231A Victoria St Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
There so many lines being blurred at Bar Brosé, it's not easy to focus. It's called a bar, but everyone is eating. It's breezy and informal, yet the kitchen is serious. The menu lists poulet au vin jaune from the French Alps, spaghetti carbonara from Rome, and a ham and pineapple toastie from late nights everywhere. It's like your whole week of eating played out at random.
Mitch Orr and the team behind ACME, the slashie Italian/Asian diner in Rushcutters Bay, have turned The Passage, their long, oesophagus-like Darlinghurst bar, into a vehicle for young-gun chef Analiese Gregory. After working in such celebrated kitchens as Michel Bras and Le Meurice in France and The Ledbury in London since leaving Quay in 2012, it was expected she would re-enter town at fine dining level.
Instead, she's chosen the street.
And the crowd is loving it, whether perched at small high tables and stools in the front, lounging on sculptural wooden benches at tables in the middle dining room, or sipping wine from slim-stemmed glasses at a bookend bar overlooking Darlinghurst Road; Moby and the Eurythmics on high rotation.
Gregory's menu is curious; a seemingly disparate collection of things that each have individual appeal but cannot easily be curated into a single meal. I'm not sure that matters. This is the Spotify generation, after all, preferring its genre, gender, artist and country on shuffle.
So, in equally random form: An ever-changing terrine ($16) is the last word in rustic, a chunky, brawn-like assembly of porky bits and cornichons that can be served cold or warmed. A golden fist-sized choux pastry gougere ($6) is the opposite; refined and refined until it is a fragile shell with a soft, velvety lining that tastes and smells deliciously of Comte cheese.
The stand-out dish is poulet vin jaune d'Australie ($18/$30), the busty Holmbrae chicken bathed in a ladleful of glossy, winey sauce (not the celebrated yellow wine of the Jura but Gregory's own blend of Pennyweight Oloroso, Tom Shobbrook's Il Chicco, and shao hsing), enriched with foie gras butter and flagged with crisp chicken-in-a-biskit shards.
It's even better with a "blooming onion" ($12), a frazzled radioactive-looking thing that was once an onion before being southern-fried in its entirety. It's these sorts of fresh, wine-friendly, snack-time ideas that make Bar Brosé the new good-time go-to.
Like the toasted sarnie of gruyere, nduja and pineapple-glazed leg ham Late Night Sandwich ($14); a guilty Nigella's-been-at-the-fridge-again treat. Pan-fried potato gnocchi with lap cheong, chilli and kombu butter ($20) isn't enough to convince me that pan-fried gnocchi isn't inherently boring. The spag carb ($20), however, is the sort of dish that made Italy great; the faithfully al dente pasta luxuriously bound with egginess (no cream allowed) and studded with salty fried guanciale.
There's also a Michel Bras-inspired potato crisp millefeuille dessert squished together with brown butter mousse and salted caramel ($12) that is sure to break Instagram, but feels a little too close to eating a packet of crisps.
Katrina Birchmeier, Gavin Wright and Ed Loveday's wine list is filled with the poster children of the natural wine movement, including a fresh and lively organic Muscadet 2014 by Domaine Vincent Caille ($12/$24/$72). For such a wine-lovin' crowd, the 120-millilitre pour feels ungenerous.
Bar Brosé is but a baby, yet it has immediately been christened Sydney's new It bar, in spite of the fact that it's fluid, ambiguous and difficult to categorise. Or perhaps because of it. It's not clear.
Best bit: Talented young chef gets her own gig.
Worst bit: Hard stools (so to speak)
Go-to dish: Poulet au vin jaune d'Australie ($18 a quarter; $30 a half)
Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.