Trend 01: NOSE TO TAIL
Nose to tail, whole-beast eating is facing a kind of retro revival. And few do the odds and ends of the animal better than chef Colin Fassnidge at his Paddington restaurant Four in Hand (fourinhand.com.au). Pig head terrine appears with crisp tail and apple snow, there’s sweetbreads with Jerusalem artichokes and spiced prune, a remarkable veal pot-au-feu with nettle mash, black pudding, char-grilled lamb tongue and herb-crusted bone marrow. The frequently changing menu, which has an Irish tilt thanks to the chef’s background, leaves punters reeling in heady appreciation of the cuts of meat we used to shun. You can do whole suckling pig here too, and the whole beast comes out on a platter to serve 10 people.
A pop-up wine bar and nose-to-tail eatery by chef Jared Ingersoll is a frequently moving feast that incorporates three of Sydney’s favourite things right now: whole beast food, pop ups, and breaking bread with strangers. Barrel and Beast (foodforpeople.info/barrel-and-beast) recently moved from its Pyrmont flagship location to the basement bar at Foveaux restaurant in Surry Hills. There’s a set menu of four-to-six courses using the whole animal, and sustainable, local produce (of course).
Trend 02: FERMENTING
Fermentation is piquing the interest of every homemaker with a penchant for healthy diets, the craft of food, and access to a couple of large jars. As the art of fermentation takes its hold on the wellness blogging set and makes its way into our everyday, via every restaurant with a finger on the pulse, one Sydney spot is teaching punters how to do it at home. The Cornersmith Picklery (facebook.com/cornersmith) in Marrickville has expanded its pickling classes for those wanting to learn DIY sauerkraut and kim chi, fermented vegetables and even kombucha and water kefir. The classes, which will run twice a month or more depending on demand, cover the principles and metabolic process of this traditional method of treating food and drink, no doubt leading to healthier guts everywhere. If the Cornersmith’s pickling courses are anything to go by the classes will go fast, but it’s also possible to sample the various pickled, fermented wares at the café too. There, sauerkraut and its fermented compatriots are tucked inside a wrap or salad with slow-roasted lamb and other excellent lunch things.
Trend 03: KITCHEN GARDENS
The Rosebery café Kitchen by Mike (kitchenbymike.com.au) has taken two major food trends right now and combined them: the kitchen garden, and the realisation by a wave of chefs, cooks and bloggers right now that Hippocrates was right, food can be thy medicine. Mike McEnearney, the head chef, has set out to educate people that food is nature’s medicine and has turned his kitchen garden into an apothecary of wellbeing. He has planted herbs and other edible plants that in some way heal, be it indigestion or dermatological issues. Visitors to the café can browse the ground and find a flower or leaf to heal what ails them. Other notable kitchen gardens include nearby The Grounds of Alexandria (groundsroasters.com) where you can meet the in-house pig Kevin Bacon and his poultry friends, and Bowral’s Biota (biotadining.com) where an automated glasshouse grows over 40 varietals of seed imported from France, the Netherlands and local suppliers.
Garden dining at Kitchen by Mike | Alana Dimou
Trend 04: BIG NAME CHEF, RELAXED VIBE
Fine dining without the credit card debt, big-name cooks without the stuffy service; there’s been a major jolt away from the top end of town as a string of chefs open more relaxed, accessible digs. For those deterred by the dollar signs on chef Matt Moran’s restaurants Aria and Woollahra-based Chiswick, there’s the more relaxed and fiscally accessible North Bondi Fish (northbondifish.com.au). It’s all the quality without the price tag, yet with a million dollar view.
Bouillabaisse and carafe | North Bondi Fish
Neil Perry, one of the country’s top chefs, recently announced his Burger Project, and a raft of restaurants are planned in Sydney and eventually elsewhere. Those who baulk at the A$24 price tag on the Rockpool Bar & Grill’s full-blood Wagyu hamburger with bacon, Gruyere cheese and zuni pickle, will be able to pick up a 36-month grass-fed, hand-ground chuck steak burger by the same chef. There will be dogs, wings, chips, shakes and house sodas too.
Trend 05: CULTURED AUSTRALIAN BUTTER
Look closer at the bread and butter being handed out at the most discerning Sydney restaurants; there’s an underground obsession taking hold. Locally made cultured butter is appearing on side plates everywhere. A couple of major players in Sydney are Pepe Saya (facebook.com/pepesaya) and The Butter Factory (thebutterfactory.com.au) from Myrtleford, and both do hand-churned butter so good you could cast the crusty sourdough aside and eat it straight. Pepe Saya can be found beside the bread at Rockpool and other top restaurants, many Sydney cafes, in good food providores, and 33,000 feet above ground onboard Qantas international flights. Cultured butter has a slight tang to it, much more depth than the stuff we’ve typically been spreading on our toast. But what makes it special is that it’s made using cream from grass-fed cows, and it’s local. Pepe Saya now does occasional pop-up butter churning classes around Sydney and within the Tempe factory.
Trend 06: CROWD-FUNDED FOOD
The honey is local, the flour to make the bread was milled just hours before nearby, even the vegetables were picked around the corner, but the most amazing thing about Stanley St Merchants is that the money to fund it was sourced locally, too. The place represents Sydney’s new love for native food, but also its willingness to dive, wallets first, into the concept of crowd sourcing. The entrepreneurial start-up Icon Park (iconpark.com) crowd-sourced A$281,370 from 830 backers to fund the restaurant concept, and voting started on exactly what that restaurant would be. It all paid off and, bonus, the food is remarkable. The catch is that each restaurant only has a three-month residency, so if you missed out on Stanley St Merchants it’s now closed. In its place, Rupert & Ruby has opened its doors, serving a blend of modern Australian and traditional American; think sliders, fried chicken and waffles. But be quick – this one’s only here until the end of 2014.