Food News

Seafood, sun and a sustainably curated menu on-tap at RAFI

The flavours of the sea, in-season vibrant produce and great vibes, now open.

Alfresco dining in North Sydney has a new champion with the recent launch of Applejack Hospitality’s latest venture, RAFI.

Just across the harbour on Mount Street sits a sun-soaked courtyard that’s high on quality, detail and good vibes.

While the attraction of the venue gets you in the door, it’s the food and drinks that will hook you back for more.

RAFI’s kitchen is run by a stellar team headed by Patrick Friesen – Applejack Culinary Director and RAFI Executive Head Chef Matias Cilloniz, who have created a menu rich in seafood for a truly coastal experience.

Gourmet Traveller spoke to the former Merivale Executive Chef of Papi Chulo, Queen Chow & WIP, that has joined the boutique hospitality group; including restaurants Bopp & Tone, SoCal Sydney, The Butler Potts Point, The Botanist Kirribilli, Forrester’s; to gain insight into where he comes from and how he plans to take Applejack kitchens to new heights.

Patrick Friesen (pictured), Head of Culinary across Applejack’s restaurants, worked with RAFI Executive Head Chef Matias Cilloniz (pictured to the right) to curate the seasonal menu.

(Photographer: Steven Woodburn)

GT: Where does your passion for food originate from?

“Growing up in a conservative Mennonite community rich in Eastern European food culture, I felt a need to explore the outside world. I was hungry to experience other cultures, traditions and food. This has led me to being quite flexible to cook many different cuisines.”

GT: What is the number one thing you hope to bring to Applejack?

“I want to create a safe and respectful culture, mentoring my teams so they can flourish in their careers. I hope to share my love for produce. Always using the best quality and championing our local producers, growers and fisher people. Lastly, creating businesses that are sustainable both commercially and for our planet.”

RAFI banquet menu champions local producers and growers to create sustainable dishes.

(Photographer: Steven Woodburn)

GT: Tell us what you think is special about RAFI in particular?

“The RAFI site was a gorgeous space with lots of natural light, alfresco spaces and a captive market including North Sydney and the whole lower north shore. A chance to design and build the kitchen and team from the ground up for my first full venue with Applejack was a great opportunity. The menu is the way we eat on the Sydney Coast. It’s light, healthy food that’s perfect to have with chilled wines, sunny days and good friends.”

Natural light and good vibes set amongst the towering office buildings.

(Photographer: Steven Woodburn)

GT: When you’re not at work, where will we find you?

“I’m an active member of the hospitality industry so you’ll regularly see me supporting restaurants, attending events, and experiencing new places to satisfy my curiosity and love for great food. When not in the kitchen, leading my teams or attending events, you’ll find me with my wife and two beautiful children. I love time spent on the harbour in my boat, fishing with friends and having a snack onboard. Food is a huge part of my life both professionally and personally.”

Friesen’s vision to make RAFI stand out from the crowd starts with a focus on sustainability and fresh seasonal produce. “To be sustainable for the planet and healthier for our guests we should put a focus on more vegetables. On all our banquet menus, vegetable dishes make up more than 70% of the dishes. This leads to a better impact on our planet and waistlines” boasts Friesen.

Friesen relies on his relationships with suppliers with a belief to never sacrifice or settle, always use the best. With so many incredible producers, growers, and fishermen in Australia, he’s passionate about sourcing the finest produce to share with his teams and subsequently Applejack customers.

The seasonal menu and daily specials inspired by fresh produce will be regularly rotated to ensure a unique experience, every time you dine.

Related: Now open: Rafi brings fresh alfresco dining to North Sydney

If you’re unsure where to start, chef recommendations adding oysters to the RAFI raw plate; which is a smaller version of the full-size raw dishes and particularly the South Coast tuna, which has proven to be a fan favourite; followed by grilled lobster with tomatoes and cucumbers, and some extra pita to mop up the sauce. After that, you must try one of our steaks accompanied with crispy potatoes and radicchio.

For those who favour the cruciferous variety, Friesen suggests cauliflower with romesco, almonds and parmesan “a classic that I created while at Papi Chulo (RIP) and continuing to win over fans here.”

RAFI sourdough wholemeal pita dipped in hummus with crispy chickpea & green chilli.

(Photographer: Steven Woodburn)

Not to be overshadowed by the world class food, is the fresh and seasonal drinks menu inspired by the coastal elements of Sydney.

The wine list, curated by Applejack Group Sommelier Amandine Rouviere, and drinks menu a collaboration between Applejack Group Bars Manager Lachy Sturrock and RAFI Bar Manager Cameron Freno, brings forth local beers made by friends who use locally sourced grain, innovative cocktails, and a great selection of Australian and international wines.

“Our wine list features smaller producers who have a similar ethos to us in terms of being kind to the planet and focusing on making premium, quality wines from well-tended vineyards,” explains Friesen.

The perfect summer spritz – Fragola Fizz – featuring Vodka, Aperol, Yuzu sake, strawberry, citrus and agave, which is carbonated to order.

(Photographer: Steven Woodburn)

The fresh and impressive cocktails feature homemade shrubs and preserves using whole fruit, seconds and otherwise wasted produce, as well as a house-made clarified mint stem cordial using agar agar.

Speaking of shrub, you can’t go past the ‘shrub your way cocktail’, a choose your own adventure drink that invites tipplers to choose a base spirit, with a mixer of choice and blood orange, lemon myrtle and up-cycled wine.

Whether it’s a special night out with your nearest and dearest or a memorable experience soaking up the sun on the terrace with friends, you won’t be disappointed at RAFI.

Brought to you by Applejack Hospitality.

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