What suburb is destined to be the No.1 food destination in Sydney for 2016? Surry Hills? Newtown? Double Bay? Rooty Hill? Nope. It's Chippendale, the fringe-of-the-city 'burb that starts at Central and blurs into Broadway.
Ester, winner of Best New Restaurant in last year's Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, set up shop in Chippendale mid-2013. Former Tetsuya's head chef Luke Powell followed suit around the corner with LP's Quality Meats a year later and the postcode has been threatening to explode ever since.
Now it looks like it finally will with three big-name restaurants opening inside the renovated Old Clare Hotel before the end of the year. Automata (pronounced or-tom-a-tah, by the way) from former Momofuku Seiobo sous-chef Clayton Wells, and Silvereye, with ex-Noma No.2 Sam Miller on the pans, are scheduled to open within the next six weeks. Kensington Street Social, courtesy of British celebrity chef Jason Atherton, is on track to start trading in November.
Automata and Silvereye will feature set menus of innovative dishes, most likely heavy on the foraged weeds, vegetables and dehydrated powders. Different restaurant models to Kensington St Social, where Atherton says although the process behind the scenes will be as serious as any three Michelin star restaurant, the food will be light and casual.
"You can just come in, have a simple dish, a glass of wine and go to the cinema," he says.
Across the laneway from the Old Clare is the Kensington Street mini-precinct, a row of 16 heritage-listed terraces and two warehouses dating back to the 1840s. The buildings have been wonderfully spruced up and number of cafes and restaurants will begin trading out of them from September 21.
"If you walk down Crown Street [Surry Hills] during they day, it's dead," says Stanley Quek, Greencliff executive chairman and driving force of the Kensington Street redevelopment. "I want the Kensington Street spaces to have what I call 'flexible use'. A barbershop by day becomes a small bar at night, or a nail salon sells desserts in the evening. The street is busy for 18 hours a day.
Bar Chinois, a Parisian-style cafe small bar and cafe, and Glide, a coffee house and Asian eatery, are the latest venues to be confirmed for Kensington Street. They will join the previously announced Bistrot Gavroche featuring classic French fare, and "Kopi-Tiam on Spice Alley" which offers diners a mix of Hong Kong, Thai, Singaporean, Malaysian and Japanese cuisine in an open-air courtyard. The UTS students across the road never had it so good.
Parramatta is another food suburb on the rise, now sporting a Jamie Oliver-branded trattoria, Bourke Street Bakery, Gelato Messina and the gastrodome that is The Emporium. There's also that little precinct called Barangaroo. More than a few restaurants are set to open there next year including Efendy, Devon, a three-storey venue from Matt Moran, and from late January, four-times world No.1 restaurant Noma for a 10-week period. Sydney dining has never been more exciting.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awards, presented by Vittoria Coffee and Citi, are on September 7. The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016 will be available from participating newsagents, 7-Elevens and supermarkets for $10 with the newspaper on Saturday, September 12, while stocks last.