FROM prestige pubs to pasta and everything in between, Paddington is one of Sydney’s must-visit foodie and drink destinations.
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NOT quite as difficult as choosing a favourite child, but deciding between the many new eateries at the top of Oxford St is becoming quite a conundrum, no more so than the four venues that make up Merivale’s dining precinct.
While each is decidedly different, they all have an ethos that focuses on fresh and honest ingredients beginning with Fred’s, a fine dining experience guided by the bounty of the seasons such as autumn chestnuts and traditional cooking methods.
The basement bar, Charlie Parker’s, has a similar approach, harmonically blending natural flora and fauna with top shelf spirits to produce innovative cocktails that are complimented by a bar menu developed in line with the dining menu at Fred’s.
Where the higher-end eatery is intimate with 60 seats, The Paddington, has a massive open kitchen that showcases the French made rotisseries, which gently grills the succulent meats and fish.
Its vaulted ceilings, rustic wooden furniture and country classic decor provide a communal sense, one that is perfectly suited for the large share plates of whole roast chickens, lamb rump and porchetta along with sides of roast pumpkin with a seed praline and roast broccoli with crispy breadcrumbs.
If it all sounds so delicious but time is a factor, stop off at The Chicken Shop, a takeaway option offering the rotisserie chicken plus a rotation of meats and seafood as well as sides and sandwiches.
— Fred’s, Charlie Parker’s, The Paddington and The Chicken Shop; 380-384 Oxford St
LUCIO’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
THINK of it is as the restaurant equivalent of rings on a tree trunk, each one of the 35 painted ceramic, plates, including one from Archibald Prize winner, John Olsen representing another year that Lucio Galletto OAM has been serving authentic Northern Italian food to appreciative Sydneysiders.
Guests return again and again as much for Lucio’s gregarious manner and extensive art collection as they do for the delicious food, particularly the tagliolini alla granseola. A generous serving of fine green noodles with blue swimmer crab and la light tomato sauce, this pasta dish has been on the menu since day one.
To follow this now famous dish, try a traditional tiramisu or a more contemporary dessert such as the mandarino al cioccolato, a mandarin and white chocolate ganache topped with a fresh sprig of mint that pastry chef, Isabella Kain plucked just minutes ago from the adjacent community garden.
— 47 Windsor St
ORGANIC BREAD BAR
NOT quite tall enough to reach the kitchen bench, young Andreas Rost would stand on a milk crate to help his grandmother make the day’s bread. Andreas knew at that moment that he wanted to be a baker.
After an apprenticeship and worldly travels, he landed in Australia and as was his calling, opened up a bakery. The organic sourdough so similar to what he had baked as a child, proved popular right away, but to him, it wasn’t identical so he travelled back to Germany and visited the mill the family had used to ask for advice.
Since then, he has developed a loyal following not just for the loaves and croissants but also for such healthy treats as the cranberry and almond spelt scones.
With a kitchen filled with baked goods you’d think that he’d have a hard time picking a favourite, but for Andreas it’s the pretzels that he loves to see people enjoy as these knots of soft dough with their glazed amber skin were a daily snack both as a child growing up in Southern Germany and now as an adult.
“If I don’t have a pretzel everyday, something is missing.”
— 356 South Dowling St
THE UNICORN HOTEL
WHILE some pubs are going posh, looking to lure in the culinary elite with experimental foods and eccentric cocktails, the gents from Mary’s, Porteno and Young Henry’s set out to create a pub that offered a fair-dinkum feed minus the pretence.
The result is a welcoming watering hole complete with pool table, courtyard, cold beer and counter meals. However, with the larrikins back in the kitchen, you can expect to find some unique takes on the infamous Chicko roll and prawn cocktail.
“The Unicorn keeps one foot firmly in classic pub grub and uses the other foot to venture into whatever’s going on in chef Jimmy Garside’s head,” co-owner Kenny Graham says.
No paper-thin pounded chicken snitty, here, instead you’re served a large and tender piece of crumbed Bannockburn Free Range Chicken atop creamy mash and atop watering dense gravy.
For something a bit less mainstream, forego the crinkle cut chips and order the potato scallop with kimchi, crème fraiche and fish roe or (by sheer coincidence), the vegan friendly bean salad with lentils and hazelnuts.
There’s nary a TV or pokie machine to be had, rather Thursdays through the weekend there’s live music and DJs. And while you could consider it to have an Australian theme, it’s more akin to a country home adorned with outback oil paintings and souvenir spoon collections.
As for the wall-sized map of Australia, well that’s defiantly one for the pool room.
— 106 Oxford St
WHEN development began on the building next door to their successful Italian restaurant, Cipri, a tiny thought of opening an adjacent cafe popped to mind, followed by the idea of an open kitchen to hold pasta making classes as well as the addition of pastries and their own line of sauces and noodles.
No longer able to avoid the inevitable, the Cipri family finally committed to the concept and early this year opened Barbetta, a sun-drenched space with red laminated tables, mirrored walls and art deco counter inspired by the cafes in Milan during the 1950s and 60s.
Where next door is a more formal setting, here they truly embrace the notion of family and the Cucina.
“The kitchen is the heart and soul of any family”, says Joe Cipri, nodding to his brother and head chef, Carmelo who has developed the delicious pasta and prawn dish, calamarata con gamberi dish.
Joe adds that a unique feature of Barbetta is that not only can you order it here at the cafe but that in their classes, you learn to make the that pasta, have a chance to taste it then take the rest home where you can try it all over again.
For those who tend to be kitchen averse, before heading home for dinner, pick up some of their housemate sauces, pastas, oils and even the appropriately named, “Best Ever Lasagne”.
— 2 Elizabeth St
While the fashionistas come to the Saturday markets to stalk the stalls for the latest designs, foodies come for the many homemade and artisan eats on offer, including the delicious bread and pastries from Vaucluse’s own The Grumpy Baker.
— Paddington Markets, 395 Oxford St, Saturdays 10am-4pm
For all the historic venues that are renovated beyond recognition, it’s wonderful to see that this one, with roots that date back nearly 200 years, has still maintained the essence of a neighbourhood pub.
With Matt Moran overseeing the grilled meat and seafood centric menu, you’ll be impressed as much with the roast lamb rump served in the industrial chic dining space as the with the Paddo cheeseburger often spotted in the front bar.
— Paddo Inn, 338 Oxford St
The walls are bare brick and sandstone, the limited amount of furniture is sleek, practical and topped only with a waterglass, serviette and fork at each of the 34 table settings.
At this relatively small fish eatery, the minimalism out front is a true reflection of what’s going on in the kitchen — nothing wasted and nothing unnecessary, an ethos that Josh Niland has carried over from his childhood and evident in such inspiring dishes as the hand-picked Ballina spanner crab and coral sauce served atop the crab shell.
— Saint Peter; 362 Oxford St
FISH & CHIPS
Ask any butcher and they’ll tell you that with proper preparation, any cut of meat can be tasty. Same holds true for fish, though the notion is far less common.
At the Fish Butchery though they sell dry-handled fish, all cut to order plus a takeaway and dinner pack menu that features under used fish for their fish & chips meals.
— Fish Butchery, 388 Oxford St
Your assignment for the evening is written up on the blackboard and it outlines a list of the reds and whites sold by the glass at this wine bar. Small in size, but loaded with energy, the menu is kept simple to compliment, not compete with the wines.
There are usually a few pastas and a dessert but always the soft pretzel with whipped bottarga from Paddington’s own, Organic Bread Bar
— 10 William Street, 10 William St