When he’s not making cameo appearances on TV cookery show Master Chef Australia, Matt Moran can be found in the garden beside his new venture Chiswick. Situated in the eastern suburb of Woollahra, the light-filled, whitewashed dining room—originally the stables of a 19th-century estate—is enveloped by a lush patch of grass, pine, and palm trees known as Chiswick Park; French doors open to the sound of birds and bees in summer.
Absent are the foams and gels that you’ll see at Moran’s flagship restaurant Aria, hugging Circular Quay in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House. Instead, Chiswick focuses on honest, rustic sharing plates. The wood-roasted lamb with chermoula and couscous features meat from the Moran family farm in the Central Tablelands and comes with sides of broccolini, cavolo nero (black-leaf kale), and snow peas pulled from the soil just hours earlier. Even the sodas here use garden herbs such as coriander, Thai basil, kaffir lime, and lemongrass.
Nearby in Surry Hills, Irish-born Colin Fassnidge’s second restaurant, 4Fourteen, continues the snout-to-tail philosophy of its older sister Four in Hand, but with an updated dining room and some very clever flavor combinations. Offal-y ingredients that many other chefs shy away from are all on the menu here: pig’s ears, pig’s tails, pig’s kidneys. Go all out on the whole suckling pig, served with dreamy Calvados and Pedro Ximénez–poached prunes, but leave room for the daily popsicle—the flavor du jour, which might be Nutri-Grain or peanut butter and banana, is served on a wooden slab alongside a wedge of honeycomb from the rooftop apiary.
There isn’t space for a full garden at Owl House, a hole-in-the-wall bar-cum-restaurant in the same suburb, although owner and sommelier Amir Halpert hangs herb pots from the townhouse’s balcony and makes monthly treks to regional foodie hubs for inspiration and products. Recently, Halpert and his ex-Rockpool chef Roy Mer ventured to the Southern Highlands where they picked up exotic mushrooms from Bowral, a handful of different potato varieties from Wildes Meadow, and a couple of bottles of pinot noir from 5th Chapter Estate in Avoca, which they highlighted in dishes over the course of a month. (We’re happy to hear that they’re off truffle-hunting soon.)
“I don’t do bad wine, and I don’t do boring food,” says Halpert. He’s right: Mer’s meals might begin with a yolklike sphere of concentrated Cosmopolitan cocktail, served in a Chinese spoon, before moving on to earthy dishes such as quail Scotch eggs on smooth potato foam with crispy ham, a smattering of shimeji mushrooms, watercress, and purply potato chips. It’s like New South Wales on a plate.
Local produce also stars at Monopole, the brainchild of Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt, whose pioneering Bentley Bar & Restaurant in Surry Hills will have sadly served its last meal by the time you read this. Melbourne architect Pascal Gomes-McNabb has designed a restrained space of rich dark woods and industrial metals, with little to distract from Savage’s platters of house-cured charcuterie and pickles—wispy slices of smoked duck breast, pork neck, venison sausage—and artfully strewn shaved heirloom vegetables. And while Monopole was conceived as a casual outpost of its now-defunct sister restaurant, some of the dishes are so likeable that it’s hard not to imagine them carrying over to Bentley mark two—Savage and Hildebrandt are on the hunt for a new location.