54 Foveaux St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Wed-Sat 5.30pm-12am; closed Sunday and Monday|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
It's hot drinks and warm jumpers season. While the cooler days mark the return of mulled wine and justified sleep-ins, they can also be the nemeses of our adventurous spirit.
In Sweden, there's a term that captures the desire for that ultra-cosiness. Mys (pronounced mees), is an intense state of comfort that Stockholm writer Ingrid K. Williams describes as "like being wrapped in a woollen blanket amid lighted candles while sipping a steaming mug of tea with a purring cat on your lap."
Luckily, to attain mys, there's no need to stay in. At least not if you have a neighbourhood haunt such as Bar Suze in Surry Hills. Opened in April by friends and former hospitality colleagues Gregory Bampton, Brenton Hassan and Phil Stenvall, this Swedish-influenced bar nods to all things relaxed and cosy.
The wine bottle-held candles and wooden tables help. As does the sprawling, "come-stay-a-while" marble bar. But what really pumps this eatery with ultra-cosiness is head chef Phil Stenvall's Swedish-Australian menu.
Stevall previously worked at Italian bars Vini, 121 BC, and most recently at Johnny Fishbone, where he met Bampton and Hassan. When the trio decided to open a new venue, the Swedish-born chef's food heritage came in handy.
"Phil's always spoken to us about the interesting dishes and flavours he loves [from his hometown], and it's not like Sydney's full of Scandinavian restaurants, so it's [a gap] we wanted to fill," says Brampton.
Flavour-wise, expect lots of smoked fish (the kitchen smokes all their seafood in-house), creme fraiche and plenty of dill (we mean this). Potatoes also play a leading role, as seen in the house-made potato flatbread, doused in brown butter and freshened by sprinkles of grassy chives.
One thing to note is that the menu changes frequently. What you see on the line-up might shift from week to week, and sometimes tweaks are made daily. This speaks to the spirit of the neighbourhood bar the team hopes to build – where customers can stop by regularly and still feel like each visit brings something new.
What stays the same is the structure of the menu. Stevall splits the line-up into smorgasbord (bite-sized snacks) and meny, which literally translates to "menu". The latter are shared plates that range from entree-style dishes, such as a deeply caramelised eschallot and sherry tart tatin; to hearty options such as pasta and protein.
One of the signature dishes you'll likely see is the smoked prawns. Stevall cooks them in low heat over hickory or applewood chips, resulting in juicy, smokey crustaceans that are excellent with a garlicky mayo dip. You might also spot some struva – a crisp, deep-fried batter that's shaped into stars, snowflakes and flowers, using a mould called struvjarn. At Bar Suze, these are topped with creme fraiche, fish roe, chives and a snowfall of salty bottarga.
The eagle-eyed diner might notice a few Italian or French-sounding dishes in the mix. At our visit, we spy a bouillabaisse en papillote, a gnocchetti, and a risotto cacio e peppe.
This is where Stevall's classical training and previous Italian cooking come in, but if you closer you'll find subtle Swedish touches. The seafood stew might be laced with dill. Conversely, a sea scallops fiskgratang is a play on fish pie that involves a mashed potato-covered scollop, topped with caviar. A fancy Sydney snack, if there ever is one.
Desserts stay close to the bar's Scandi roots – expect a tart lingonberry sorbet or a golden cloudberry one if you're lucky, courtesy of preserves sent to Stevall by his mum.
The most mys-making factor of all, perhaps, is the fact you can arrive late and stay even later into the night. The kitchen closes at 11.30pm through the week – and they mean it. An excellent chance to get cosy without staying in.
Main attraction: A Swedish-influenced bar with fun, technically refined smorgasbord and shared plates, served in an ultra-cosy atmosphere.
Must-try dish: The smoked prawns. This is chef Phil Stenvall's signature dish, house-smoked and served with a garlic mayo – they're the perfect opener for your meal.
Insta-worthy dish: Most things on the smorgasbord menu are picture-worthy. Go for the star-shaped struva if they are on the line-up.