Sydney’s new eating and drinking precinct is open for business.
The lure of a harbourside location proved irresistible to some of Sydney’s top restaurateurs. Barangaroo’s tree-lined waterfront Wulugul Walk is a who’s who of the city’s food talent, some with familiar offerings and others launching totally new concepts. A total of 12 exciting new restaurants are launching from September to mid-November. So far, nine have opened their doors.
Welcome to flavour town, population: you. Lotus isn’t the first restaurant to fuse Chinese methods with Australian flavours – Kylie Kwong pioneered that at Billy Kwong – but head chef Chris Yan (ex-Billy Kwong, FYI) is certainly pushing the envelope. Native ingredients such as butterfly pea flower, crystal ice plant and tea tree are cultivated on-site and appear on the menu in various incarnations. As at the two other Lotus restaurants, dumplings make up a big part of the menu here. There’s a dedicated dumpling master whose skills are deployed in little parcels of local goodness such as spanner crab and prawn; and steamed sticky rice with eel. Evoking the great Aussie suburban Chinese restaurant, Lotus has tanks of live seafood in the dining room from which diners can select their meal. Other Sino-Australian winners are crispy calamari with native salt and pepper, Northern China-style chicken with tea tree mushrooms, and southern rock lobster wok-fried with XO sauce. 02 8318 3688
Muum maam is Thai slang for “little glutton” which is what most diners tend to become when confronted with a menu full of Thai classics done right. Another spin-off from a popular original (Muum Maam at Surry Hills), the Barangaroo version is taking inspiration from its waterside location. That’s why on the dinner menu you’ll find Moreton Bay bugs wrapped in betel leaves, grilled scallops with tamarind, and jungle curry of barramundi as well as imports from the Surry Hills menu. At lunch, there’s the Tuk Shop menu: rice-paper rolls, skewers, salads, curries, noodles and stir-fries. 02 8252 0121.
A coterie of excellent Middle Eastern restaurants has popped up in Sydney recently (Stanbuli, Barzaari, Nour) of which Anason can claim membership. Anason is the creation of Somer Sivrioglu, whose Balmain institution Efendy has been pleasing Sydneysiders since 2007. Sivrioglu’s aim was that the Barangaroo venue resemble a hip meyhane (a typical restaurant; the literal meaning is “wine house”) in modern-day Istanbul. As such, the menu is built to share and the wine-list is an international affair with some notable Turkish entrants. Graze freely from mezze such as pumpkin hummus, a sweet twist on the original; cured salmon pastirma with fennel and pickled chillies; and barramundi with a tahini and pistachio crust. You’ll notice the cute little food cart parked on the terrace; it’s stacked full of freshly baked simit (ring-shaped bread) that’s delicious with the hummus. Local workers take note: between 4pm and 6pm weekdays there are complimentary mezzes to sample at the bar with a rejuvenating tipple. 02 9188 1581.
No one batted an eyelid a when bar dedicated to your granny’s favourite tipple (sherry at Tapavino) opened in town a few years ago, so why should a vermouth-led bar/bistro surprise anyone? Banksii, a second venue for chef Hamish Ingham and sommelier Rebecca Lines of Bar H in Surry Hills, is showcasing the drink – 40 different types of it, including one exclusively for Banksii. For the uninitiated, vermouth is a fortified white wine, infused with flowers, spices, roots, seeds and barks. It’s generally a subtle sidekick – it features in classic cocktails such as negronis and martinis – but here, it’s the main event. The name Banksii isn’t an homage to an overexposed yet anonymous stencil artist but rather a tribute to Sir Joseph Banks, the early colony’s first botanist. The botanical references continue in the Mediterranean-inspired share menu with dishes such as mussels with nettle butter and banksia flower trifle with banksia syrup, sweet vermouth, rosella jelly and burnt vanilla custard. If the dishes are worthy of a florist’s shop, then the interiors are an ode to the greenhouse, with a glass-encased kitchen, a sun-bathed interior and plenty of greenery. 02 8072 7073.
