Between the bustling bain-marie food courts and the upmarket restaurants, there lies a third space for Sydney's business-district lunch crowd – Kitchen by Mike, the CBD edition.
It's the same canteen-style concept by chef Mike McEnearney that drew diners to the original Rosebery venue (and to its second location at Sydney Airport). There's a casual order-at-the-counter system, yes, but there's also good, wholesome food that's produce-led, with those signature chickens cooked on the kitchen's charcoal spit.
"It's the perfect time to introduce Kitchen by Mike into town because it is egalitarian dining at its best," McEnearney says. "Rich man stands next to poor man in the queue and you all have equal dibs of the food. It really suits the market at this time," he says.
For breakfast, expect some Kitchen by Mike classics: bacon-and-egg sourdough butties, perhaps, or handmade crumpets, alongside more nutrient-dense offerings like a "breakfast mousse" of cacao and avocado. Come lunchtime, diners can build their own plate from a daily selection of salads, roasted meats, quiches, tartines and house-made sourdough bread.
"Today I served the old woodfired pumpkin salad with pomegranate and nigella," says McEnearney. "We're also using a lot of persimmons at the moment. We're serving them with red-rice almond milk dressing and chai spices. It's delicious and light eating."
KBM is also offering dinner six nights a week with table service, an all-Australian wine list and share-style eating. Expect spit-roasted chicken stuffed with freekeh, olives and preserved lemon, or ash-baked eggplant with edamame, bonito shavings and tahini, alongside plenty of vegetable-heavy sides.
The canteen's address at 1 Bent Street might ring a bell – it was the venue for McEnearney's No. 1 Bent Street. The restaurant went into voluntary administration last year and was then rescued by creditors, before McEnearney made the decision to rework the concept.
"It's the same core values and the philosophy of sourcing local ingredients," says McEnearney. "Kitchen by Mike has always been about the food – and we are still all about the food."
Kitchen by Mike, 1-7 Bent St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9252 5550, kitchenbymike.com.au
Mon-Fri, breakfast 7-11.30am, lunch 12-3pm, dinner 5.30pm-late; Sat dinner 5.30pm-late