CIRRUS DINING, SYDNEY
With the openings of Bentley, Monopole and Yellow under their belts, Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt could be forgiven for taking things easy for a while. Instead they decided to double down and open an ambitious seafood restaurant in the waterside site vacated by the Noma Australia pop-up, pulling out all the stops with design by Pascale Gomes-McNabb and a 45-page wine list that's an erudite ode to the charms of white and lighter red varieties. At the same time, the cooking is some of the most relaxed Savage has ever put his name to, and while the service is as professional and pacy as ever, it's also pleasantly low-key. It's the leader of the pack at Barangaroo, and a winning new player on the national scene.
In short: The catch of the day.
SAINT PETER, SYDNEY
Shark Bay red mullet with asparagus, broad beans and fennel at Saint Peter.**
Shark penis. Sea urchin gonads on crumpets. Cod liver on toast. Crumbed toothfish cheek. Remember the last time you asked a waiter about the specials and they retorted that everything was special? At Saint Peter it might actually be true. And there's more going on here than clickbait. Even the simple-seeming likes of fish and chips is executed with radical flair and maximum respect for ingredients. Josh Niland is on a mission to change the way you think about Australian seafood (and native ingredients and food waste) and he's laying out his argument one fish finger at a time to an adoring fan base. And hey, those were sustainable shark penises.
In short: Fish for compliments.
The open kitchen and hearth at Fred's.**
As restaurant conglomerates get bigger and bigger, it's easier than ever to find examples of the fact that money can't buy you taste. But Fred's is a great instance of the big end of town getting it really (really) right. The considerable resources of the Merivale group (international reach for talent, thousands of staff on the books, serious design chops in and out of house, and impressive vinous reserves among them) have been brought to bear on a venue where charm is emphasised over dazzle, provenance is privileged over technique and gifted people like Danielle Alvarez and Caitlyn Rees are given a handsome stage to simply do what they do best.
In short: The hottest plates in town.