Izakaya is to the Japanese what the pub is to Australians: a place to drink, socialise, unwind and share food. Zushi has taken the best elements of traditional izakaya – casual, shareable food, sake, relaxed atmosphere – and brought it to Barangaroo. Zushi has been an inner east staple thanks to its Darlinghurst and Surry Hills storefronts, and with the third venue the group has gone all-out, with a sleek blonde-wood and concrete fit-out worthy of the brand-new waterfront precinct. The menu has Japanese favourites such as gyoza, sushi rolls and sashimi as well as some new spins such as sashimi tacos, quinoa-and-sesame-crusted tuna with wasabi mash and popcorn chicken with honey mayo. There’s a walk-up bar serving Japanese beers, an amazing range of sake and sake cocktails and a decent wine list with a focus on local and organic. 02 8072 7383.
Sustainable local seafood, native Australian ingredients and an ever-changing menu of shareable snacks is the mandate for Cirrus. The fourth venture of restaurant savants, sommelier Nick Hildebrandt and chef Brent Savage, Cirrus occupies the hallowed site of the Noma pop-up. Big shoes to fill, certainly, but no challenge for the duo behind Sydney favourites, the high-minded Bentley, the wine-bar/restaurant Monopole and the vego wonderland Yellow. To match the ocean-side location there are delicacies such as Northern Territory mud crab with green garlic and tarragon sauce and marron cooked over charcoal served with sea bananas. Snacks are plentiful and ever-changing – think grilled cos with whipped mullet roe and cured egg yolk. To complement Savage’s offerings, Hildebrandt has compiled a white-heavy wine-list, with serious selections of sparkling, Chablis, chenin, Semillon and jura available by the glass, carafe or bottle. The light, airy interiors are matched by casual, competent service and a 1950s-era speedboat (Alvin) hangs from the roof. There’s seating at the bar for 25, loads of tables inside, but for our money, you can’t beat a table outside by the water in the Sydney sunshine. 02 9220 0111.
Just when you thought the excellent pho puns were exhausted, Phởmo arrives on the scene. Veteran Cabramatta chef Sonny Nguyen and the pho masters behind CBD favourite Me Oi have opened this Barangaroo soup spot with the pho connoisseur in mind. Here, that all-important element, the broth, gets its flavour and complexity from a 12-hour cooking process. Apart from the six styles of pho, on the menu are snacks that match flawlessly with an ice-cold Hanoi lager, such as salt-and-pepper quail, soft-shell crab and tamarind tiger prawn skewers. Larger dishes include whole steamed fish, shaking beef stir-fry and six-spice crispy-skin chicken. This place is pho real. 02 8097 3663.
Belle’s Hot Chicken
Melbourne’s Belle’s Hot Chicken doubled down on its Sydney presence after the runaway success of a 2015 Barangaroo pop-up. The queues were long – 1000 kilograms of chook was being consumed each week – and so the decision was taken to open this permanent 130-seat eatery in the precinct. Another Belle’s also opened recently at Rozelle Tramsheds. Chef Morgan McGlone honed his fried chicken skills in Tennessee before opening his first Belle’s Hot Chicken in Melbourne. McGlone’s offerings of chicken, hot sandwiches, pickles, slaw and fries have since reached cult status. Two new heat levels have been added to the chilli sauce menu at Barangaroo: Sex Panther and Ron Burgundy, which is apparently a level seven. That’s hot. 02 8355 7879.
The soft-serve is self-serve, the burgers are umami manifest and the sodas are dispensed from a vintage Japanese vending machine: Ume Burger is what happens when a Japanophile turns his hand to burgers. The Barangaroo incarnation of Surry Hills’ Ume Bar is the latest Wulugul Walk restaurant to open its doors. The unique Japanese spin on the humble burger is the work of Kerby Craig, the man behind the afore-mentioned Surry Hills joint. A neat, concise menu of burgers, sides and an ever-changing soft-serve (think pumpkin, matcha, and strawberry and shiso) is the offer at Ume Burger, and we accept. Don’t miss the Menchi burger with crumbed pork belly, shredded cabbage, mustard, tonkotsu sauce and yuzu mayo. There’s also a good selection of Japanese beers, sakes and whisky. 02 9380 7333.
Set to open at Barangaroo in November are Spiced by Billu’s, love.fish and Born by Tapavino.
Top image: Belle’s Hot Chicken