There’s a new kitchen in town, but never fear: it’s still by Mike.
For Sydneysiders, the wait between the closure of the hugely popular Kitchen By Mike in June last year and the opening of Mike McEnearney’s new CBD restaurant has been interminable. “Early in the new year,” McEnearney told us. “Sometime soon!” he placated.
Finally, it’s happened, and whatever McEnearney and his team were doing all that time has paid off. No. 1 Bent St is a beautiful space at The Wintergarden dishing up the kind of seasonal, sustainable menu that is the backbone of McEnearney’s cooking.
The new venue is certainly more formal than the Rosebery canteen, but this is no fine-diner a la Rockpool, where McEnearney was once head chef. There’s blonde wood and concrete but the space feels relaxed and inviting, with handmade crockery on wooden tables filling the large floor-space and warm light emerging from bronzed lamps. Wood to fire the kitchen’s incredible wood-fired oven is piled up unobtrusively around the restaurant.
The service is friendly and efficient, and the food is designed to be shared. There are crispy little toasts with marinated sardines, jamon with pickled pumpkin rind, and big rustic loaves of Mike’s Sourdough smeared with Pepe Saya butter to soak up the juices of a gorgeously golden and flavourful chicken, which turned mesmerisingly on the massive open kitchen’s rotisserie before being served up.
This is comfort food, right down to the cockle-warming rice pudding, gently spiced and dotted with tiny vanilla specks.
The lack of pretension continues onto the wine list, where you can order a house white – WHITE by Mike, an eminently drinkable blend of pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc. Equally, RED by Mike, a blend of tempranillo and grenache, is the perfect accompaniment to the rustic autumnal menu.
No. 1 Bent St is a much-needed addition to the CBD restaurant scene, and there’s also a great bar where city office types can pull up a stool for a glass of wine and a little something to snack on after work.
Why a restaurant when the canteen-style dining that Kitchen By Mike pioneered was so popular? Well, there were just some things McEnearney couldn’t do in that set-up. A glorious fish pie looks decidedly less appetising after its been dug into. Equally, the twice-cooked goats cheese soufflé with rosemary just wasn’t built to survive a lunchtime queue.
And for those still bemoaning the demise of Kitchen By Mike? It’ll be back soon enough, says McEnearney, in a brand-new place.