Keep Sydney open? Here's a very good reason to leave the house and fight Sydney's reputation as the city that ever sleeps. There's a new wine bar in town, and better yet it's home to one of Sydney's most exciting young kitchen talents. After some years of speculation over what she's doing next, Analiese Gregory has landed a restaurant to call her own. And all indications suggest it's going to rock.
New Zealand-born Gregory has a glittering CV, having worked at the likes of The Ledbury in London and Le Meurice in Paris, and was a senior member of the brigade at Quay for five years. After she left Quay in 2012, speculation ran rife about her next role, with the expectation that she'd open a fine-diner of her own, but Gregory confounded expectations, cooking at Bras in the Aubrac, working in the R&D kitchen at Mugaritz in San Sebastián, and doing her own pop-up in Morocco.
Back in Sydney, she decided to work alongside Mitch Orr at Acme in Rushcutters Bay, and it's with the Acme team that she has decided to make her début heading a kitchen, as a partner with Orr, Ed Loveday, Andy Emerson and Cam Fairbairn at Bar Brosé.
Bar what? It's the latest incarnation of The Passage, the narrow bar running between Victoria Street and Darlinghurst Road in Darlinghurst that Emerson and Loveday ran for five years, before closing the doors at the end of last year. It's now been gutted and has reopened this week with a completely new look courtesy of Luchetti Krelle (the firm responsible for the design at Acme).
And the food? Equal parts exciting and approachable. "It's loosely French, but not bound by it," Gregory says. There'll be Comté gougères, inspired by the signature dish of GT Tasmanian editor Roger McShane ("but mine are going to be six times the size"), and another inspired by a dish McShane and his fellow GT Tasmanian editor, Sue Dyson, did for a cameo dinner at Pinbone, a walnut pudding with a Fernet Branca ganache and wild fennel ice-cream.
Orr says the brief is "not-French in the same way Acme is not-Italian". He and Gregory cite wine bars such as Paris's Clamato, Septime la Cave and New York's Wild Air as reference points. It's going to be the food you want to eat with a glass of wine in hand.
"I'm also doing an 'nduja, pineapple and mustard Christmas-ham sandwich that I make for the staff after work at Acme," Gregory says. "It's served hot. I've been bringing my sandwich press from home to work each Saturday night, and the kitchen has become obsessed by this particular version." She plans to pay a small homage to Michel Bras, too, in the form of a gaufrette potato dessert involving potato skins browned and toasty from the oven, potatoes, brown-butter mousse and salted caramel. "All very rosé- and bro-friendly," she quips.
"The food will have bits of Chinese because half my family is Chinese," she says, "and I'll be doing things from all the other places that I've been, so there's Moroccan things, there might be some Spanish things, it might be dishes, it might just be ingredients or cooking styles that come from those places. It'd be kind of pointless to not use all that stuff.
"They're all things that I've either cooked at home for people or that other people have cooked for me. That was a piece of advice from Jonathan [Barthelmess, chef] from The Apollo. He said if you're going to open somewhere, just cook the food you do at home because you know it'll be tasty. And I was saying, 'no, I have to cook fancy food', but in the end this is what I'll be doing."
On the wine front, Orr says the list is building on the natural-friendly approach at Acme, and is very excited that Katrina Birchmeier, a founder of Hobart's dearly departed Garagistes, is on the floor, fresh from a stint at Brooklyn wine bar The Four Horsemen. The bar is within the lockout zone, but is licensed late, and Orr says they intend to trade right up to the mandated 1.30am closing time.
And the name? Given that the restaurant isn't particularly rosé-focused, and will be predominantly staffed front- and back-of-house by women, Bar Brosé, seems a little misleading. Maybe it's only temporary. "I always put hos before bros," says Orr.
Bar Brosé, 231a Victoria St, Darlinghurst, NSW