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Sydney's Best New Restaurants of 2018

Honouring the very best new additions to Sydney's restaurant scene this year.
By Concrete Playground
November 21, 2018
By Concrete Playground
November 21, 2018


Honouring the very best new additions to Sydney's restaurant scene this year.

A 1930s-style brasserie with a 750-strong wine list. A moody underground restaurant specialising in one cut of steak. A dedicated hopper eatery from one of the city's best chefs. These are just three of the boundary-pushing restaurants that have opened their doors this year.

Sydney's restaurant scene has had an impressively strong 2018. And the restaurants that have opened are as diverse in their cuisines as they are in their decors — French, Sri Lankan, Australian and Italian; pastel pinks, leather banquettes, edible candles and walls covered in grapes.

At Concrete Playground we encourage exploration and showcase innovation in our city every day, so we thought it fitting to reward those most talented whippersnappers pushing Sydney to be a better, braver city. And so, these six new restaurants, opened in 2018, were nominated for Best New Restaurant in Concrete Playground's Best of 2018 Awards.

  • 6

    New restaurants rarely get a clean slate. But in the case of Ron’s Upstairs, the surface has been left intentionally worn. The interior — mostly unchanged since the vacation of the last tenants, longstanding Thai restaurant Pron Prohm — is like stepping into a 90s takeaway joint in the suburbs. The panelled walls, parquetry floors and plastic bunches of grapes attached to the ceiling aren’t things usually found hiding on an inner city high street. Things may not look that different on the surface, but the shift has most definitely occurred. This little old restaurant now mixes house spritzes and a great savoury ouzo mojito ($17 each) from the fairy light-lit bar, and the food coming out of the kitchen is European. Most dishes come with some meal-making sauce — the stracciatella is topped with mint oil, a zucchini dish has a killer passata and the pipis made memorable from a highly drinkable burnt butter sauce. The real beauty of this lo-fi dining room is that windows line the street-facing side, letting in a welcome spring breeze and some great natural light. Get in before dark and the twilight mixed with the dull festive glow of the restaurant’s fairy lights make Redfern look magic.

    Words: Lauren Vadnjal. Images: Kitti Smallbone. 

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  • 5

    There’s no such thing as a sexy vegetable, you say? Well, prepare to eat your words when you visit the newest restaurant to pop up in Waterloo’s Casa Building. With an ethical approach to produce, Paperbark puts its veggies centre stage — and they are anything but humble. With a subtle nod to other cuisines here and there, the main focus is on native Australian ingredients like lemon aspen, finger limes, salt bush, wattleseed and pepperberry. For a light starter or snack, the organic portobello mushrooms ($8) cooked over paperbark, threaded on sticks and served with macadamia cream are smoky, tender and delicious. For entree, the smoked leek, potato and horseradish ($18) is reminiscent of a family favourite: potato and leek soup. And when you need to order a drink, the wine list is all Australian and hand-picked by the chefs to complement their dishes. There are also refreshing cocktails like the rhubarb Hemingway daiquiri ($20), or the Stormy made with coconut butter, rum, lime and ginger kombucha — all of which are vegan too ($19).

    Words: Lara Paturzo. Images: Trent van der Jagt

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  • 4

    When it was first announced that the on-site restaurant at Paramount House Hotel, already home to Golden Age Cinema and Paramount Coffee Project, would be helmed by Ester‘s Mat Lindsay, it quickly became the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2017. Then, thanks to building delays, of 2018. Eight months later, one quiet night in August, the suspense was almost palpable when Poly suddenly threw open its doors to hoards of eager Sydneysiders . Poly is like its Chippendale sister in many ways. It’s unpretentious, fire is the hero of the kitchen and its wine list is impressive. But, unlike it’s sibling, it says it’s a wine bar first, and a restaurant second. The 12-page wine list, chosen by sommelier and co-owner Julien Dromgool, is loaded with minimal-intervention, skin-contact drops, sorted under helpful, descriptive headings like ‘mid-weight & complex’ and ‘light & juicy’. At the back of the light-filled, subterranean restaurant is the open kitchen. In it, Lindsay and Poly head chef Isabelle Caulfield are charring sourdough bread lathered in spicy ‘nduja ($12), pipis served floating in spicy bottarga oil ($24) and calamari, skewered and topped with a fine layer of grated egg yolk ($16 each).

    Words: Samantha Teague. Images: Kitti Smallbone.

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  • 3

    Famous for her show-stopping hoppers at Carriageworks Farmers Market, O Tama Carey has finally flung open the doors to her first permanent restaurant, Lankan Filling Station. A shrine to Sri Lankan cuisine, the new East Sydney venue is headed up by the renowned chef and curry queen (who previously worked at Berta, Bistro Moncur and Billy Kwong) who has put together a hands-on menu of hoppers, sambols and curries. Start by ordering a few hoppers, which are bowl-shaped crepes, known for their soft, spongey centre and crisp lacy trim. Next up, choose a sambol. This is the dip to your chip. Turn it into a proper banquet with a few of Carey’s curries. Now all that’s left to do is tear into your hopper, and start dipping, dunking and dribbling your way through the different spiced bowls. While hoppers go exceptionally well with hops, there’s more to the drinks menu than just beer. If you’re looking to quench the heat, try one of custom-blended Sri Lankan tea. Otherwise, there’s natural, minimal intervention wines available (including sangiovese rosé on tap) as well as mead, faluda and Ceylon arrack, a Sri Lankan spirit made from fermented coconut flower sap.

    Words: Erina Starkey. Images: Parker Blain.

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  • 2

    Having run The Newport since March 2016, Merivale decided it was about time to add something new to the sprawling northern beaches venue. And so it opened Bert’s, a brasserie and bar brimming with oysters and lobster. As we’ve come to expect from Merivale, Bert’s hasn’t done anything by halves. Getting its inspiration from the 1930s — when hotel dining rooms were grand destinations — the restaurant is an extravaganza of jade green and coral pink, with an open kitchen as its centrepiece. The menu, sorted out by executive chef Jordan Toft, aims to transport you to some fancy European seaside resort. Look out for a dedicated raw bar, crowded with oysters, mud crab and brioche canapés, and a larder loaded with charcuterie and salads. To pair with all this? 750 wines, put together by master sommelier Franck Moreau.

    Words: Jasmine Crittenden.

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  • 1

    From the folks behind Grandma’s and The Wild Rover comes Bistecca, an Italian steakhouse that specialise in Tuscany’s top chop, the bistecca alla Fiorentine. Duck in the back alley entrance on Dalley Street and emerge two stories below in a charmingly quaint Italian ristorante, as smooth and polished as its crooning jazz soundtrack. Despite the Carrara marble wraparound bar and beautiful farmhouse furnishings, all eyes are on the butcher’s block, which is topped with a bright crimson slab of steaks tracked with veins of creamy marbled fat. Once you’ve selected your steak size, the flesh is presented to you for approval. It’s then thrown on an open hearth to spit and sizzle on a bonfire of olive and wood branches. Traditional accompaniments include brussels sprouts, which are deep-fried until golden and crunchy (á la Porteño‘s) then tossed with shaved pecorino and a delightfully acetic sour cream. The extensive wine list, curated by Alice Massaria (ex-Saint Peter, Uccello), celebrates two of Italy’s great grapes, nebbiolo and sangiovese, with female winemakers distinguished by the Venus symbol (thank you, Alice).

    Words: Erina Starkey. Images: Dominic Loneragan.

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Top image: Bistecca by Dominic Loneragan.


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