Bring it on: Where the Good Food team can't wait to eat and drink in Sydney

Hit the town: Don't miss Fratelli Paradiso alum Marco Ambrosino's new place Lola's this summer.
Hit the town: Don't miss Fratelli Paradiso alum Marco Ambrosino's new place Lola's this summer. Photo: Nikki To

It has been a long time between sittings in our favourite haunts. As we approach the state opening up, Good Food's Sydney team reveals what they will be getting stuck into just as soon as they can.

Jennifer Soo – Tue, 19. October 2021 12:00 AMSL Tan Viet Noodle House 077.jpg***EMBARGOED FOR SUNDAY LIFE, NOVEMBER 8/20 ISSUE***
Life Loves : It’s no wonder Tan Viet’s crispy skin chicken ($16) is a crowd favourite, the golden, paper thin skin reveals tasty, succulent chicken. Add noodles, soup and fresh herbs and we’re in heaven. 74 Tumbalong Boulevard, Haymarket.
Photograph by Jennifer Soo (photographer on contract, no restrictions)

Crispy-skin chicken, noodles, soup and fresh herbs at Tan Viet in Cabramatta. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Callan Boys

Dishes I can't wait to eat again

Translucent coral trout caught by reef-fish whisperer Chris Bolton, diced into tartare and tossed tableside at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar. Sharpened by Meyer lemon and Davidson plum, it's a shining case in point of Icebergs boss Maurice Terzini's motto for the past 18 months: "It doesn't taste like this at home". Hot-from-the-ladle pho is also a priority, so it's off to Tan Viet in Cabramatta for noodle soup with crispy-skin chicken on the side.,

Experience I've missed the most

Fresh beer straight from the source, let us never part ways again. An afternoon sampling stouts and sour ales around the inner west is long overdue, and I can't wait to cycle between inner-west breweries Philter, Batch, Grifter and Willie the Boatman with no set itinerary once more. Onwards to Palace Chinese in Castlereagh Street the next day for hangover-nursing and yum cha in the city.,,,,

The table that has my name on it

My first post-lockdown booking is for a whisky and a snip at The Barber Shop in the CBD, but afterwards it's straight to Coogee Pavilion for a blowout at Mimi's. Living more than five kilometres from the coast, I've been dreaming about grilled flathead and aged semillon by the ocean for the past four months – all the better when there's caviar and an amaro trolley involved. Meanwhile, I'm on the waiting list for an early sitting at Quay; very keen for lunch with an Opera House view before the cruise ships return.,,


The places I am desperate to try

I still haven't been to Porcine in Paddington, which is pretty ridiculous given I bought a T-shirt with the bistro's logo in July. Duck terrine on duck fat toast, soon, soon. Meanwhile, reservations are confirmed for Neil Perry's Margaret and I'm plotting a Narooma road trip to experience Chez Dominique at The Whale while I can. The collaboration between Merivale and French-Australian chefs Elsa Marie and Julian May is set to finish in mid-November, and I've heard tales of vintage cheddar gougeres that can't be ignored.,,

Tiny Kings Cross veteran venue Piccolo Bar is reborn as an aperitivo bar
Designer Michael Delaney (blue shirt)
New owner David Spanton (apron)

Tiny Kings Cross veteran venue Piccolo Bar has been brought back to life. Photo: Supplied

Jill Dupleix

Dishes I can't wait to eat again

I want the scallop and prawn siu mai at Mr Wong, because it's three bites of something deluxe, delicious and hand-crafted (crucially, by someone else and not by me). And because what I really want is to be surrounded by hundreds of happy people eating dumplings; it's like being in a warm bath of humanity.

I also want to cover the table at Bar Totti with yum cha's Italian equivalent – little platters of mortadella, salami, prosciutto, sardines and burrata with plenty of wood-fired bread and cultured butter – and just sit there for way too long, talking, dipping, diving and drinking. It's that largesse, that serendipity, that I've missed about dining out, where you are continually finding new combinations of things to love.

Experience I've missed the most

I've missed cafes the most, because I've missed people the most, and cafes are where you get the best mix of people. And where you get coffee, in a cup, on a table. I've especially missed the morning coffee ritual at my little local Gypsy Espresso, because it's so cosy and neighbourly, the locals all look out for each other, the pocket-sized kitchen turns out textbook scrambled eggs and toasties (even boiled eggs with Vegemite soldiers), and the baristas know my order. They also know my "other" order when I've had enough of the world and rock up on my own for a "don't tell my husband" stealth coffee. So far, they haven't ratted.

