Take shelter from uninspiring food in this major player on the Sydney dining scene.
In the heart of Sydney's centre is a haven of enthralling cuisine: Nel, the passion project of owner and Chef Patron Nelly Robinson. Described as a "culinary odyssey" Nel's constantly evolving 11-course degustation menu is crafted to elevate modern Australian fine dining experiences.
Nel's exquisitely formed dishes show a delicacy, imagination and precision of technique that quickly sets the place apart. Each course is plated to precision under the watchful eye of Chef Nelly who started his career as a kitchen hand when only a teenager at the Michelin-starred restaurant Northcote (UK). He has built his vast culinary experience working in restaurants across the UK and abroad — including a stint at the Michelin-starred Lancashire chef Nigel Howarth — before earning his spot as one of Australia's top personalities and opening Nel in March 2015.
Located in an underground bunker in an otherwise drab stretch of Wentworth Avenue, Nel is a subdued but stylish space with exposed brickwork and an open kitchen. The set menu ($185PP, wine pairing $165PP, non-alc pairing $85PP) is a prix fixe affair that changes periodically. Each menu concept created by Chef Nelly tells a unique story with engaging and thought-provoking elements.
The innovative dishes serve as a masterclass on combining different textures into a harmonious whole. There's a touch of Philippa Sibley in the exquisite presentation and maybe even a bit of Heston's playfulness to Robinson's cooking. Every dish brings at least one touch of left-field inspiration, be it an unexpected crunch or a surprising citrus zing.
If you are opting for the wine pairing, drops are carefully calibrated to match the food while building on the profile of the partnering wine. As with everything at Nel, it is clear a lot of thought has gone into these pairings. With exemplary, well-informed service to guide you through a heady menu, Nel is exceptional from start to finish.
Originally published in 2015. Updated March, 2023.
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