Mouth-watering: Folonomo puts people before profit.
Mouth-watering: Folonomo puts people before profit. Photo: Cole Bennetts

370 Bourke Street Surry Hills, New South Wales 2010

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Opening hours Tue-Sat 6pm-11pm
Features BYO, Vegetarian friendly, Accepts bookings
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Jo Ward
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 8034 3818

Eat well and feel good doing it. That's the take-home message here at this Surry Hills newcomer, where the onus is on putting people before profit. Folonomo is an abbreviation of For Love Not Money, a project backed by financier Matthew Byrne that sends 100 per cent of the restaurant's takings back to not-for-profit organisations.

Set in an old terrace, the restaurant has an almost institutional, industro-schoolroom feel, where brushed metal and bare brick meet intricate pressed plaster ceilings. Conversely, the adjoining cafe Gratia – part of the same project – looks more like the inside of a futuristic Woody Allen-designed spaceship.

The menu's all pretty share-friendly stuff, executed by chef Jo Ward alongside Michelle Powell. All you food nerds in the room will remember Ward from her time at Paddington bistro Vincent.

The risotto of sunflower kernels has a sweet, almost nutty flavour.
The risotto of sunflower kernels has a sweet, almost nutty flavour. Photo: Cole Bennetts

The truly devout will probably recall her from as far back as Newtown fun diner Bloodwood. Before that, she was at fine diner Claude's (RIP). And if you knew that last bit, I'll just hand over the reins now.

There's a big emphasis on grains and seeds here, often used as a hero ingredient rather than a textural value-add. Vegetarians can now officially throw their hands in the air and wave them like they just don't care (about meat).

A risotto of sunflower seeds see the kernels release a sweet, almost nutty starch, crunched up with sprouts and finished with slices of charred asparagus.

The flavour-packed hanger steak: a tidal wave of umami-osity.
The flavour-packed hanger steak: a tidal wave of umami-osity. Photo: Cole Bennetts

Further vego excellence can be found with the roast carrots and pearl onion petals enriched with blobs of yoghurt. Though if you, like me, thoroughly enjoy the meats, you'll use the dish as a support act to the exceptional hanger steak.

Here, thick scarlet slices of the flavour-packed cut are served on a bed of farro and sauteed king brown mushrooms, bathed in mushroom-rich pan juices – it's a massive tidal wave of umami-osity.

Yep, Ward's not afraid to bring out the big guns, busting out with a thick slice of kouign-amann (say it like "queen amarn", and think of the classic Breton dessert as something akin to a giant croissant cake). All that buttery, sugary richness is cut by a daub  of lemon curd and bittersweet poached cherries, made all the more outrageous with a giant scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Woof.

The kouign-amann's sugary richmess is cut by lemon curd and cherries.
The kouign-amann's sugary richmess is cut by lemon curd and cherries. Photo: Cole Bennetts

No licence currently means bringing your own ($10 corkage) but that's cool – immerse yourself in Surry Hillbillydom by ordering an apple-flavoured kombucha and asking them to turn up Grizzly Bear while you're here.

Pro tip These guys don't take bookings for tables under six but a walk-in pre-7pm is a pretty safe bet
Try this The kouign amann is a face-sized croissant cake with a cherry on top
Like this? Jesuit-run Two Wolves Cantina offers feel-good eats and drinks in an ultra-casual setting; 202 Broadway, Ultimo.