The table that has my name on it

… is on the street outside the tiny Piccolo Bar in Kings Cross. When the bar closed during lockdown after 69 years, it seemed like the lowest of blows, and I determined to hate whatever was going to replace it ( a convenience store? A life coach?). But now it has been beautifully brought back to life by David Spanton, founder of Australian Bartender, as an homage to all tiny little local bars everywhere, and I need to be there, to say thank you.

The place I am desperate to try

Shell House is calling my name because it feels like a re-birth – of the old Hotel Menzies, of the interwar palazzo building's graceful facade, of Sydney, of all of us. I'm already booked into the Menzies Bar, and look forward to the Dining Room and Sky Bar opening before Christmas. In the meantime, there's a chicken liver pâté eclair with amaro jelly from executive chef Joel Bickford's bar menu that I need as soon as possible.

Four Pillars Gin Shop and Gin Lab and Eileen's Bar, Surry Hills
Gin Lab pix
Four Pillars Sydney Lab - Gin Lab - James Irvine and Stuart Gregor with Eileen Still
Stuart Gregor, co-founder, Four Pillars GinJames Irvine, Creative Director, Gin Drinks

Eileen's intimate gin den in Surry Hills. Photo: Supplied

Trudi Jenkins

The dish I can't wait to eat again

Bubbling hot pepperoni pizza (hold the fennel seeds if the kids are with me) at Bella Brutta. Firstly, because it's nigh-on impossible to manoeuvre takeaway pizza home without the topping sliding off; secondly, because you need noise and tattooed waiters if you're eating pizza; and thirdly, because someone else doing the dishes is imperative where melted mozzarella is concerned. Oh, and because you have to follow pizza with tiramisu (obviously) and who can be arsed to make that at home?

Experience I've missed

After 18 months of a relentless news cycle, 11am pressers and impossible-to-keep-up-with rules around masks, borders and restaurant protocols, I want to sit in a dark and sexy bar with no TV, no clocks, no one asking me what's for dinner and no danger that someone's forgotten to fill up the ice-cube tray. I want a highly competent barman (preferably in a white jacket) mixing my drink (probably a negroni) and lining up a succession of crisp and salty snacks. I'm thinking Eileen's intimate gin den with its sleek blue bar; the dangerously decadent underground lounge that is The Gidley, or my favourite friendly but super professional local, Bart Jnr.,,

Table with my name on it

Any outdoor table in Ash Street's laneway will do the trick. I'll do as I always do, and pretend I'm relaxing deadline-free somewhere in Europe. Felix's steak frites, Restaurant Leo's tuna crudo or some smoked eel brandade from Ash St. Cellar, I'm easy. Then just sit back and watch as the sun fades and the queue for Ivy materialises – it's always fun to see what the young people are not wearing as you order your second round of croquetas.,

Place I am desperate to try

Although wary that The Alex will be an (olive-oil) bun fight once Justin Hemmes adds his Midas touch, I can't go past a dog-friendly beer garden within walking distance of home. Especially when some of Sydney's best food trucks are involved. It also doesn't hurt that Matt Whiley's sustainable Re bar and Kylie Kwong's buzzy lunchtime canteen, Lucky Kwong, are just footsteps away if Leo (the spoodle) and I decide to make a day of it. And once we're allowed to hit the road, I'm keen to see what Matt Moran has done with The Rockley Pub.,,,

Terry Durack review at Lilymu in Parramatta Square. Roasted duck, laos sausage and fragrant soy. 12th Nov 2020. Photo: Edwina Pickles / SMH Good Food.

Brendan Fong's masterful roast duck at Lilymu in Parramatta. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Terry Durack

Dishes I can't wait to eat again 

Roast duck haunts my dreams, especially Brendan Fong's masterful roast duck at Lilymu in Parramatta, which he brines, dips in maltose, stuffs with garlicky, unfermented Laotian pork sausage, then roasts until it's as lacquered as a Chinese cabinet. Also, Peter Gilmore launched a new dish at Quay between lockdowns that I need to taste once again; bone marrow noodles intertwined with ribbons of squid, with koji butter and sea cucumber crackling. Original, evocative and pressing all the luxe buttons. Classic Gilmore.,

Restaurant I've missed the most

I've missed Cafe Paci a lot, because nobody cooks quite like Pasi Petanen. Mind you, I'm probably mainly missing the black pudding with red onion jam, rye taco with ox tongue and sauerkraut, and chiacchiere – crisp crostoli topped with pickles and LP's mortadella under a shower of grated comte.

