THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.
Where others zig, Maurice Terzini zags. You duck, he weaves. You think all he opens is Italian restaurants, and he and partners Robert Marchetti and Kimme Shaw throw down a chickpea-laden menu that owes as much to Greece and Turkey as it does Rome and Milan. You say Campari and Yarra Valley pinot and he comes back with a list that's full of gin and New South Wales wine. You think the restaurant won't take bookings and it… doesn't take bookings. Except for Friday lunch.
Terzini's Sydney reputation rests on a series of sun-drenched waterside venues (Otto on Woolloomooloo's wharf, which he sold before opening the beachy Icebergs and North Bondi Italian Food), but his latest venue, Neild Avenue, is a vast former factory space of brick and corrugated iron on the Paddington side of Rushcutters Bay. In short, his work in restaurants is about as predictable as his famously fashion-forward sense of dress: you don't precisely know what it's going to be, but you can bet it'll be interesting and at least two steps ahead of the competition.
A close reading of Neild Avenue reveals several things of note to the would-be trend-spotters, but Terzini and Marchetti's focus on freshness, their take on healthy eating, is key. The grill takes centre stage, yoghurt and citrus provide the basis for sauces in several dishes, there's an abundance of wholegrains and seeds (lentils, amaranth, quinoa), and herbs are used with abandon. This imagining of healthy eats, though, also extends to excellent cauliflower fritters with chilli, parsley and garlic, hand-cut chips, superb onion rings, and duck-egg tarts that blow their yum-cha inspiration out of the water. And wine. Lots of wine.
It's not without its inconsistencies, then. But what's abundantly clear as you sit in the faintly surreal dining area, comprising a pair of stage-set-like miniature houses designed by Rome-based Australian architect Carl Pickering and decorated by Australian artist Anthony Lister, watching your fellow diners get social whiplash as they crane their necks to see who is sharing flatbread with whom, is that this is the restaurant for summer. It's not just about what Terzini and co like to eat, but how they like to eat. "It's not about sitting down in the corner keeping your mouth shut and eating your food," he says. "I want to go out, eat and have a laugh."
Terzini, you sly dog, you've done it again.
Neild Avenue, 10 Neild Ave, Rushcutters Bay, NSW, (02) 8353 4400.