Restaurant Reviews

Clam bar: Restaurant review

The team behind Pellegrino 2000 and Bistrot 916 go Americana with rollicking results.
Clam Bar dining room in Syndey CBD

Dining room at Clam Bar, Sydney

Jason Loucas
44 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW

When Australian restaurants try their hand at Americana it tends to go one of two ways: retro fast food or self-conscious Upper East Side opulence. Clam Bar, the newest opening from chefs Dan Pepperell, Michael Clift and wine guy Andy Tyson, the force behind the fiercely loved Pellegrino 2000 and Bistrot 916, instead carves out its own, wildly enjoyable, path.

Clam Bar bills itself as a “bar and grill” and the New York-style steakhouse references are strong. It occupies a slim sliver of a 1930s former wool trading building in the Sydney CBD that was once home to The Bridge Room. The décor team has resisted the urge to fill the place with chandeliers and brass drinks trolleys and has instead taken things into chic 1970s pool hall territory: there’s a stonking great stuffed marlin on one wall and wood veneer panelling and potted palms everywhere else, elevated with art from Sydney painter Laura Jones and Melburnian Nadia Hernández.

Clam Bar’s prawn cocktail.

(Photo: Jason Loucas)

The menu is short on clams but otherwise big on maximalist American nostalgia: oysters Rockefeller (a classic that hails from legendary Antoine’s in New Orleans), scallops Casino (a turn-of-the-century New England invention drowned in garlicky butter and pangrattato) and a truly joyful prawn cocktail (thought to be created by a Californian gold rush miner), its plump crustaceans bowing gracefully towards a duo of seafood and chilli sauces. Order the Pacific-blue daiquiri and poke bowl and transport yourself to a mid-century Honolulu honeymoon.

Chef Sam Galloway, who’s migrated from his post at Bistrot, and his team cook New York strip or porterhouse over a Josper grill to medium rare by default, with a choice of classic sauces and condiments: Diane, béarnaise, horseradish and more. A purringly smooth corn and Gruyère gratin, which gets a Tex-Mex twist of chilli and lime, gives Neil Perry’s titan of the creamed corn genre at Margaret a run for its money. The eponymous clams – vongole from South Australia – make their best appearance on top of a plate of spaghetti, as exactingly al dente as any pasta you’ll find at Pellegrino. And there’s even a squishy cheeseburger, adapted from its original incarnation at Bistrot. Desserts read “dialled-up diner”: all cheesecakes and sundaes buried in gloriously excessive clouds of Chantilly cream.

Clam Bar’s macaroni alla vodka.

(Photo: Jason Loucas)

In the wrong hands, all of the above could veer into copycat, greaseball kitsch. At Clam Bar, every dish is polished, precise and dripping with technique, executed with the confidence of a team who knows what they’re doing and are having a good time doing it.

“I’m not sure that Sydney needs another New York-style steakhouse,” said an acquaintance shortly after Clam Bar opened its doors. The jury’s out on that, but one thing’s for sure: it’s been more than a New York minute since Sydney welcomed an homage to Uncle Sam that’s as properly fun and deftly done as this one.

Clam Bar

44 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW

Chefs: Dan Pepperell, Michael Clift and Sam Galloway

Opening hours: Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat

Price guide: $$$

Bookings: Recommended.

Verdict: Edgy Americana for adults.

Clam bar: Restaurant review
44 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW
Dan Pepperell, Michael Clift, Sam Galloway
Price Guide
Opening Hours
Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat

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