You think Sydney has been besieged with restaurant openings? The pace does not look set to slow into 2022.
The 2021 births of Margaret, Ursula, Jane, Lola and Loulou marked a bumper year for Sydney restaurant arrivals few industry pundits thought possible in the early days of the pandemic. And the baby boom isn't done yet: 2022 will add Beau, Aalia, Pearl and many more to the restaurant maternity ward.
Bleak forecasting in the winter of 2020 predicted major industry contraction and restaurateurs pulling the pin on planned launches. Instead, Restaurant & Catering CEO Wes Lambert points to data that shows the number of ABNs linked to the hospitality industry is stronger than pre-COVID levels. In other words, hospitality is on the up.
"We wouldn't be where we are without the support of state and federal government, but the industry has proven its resilience," Lambert says.
It's a view mirrored by veteran restaurateur Maurice Terzini, who opened Belongil Beach Italian Food at Byron Bay in December and has a number of deals brewing back in Sydney, despite the financial pressure lockdowns placed on his existing restaurants.
"Obviously the business side needs to add up, and in the case of Byron Bay, a lot of people retreated there," says Terzini. "But you've got to keep on going; you've got to fight for the industry. When you do what we do, that high of opening a restaurant is epic."
The same is true of restaurateur Brett Robinson, who ploughed ahead building the $14 million Shell House project in the Sydney CBD during dark days of lockdowns and low consumer confidence. The Robinson-steered Point Group will double down on its hospitality investment – in late 2022 it will unveil a redeveloped Fort Denison, complete with 100-seat dining room, 300-seat casual eatery, bar and wine room.
With recent data showing the Sydney CBD operating at only 43 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, you have to question what is driving this hospitality optimism? Operators believe that the number of potential diners in the city will spike when businesses reopen in February.
And while the shortage of CBD office workers has hit cafes and mid-market eateries, special occasion and destination dining has had a bumper few months. Indeed, when Shell House opened its bookings in November, it clocked more than 6000 in a day.
CBD diners will have plenty of new venues to choose from. A number of redevelopments are about to drop, including the makeover of the MLC at Martin Place, which fired up mid-December with the opening of Botswana Butchery (wagyu katsu sandwich, pictured right), run by one of New Zealand's most successful restaurant groups.
One of the most exciting of the MLC in-bound is Aalia, a new Middle Eastern restaurant from the owners of the Lebanese Nour in Surry Hills.
The Circular Quay development around Quay Quarter Lanes, already home to new multi-level Hinchcliff House and Besuto, will be even more hyped, with the just-opened, Mexican-scented Londres 126, named after one of the Mexico city addresses of renowned artist Frida Kahlo.
Closer to the Opera House, hospitality entrepreneur Fraser Short will give Sydney its first look at the French-leaning menu at Whalebridge in early 2022, after Short won the tender for the former site of the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar, with its front row seats of the Circular Quay ferry terminal.
Chef Peter Conistis' latest project, Ploos, opened in The Rocks last week. Photo: Jude Cohen
On the other side of Sydney's Golden Pond, The Rocks hasn't seen this much action since the late 1700s. Hickson House Distilling Co opened early December, joining a posse of new arrivals including bars Frank Mac's and The Keel and restaurants (Bay Nine Omakase and Ploos, which opened January 6).
Swillhouse, the young and hungry hospitality group behind Restaurant Hubert and Alberto's Lounge, has also jumped in on The Rocks action, nabbing the historic Phillip's Foote site. Swillhouse is running a pop-up there over summer, and in February construction will kick off a transformation that will see it reopen as Le Foote.
Star chefs and spin-offs
Celebrity chef and restaurant spin-offs will continue to be a big trend in 2022. In April, a deli-wine bar, Beau (short for Beaujolais), will open a block away from its mothership, Nomad, Al and Rebecca Yazbek's powerhouse Surry Hills restaurant with executive chef Jacqui Challinor in the cockpit. Challinor will also oversee the Beau menu.
A spin-off from its famed Alexandria sibling, The Grounds of South Eveleigh will open in the first quarter of 2022 in a former locomotive workshop with a mega roaster and luxe 200 seat cafe-restaurant.
Neil Perry has partnered with star Melbourne bakery Baker Bleu, which heads to Double Bay in January, the same month Josh and Julie Niland hope to open a Waterloo branch of their Fish Butchery on Bourke Street.
Somer Sivrioglu, the Turkish-Australian co-host of MasterChef Turkey, is joining the chef opening action, set to add to his Sydney food empire. First out of the blocks is Tombik, a kebab bar by day, which opens at Barangaroo in January, followed by a vegetable-focused eatery near Wynyard Station, which is in the build stage.
Plant-based green shoots
The green theme is expected to gain even more steam over the next 12 months, with a slew of plant-based openings across the city. One of the most adventurous arrivals in the sector will land on the Vegan Mile in Sydney's inner-west.
Three meat-free dining venues will open under one roof at 59-61 Enmore Road in February. It will include the plant-based sushi train Kimusabi, pasta bar Cousin Sal's and a teppanyaki venue, Outlaw. But wait, there's even more to the meatless mecca. The Tardis-like venue will also include the plant-based Greens Super Market.
Edamame, Mongolian sticky beef and coconut king prawns at Little Pearl Bar & Dining in Manly. Photo: Supplied
With thousands of new restaurant seats to land in 2022, Lambert says it's also bitter-sweet.
"We should certainly take a moment to think about all those great restaurants we've lost this year, like Marigold," Lambert adds.
While many of the class of 2022 are headed into new developments, others are sliding into spaces with the echo of hospitality venues past.
Little Pearl Bar & Dining takes up residence in the former home of Manly Wine from January 11, and the team from Bistrot 916 will open Italian trattoria Pellegrino 2000 in the one-time home of Chicken Institute and Bar H before it. Hopefully creating their own legacies, history and future food stories to tell.