Jade Temple, Sydney, New South Wales
A few of the dining experiences making waves in Australia this month.
By Anthony Huckstep
Published: 18 July, 2017
New-generation Italian food served in chic-but-casual spaces and an homage to 1970s suburban Chinese restaurants by one of the country’s biggest names in food, Neil Perry, are two of the highlights of this month’s openings.
Sydney and surrounds
Every new restaurant Neil Perry opens focuses on best-in-class produce as much as it does the experience of the diner. Jade Temple, his homage to Australian Cantonese suburban restaurants of the 1970s and ’80s, delivers exactly that. In the same heritage-listed site as Perry’s Eleven Bridge and Rockpool 1989, Jade Temple is a paean to Asian colonial style – wooden chandeliers, window shutters, bare red tabletops, cane chairs and a pair of cast-iron lions at the entrance. The food is classic Cantonese with a refined touch. Think sweet and sour pork, beef in black bean and lemon chicken. Perry’s menu also digs deeper. Try sharing the pippies in XO, Mandarin-style bass grouper or the decadent roast duck. The phonebook-sized wine list tours the globe – if you’ve got the budget.
Bacco Osteria e Espresso
From the team behind such intimate Italian eateries as Vini, Berta and 121BC, comes this Italian-inspired all-day affair tucked away down a Sydney laneway. But Bacco marks a shift away from the trademark elbow-to-elbow, dimly lit dens we’re used to from chef/owner Andrew Cibej. It’s lighter, roomier and more boisterous, with timber-panelled walls and wooden floors, green banquettes, brown bistro chairs and street views. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday to Friday, and dinner on Saturday, it’s got the casual vibe that embodies dining in Australia’s largest city. And although the food – designed to share – mirrors that approach, the technique couldn’t be less casual. Plump, sweet mussels are paired with whipped lardo and shaved carrot and served bruschetta style. A beautifully charred hanger steak reveals its blushing red side and benefits from the umami oomph of anchovy butter. The almond and quince tart begs to share the spoon with house-made gelato. Bacco is a welcome addition to the throng of Australian-Italian eateries re-energising the city’s laneways.
Melbourne and surrounds
Ever since a wave of Italian immigrants hit our shores in the 1950s, we’ve embraced Italian cuisine and its coffee culture as our own. In 2017, the next generation of Italian restaurants and chefs are digging deeper into their family culinary pasts while also keeping an eye on what’s distinctly now. Osteria Ilaria, on Melbourne’s busy Little Bourke Street, has quickly established itself as one of the city’s go-to spots for those wanting a glass of fine European wine or something substantial to eat. In a quaint, buzzing room of exposed, whitewashed brick walls, leather banquettes, smart timber tables and kitchen counter seating, guests get cosy and embrace the enthusiasm of staff as they deliver some of the best casual Italian eats in the city. Sit back and enjoy a wine while you watch the open kitchen create dishes such as prawn oil-infused paccheri pasta with prawns, charred radicchio with pink slivers of roasted duck breast, or a chocolate and olive oil ganache. Mama mia, it’s great, mate!
Adelaide and surrounds
South Australia is home to not only some of the best seafood in Australia, but the world. It’s not surprising that stunning seafood restaurants continue to open in this southern Australian state, but Smallfry is a little different. It’s like the offspring of a fish’n’chipper and Japanese yakitori bar, where fresher than fresh produce is cooked simply, the drinks are poured freely and the prices are easy on your pocket. Step through the PVC curtain strips to find cute oyster-shell tiling, wooden cladding, booths and stand-alone tables – with Asahi on tap. The ambience might be casual, but they take their seafood seriously here. Choose from a selection of fish (salmon, hoki, barramundi), shellfish (prawns, scallops, soft-shell crab), sashimi (kingfish, tuna), Long Island-style chowder, beef burgers or the rock-star lobster roll with a herb buttered bun. Smallfry is proof that the best seafood doesn’t have to be eaten in uber-elegance or come at a nose-bleeding price.
Hobart and surrounds
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store
The Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School has become a culinary destination for those looking to connect with brilliant Tasmanian produce. Foodies from home and abroad head to the Apple Isle for both the classes and to enjoy a regional Australia escape. Now they can pop in for a meal, too. The long-awaited Agrarian Kitchen Eatery & Store does not disappoint. Set among lush green surrounds just outside of Hobart, the bright, white space (a former asylum for the mentally ill) has large windows, high ceilings and pressed-metal ceilings, and offers a choice of communal or personal dining. The menu is created with the produce of the day: horseradish and miso add zing to Raw Bay trout. Buckwheat and cabbage help temper the richness of smoked eel, while the shared feast of roasted dry-aged highland beef gets support from Hasselback potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. It’s country dining that not only respects local produce, but puts a big smile on your face, too.
Brisbane and surrounds
Martha Street Kitchen
Yes, pasta and pizza bars are a dime a dozen, but when a place like Martha Street Kitchen comes along, it makes you realise the power of two of Italy’s greatest exports. Housed in the site of one of Brisbane’s most influential diners (Restaurant Rapide), Martha Street Kitchen has few trappings of finer dining: think a smart, slick contemporary space of timber floorboards, timber banquettes, a brick bar and black-and-white furnishings. The food diverts away from traditional Italian without losing its style and substance. Roasted Brussels sprouts come smothered in smoked sesame cheese and gremolata, while calamari arrives with white beans and pepperonata. Mussels, confit garlic and sobrassada are wrapped in linguine, and beef and pork ragu is served with spaghetti. The pizzas are standouts – try the brisket and smoked tomato, or the eggplant, olives and basil.
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