandemic-related odds to set up camp in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane. Like its Surry Hills sister, the new Nomad shares an executive chef (Jacqui Challinoor), a focus on cooking over fire and a commitment to dealing almost exclusively with small producers, in wine as much as in terrific, crowd-pleasing food.
Outside that, we’re assured it’s a new venture entirely, with a proudly all-Victorian identity.
Restaurateur’s take: “What we’ve all been through has given everyone a greater appreciation for what restaurants do. The joy on our diners’ faces when a glass of wine is poured for them at the right temperature, in the right glass, really tickles our fancy.” – Bec Yazbek, co-owner
Auterra Wine Bar | 1160 High Street, Armadale
Sure, there’s no shortage of wine bars in our capital cities and beyond as operators tap into our collective need for more impulse-driven dining out. But not many of them can boast a chef of the calibre of Amaru’s Clinton McIver, nor a menu that amounts to a delicious procession of bonsai plates of food. Tiny tartlets of Great Ocean Road duck parfait; a miniature boudin blanc hot dog; a single oyster with charred cucumber dressing. Plus, they even serve their red wines at the correct, coolish temperature. And there’s definitely a shortage of that.
And also …
♦ South Yarra’s chic Yugen Tea Bar is part salon, part specialist café and part dessert degustation diner. As of February, it will also be a 150-seat Asian restaurant downstairs from the ground-floor bar;
♦ Anchor Elwood is the new, mainly Mediterranean home for restaurateur Rosalin Virnik, ex-Curly Whiskers;
♦ Prolific chef/restaurateur Scott Pickett is set to open another two new ventures in the new year: Smith St Bistro in Collingwood followed by Audrey’s, a new seafood-focused restaurant in the revamped Continental Sorrento;
♦ Plus we’re joining the queues for the swank new eating bar at the just-opened butcher store Victor Churchill, in Armadale.
Peppina | The Tasman, Salamanca Place
Another new restaurant named for a matriarch. Is this some sort of post-pandemic trend? Peppina, the 190-seat Italian diner at the new hotel The Tasman, ticks many other boxes, too. Wood-fired oven. Open fire pit. A strong sense of place, through design as well as produce. A historic location, at the heart of the heritage redevelopment of Parliament Square. And the coup? Getting Hobart-born, Naples-raised Massimo Mele on board as culinary director and renowned local chef Glenn Byrnes (Aloft, Garagistes, Fico) as his 2IC.
The restaurant opens on December 9.
Lucio’s Marina | The Noosa Marina, Tewantin, Noosa Heads
Yes, it’s that Lucio’s, the legendary Sydney restaurant that closed its doors early this year after a run of nearly four decades in Paddington. Overseeing its subtropical rebirth on the riverfront is Lucio Galletto’s son Matteo, who’s hoping to open the 60-seat trattoria plus 50-seat bar in December.
Piggyback| 1 Koorawatha Lane, Palmwoods, Sunshine Coast hinterland
This is the third venue for local restaurateur Tony Kelly, the name behind hit Asian eateries Rice Boy (Mooloolaba) and Giddy Geisha (Maroochydore). For his new place, Kelly has taken a detour to Indonesia and Malaysia via a street-food menu based around the yakitori grill. Because why should the coast have all the fun?