Bunuelos de bacalao at MoVida.
Bunuelos de bacalao at MoVida. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Vegies stuffed with rice, mint, raisins and pine nuts @ The Animal, Newtown Hotel
Okay, it may be called The Animal, and there may be whole animals turning slowly on a spit over glowing coals, but this dynamic new entry in the race to reboot inner urban pubs for a new generation can do sweet little vegies, too. Inspired by his Greek heritage, exec chef George Diamond sends out whole roasted baby vegetables stuffed with a soft sludge of rice, mint, raisins and pine nuts ($17). Add skewers of lamb and oregano or chicken and yoghurt, a lively young-pub atmosphere, heaving crowds, a games room and a beer garden, and the 130-year-old Newtown Hotel has a new lease of life.
The Animal 174 King Street, Newtown. Phone: 9557 6399.

Buñuelos de bacalao @ MoVida
It's hard to think of a better start to a meal at MoVida than these soft, seductive salt cod and potato fritters ($14.50), lined up like golden ping-pong balls, with daubs of Basque pil pil sauce - an emulsion of fish juices and olive oil that tastes better than it sounds. Catalan-born Frank Camorra, of Melbourne's mighty MoVida empire (bars, restaurants, taqueria, Spanish imports, cookbooks), has landed in the heartland of contemporary Sydney dining in Surry Hills. His mod-meets-trad take on Catalan and Spanish cooking runs from baby squid with black rice to chargrilled, grass-fed rib eye. Hey Frank, can we have one of those taco joints of yours, too?
MoVida 50 Holt Street, Surry Hills. Phone: 8964 7642.

Crisp organic chicken, buckwheat, sunflower, spinach and mint @ O Bar and Dining
What goes around comes around. Michael Moore, who started cooking at The Summit revolving restaurant in 2005, has given the place a new name, a new look and a healthy new food philosophy. The chef, who has type 2 diabetes, suffered a near-fatal stroke in 2009 and has since revised his menu to include more grains, nuts, seeds and greens, and less fat, salt and sugar. A case in point is his Burrawong organic chicken ($34), with its crisp, crunchy crust of buckwheat kernels, ground almonds, pepitas and sesame seeds. This could give healthy eating a good name.
O Bar and Dining Level 47, Australia Square, 264 George Street, Sydney. Phone: 9247 9777. MoVida 50 Holt Street, Surry Hills. Phone: 8964 7642.

Vegies stuffed with rice, mint, raisins and pine nuts @ The Animal, Newtown Hotel.
Vegies stuffed with rice, mint, raisins and pine nuts at The Animal, Newtown Hotel. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Dark chocolate affogato with chocolate pearls @ Gowings Bar & Grill
Chocolate is the new caffeine at Gowings Bar & Grill, where diners are buzzing after consuming huge Finnish pressed-glass goblets of dark chocolate affogato ($16) that involve not only dark chocolate ice-cream studded with crunchy chocolate pearls, but ristretto and marinated organic prunes as well. And - you knew something was missing - chocolate mocha log grated over the top. Since opening on the site of the old Gowings store, the whole of the new QT Sydney hotel is buzzing, from the red-wigged door staff to the befrocked floor staff to head chef Paul Easson's kitchen brigade, swarming over the seafood gallery, wood-fired oven and charcoal grill.
Gowings Bar & Grill 49 Market Street, Sydney. Phone: 8262 0062.


Hungry for more?

Cheap treat
Share the noodle love at global Japanese ramen specialist, Ippudo, with a bowl of its signature akamaru shinaji - tonkatsu broth, garlic oil, noodles, pork belly and black mushrooms ($16). Level 5, Westfield Sydney. Phone: 9573 0011.

Crisp organic chicken, buckwheat, sunflower, spinach and mint at O Bar and Dining.
Crisp organic chicken, buckwheat, sunflower, spinach and mint at O Bar and Dining. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Best bite
Summer is easy and breezy at the Sweethearts Rooftop Barbeque in Kings Cross, with "Shrimps on the barbie" ($30) and a beer shandy or cider slushie in hand. 33-37 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point. Phone: 9368 7333.

Cafe stop
Time for a rug rethink? Drop in to Cleveland's Salon & Cafe for a haircut, a fine Little Marionette coffee ($3.50) and baked beans on toast ($10). 311 Cleveland Street, Redfern. Phone: 9698 8449.