The table that has my name on it

A lot of the tables at Restaurant Hubert in Sydney's CBD have my name on them. But the one I pine for – and feel jealous if someone else is there – is one of the little booths for two on a raised level by the bar, because you're in the middle of things, yet in your own world, with views of the dining room and the jazz musicians on stage.

The place I am desperate to try

Everywhere! But especially Ursula's in Paddington, because it will be so good to see what chef Phil Wood will get up to after his three or four years on the Mornington Peninsula at Pt Leo Estate. Not only is it his first restaurant, but he and his partner Lis Davies have just had their first child. I like that it's all about new beginnings.

Lola's Level 1, Bondi
Photographer: Nikki To
Rights: No restrictions across Nine publications

Oysters at Marco Ambrosino's new place Lola's in Bondi. Photo: Nikki To

Myffy Rigby

Dishes I can't wait to eat again

Short of eating pretty much all of Sydney, some standout snacking daydreams include Ester's Sunday lunch with all the trimmings; a mud crab at Cirrus; the cheong fun at Traditional Cantonese Taste; a fistful of wine and a round of taralli to gnaw on at 10 William St.,,

Experience I've missed the most

The Great Daiquiri Crawl incorporating some of my favourite cocktail bars. It's best done with one open-minded friend and an open wallet. The trick is to adhere to a few strict guidelines. One drink at each bar only, five bars maximum – Earl's Juke Joint, Papa Gede's, Shady Pines Saloon, Old Mate's Place, PS40. And no variations – banana and mango daiquiris create an issue of fullness; nuclear daiquiris create the issue of drunkenness; blue daiquiris create the issue of insanity.,,,,

The table that has my name on it

More than anything during lockdown, I've missed my friends. And the thing my friends have missed the most is the pub. To that end, the far left corner in the leafy courtyard at the Courthouse Hotel in Newtown is the first place I've booked out of lockdown. As much as I can't wait to feel that warm glow of being looked after in a restaurant from oysters and opening gimlets to salted caramels and closing old-fashioneds, I've also missed the taste of beer fresh from the keg, poured from clean lines. I miss elbowing people while waiting for that beer. The tiny thrill of the little table buzzer going off for plates of chips, steak Diane, and nachos of questionable origin. Giant Connect 4. Pub dogs. Pinball and pool. And most of all the ability to experience all this with my favourite people.

The places I am desperate to try

The draw of the pub is one thing, but a whole lobster in drawn sambal butter at Neil Perry's newbie Margaret is something else entirely. There's a lot to be excited about in Sydney over the coming months. Fratelli Paradiso alum Marco Ambrosino's new place Lola's is where you'll find me this summer, post-swim. Mainly for the wine list, but also for the lasagnette for those days I've worked up an appetite. Possibly a plate of raw vegetables for the days I haven't.;

Award-winning pastry chef Lauren Eldridge joins Berowra Waters Inn
Supplied PR shots

Award-winning pastry chef Lauren Eldridge is now part of the team at Berowra Waters Inn. Photo: Sebastian Mrugalski

Scott Bolles

Dishes I can't wait to eat again

I am hankering for a long lunch at Berowra Waters Inn. The waterway has always felt a little like Sydney's answer to Lake Como, its deep cool waters the yin to the yang of the Inn's crab custard and miso. With pastry chef Lauren Eldridge now part of the team, I'd probably finish the meal out on the restaurant's deck bar with one of her desserts.

Experience I've missed the most

With the end of my tenure as in-house school principal, university chancellor and room service dogsbody thankfully in sight, I am happy I can finally turn my attention to important matters – where to eat out. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't daydreamed on this very topic while filling orders and collecting dirty dishes. Understandably, top of my wishlist is the complete package of good service, polished food and a quintessential Sydney location (see above).

The table that has my name on it

A bar seat at Icebergs. I want to watch the sun set while looking down the length of Bondi's rolling sets as beautifully constructed negronis and Italo sours tumble off the production line. Maybe a few oysters and a plate of prosciutto and wasabi melon, with the comforting sight of owner Maurice Terzini buzzing around the room fixing a detail so small it catches only his eye.

The places I am desperate to try

One particular restaurant launch has caught the eye. Former Fins head chef Dylan Cashman swings open The Blue Door in Surry Hills. He's confident and brave enough to tread a deg-only dinner path, and his dish descriptions are really more like a shopping list. Who wants to know where a combination of duck breast, Davidson plum, vanilla, shizo, rhubarb and macadamia nut praline might lead? Well, me for one.