Lunch spots fill up quickly as Sydney restaurants set to reopen



Sydney residents still deciding which restaurant to book when the city emerges from the most pressing lockdown, as many high profile venues are quickly filling their reservation lists until the end of the year.

The Coogee Pavilion’s fine-dining restaurant, Mimi’s, still has tables mid-week, but places for the weekend lunch are reserved until Christmas. Meanwhile, Totti’s at Mediterranean Canal in Bondi has a few tables available on Mondays and Tuesdays, but good luck securing a seat in the yard on the Sunday before January.

Relaxing COVID-19 restrictions to allow dining out from October 11 could not have come at a better time, with warmer weather encouraging people to eat out and by the water’s edge .

Weekend lunch places at Mimi’s are reserved until Christmas. Photo: Edwina pickles

Group tables are proving particularly difficult to find on weekends with very few Saturday lunch time slots for four guests at Bondi’s Icebergs Dining Room and Bar over the next three months. Pilu at Freshwater and Mosman’s Ormeggio at The Spit are also booked for many group sessions on weekends through December.

“For most of our sites, even though they are on the water and ideal for tourists, the lifeblood of the business is the local people,†says Bill Drakopoulos of Ormeggio, Ripples Milsons Point and The Fenwick at Balmain in his Sydney restaurant. Group portfolio.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years and sharing with friends is the way to dine. Order some food, engage, have fun. Bring the 11!”

Good luck scoring at the weekend yard headquarters at Totti's before January.

Good luck scoring at the weekend yard headquarters at Totti’s before January. Photo: Nikki To

Aria, the fine dining restaurant of chef and restaurateur Matt Moran, is making a strong comeback with a new executive chef following news of Chef Joel Bickford’s departure in August.

“We are extremely fortunate to have so much to say about our return to the restaurant, including the first menu from our new executive chef Tom Gorringe,†said Moran, adding that Aria had also booked almost all of her weekend sessions. -end for the rest of the year.

“After months of confinement, we all crave more experiences and connection than ever. We feel very lucky for our clients who have supported us for 20 years.”

Stepping into the role of executive chef at a two-hat restaurant emerging from lockdown would be intimidating for some, but Gorringe took it all in his stride.

“The creative spirit has really started to flow since he got into the Aria kitchen,†he says. “It’s a whole different feeling to be in this space.”

One of the challenges for venues has been reconnecting with suppliers and producers, some of whom may have been inactive for months, and finding the right ingredients to put a chef’s vision on the plate.

Aria's new executive chef, Thomas Gorringe, is preparing to reopen with a fresh new menu to take the restaurant out of ...

Aria’s new executive chef, Thomas Gorringe, is preparing to reopen with a fresh new menu to bring the restaurant out of lockdown. Photo: Rhett Wyman

“I recently visited local markets to have conversations with producers, farmers and suppliers to sample the produce and understand what will be available when we reopen,†says Gorringe.

“It’s been a very difficult time for restaurant suppliers, so it’s a good feeling to know that we can support them again. eggplants and beautiful mangoes. “

Finding staff is the biggest challenge for many restaurants to reopen, with some hospitality workers taking on new jobs during the lockdown.

Warm weather makes seaside venues such as the Icebergs Dining Room and Bar a popular choice to book out of lockdown.

Warm weather makes seaside venues such as the Icebergs Dining Room and Bar a popular choice to book out of lockdown. Photo: Edwina pickles

Other staff do not yet feel comfortable returning to work, while many temporary visa holders – who were a significant part of Sydney’s hotel workforce – have left Australia when the pandemic hit last year.

Luke Kirby, managing director of The Botanist in Kirribilli, said he made sure to stay engaged with staff during the lockdown so the company didn’t face any difficulties when rehiring.

“We are very lucky at The Botanist because we have a young and local team and it is a very attractive place to work,†he says. “Communication at the group level has been excellent and we have been very active with our staff during the lockdown.”

Ormeggio at The Spit in full flight before containment.

Ormeggio at The Spit in full flight before containment. Photo: Edwina pickles

However, Kirby says he knows of other restaurants that are struggling to find staff to reopen. When the busy Christmas season arrives, he predicts that it will be even more difficult for hospitality places to hire enough workers.

“It’s absolutely difficult to have staff right now,†he says. “Before COVID, you could post a job and get 20 applicants by the end of the day. Now we would be lucky to have one or two.”

Complying with COVID regulations is a new challenge for restaurants that must adhere to government rules of only allowing fully vaccinated customers to their premises.

The vaccination requirement is unlikely to affect restaurants’ ability to fill their tables, with more diners choosing where they will dine based on security and the enforcement of COVID regulations.

A recent survey commissioned by fintech firm Zeller found that COVID-related safety and health policies were the most important factor when deciding where to eat for 83% of Australian diners.

74% of diners said they would be happy to show proof of their vaccination as a catering requirement.

The vast majority of Sydney’s hospitality industry is more than happy to meet COVID security requirements in order to welcome customers back.

David Sude, General Manager of the QT CBD Hotel which houses the Gowings Bar and Grill, said that “we have a responsibility to our customers and our team to keep everyone safe in our restaurant and bar – this will have always the priority “.

The New York-style brasserie has reinvented crowd favorites such as the steak diane during the lockdown.

“The entire dining experience, from the first cocktail to the last drink, has been invigorated over the past few months,†says Sude. “The news of the reopening on October 11 has been an absolute joy for our team. We have spent the week reconnecting with suppliers, supporters and our community.”

Merivale Executive Chef Jordan Toft, who runs the kitchen at Mimi’s and Bert’s in Newport, said being able to once again create and serve dishes that leave an impression on guests is the most exciting part of the outing. lock.

“It’s that classic cliché: love what you do and don’t work a day in your life,†he says.

“Obviously, with plans coming in a week, it’s great to open faster, but… there’s also more than a few pieces of work to get everyone back on board and a few complexities to get back to work.

“Everyone has been through an interesting time and I am delighted to reopen our doors… the reason I got into food in the first place is because of the vibrancy it adds to a city.”

More restaurants open for reservations after containment

Sure, a weekend table at Totti can be nearly impossible to score, but Sydney has no shortage of other restaurants ready to help you celebrate the end of the lockdown in style.

Bathers Pavilion 4 L’Esplanade, Balmoral

Sumptuous tasting, wood-roasted chook or green beef shin curry? The gourmet restaurant and the bathers’ bistro are back, as well as the Betel Leaf Thai restaurant on the terrace. Open for oysters and beach views October 11.

Bennelong Bennelong Point, Sydney

Reservations for the Opera’s gourmet restaurant opened on Friday and there are still plenty of seating choices available at the time of writing. Bettors keen on a quick Krug and a sausage roll can also visit the bar without a reservation. Open for world-class pavlova and pike from October 21.

Big Poppa’s 96 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst

The kitchen is open until 2:30 a.m., seven days a week, but reservations end at 11:30 p.m. The secret is to hang a table around midnight for the hip hop bar and restaurant. Open for cacio e pepe and champagne from October 11.

CicciaBella Bondi and Parramatta

Saturday lunch at Icebergs is packed for the next few weeks, but Maurice Terzini’s more laid-back osterias have their weekend corkscrews ready. Open for homemade pasta and fresh reds from October 13th.

Restaurant Hubert 15 Bligh Street, Sydney

Getting a reservation can be difficult in this totally immersive French experience, but you can always try to book early or late, or have a drink at the bar until a table becomes available. Open for steaks, fries and Bordeaux from October 12.

With Callan Boys.


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