Restaurant Reviews

The Waratah

A new boozer with a keen native focus is putting back some much-needed pep in the step of inner-city Sydney, writes MATTY HIRSCH.
The Waratah Sydney reviewJason Loucas
308-310 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst, NSW

One way or another, almost everything at The Waratah interrogates the notion of what it means to be Australian. Native ingredients are a constant on most plates and in every other glass. All the craft beers, low-input wines and the lion’s share of small-batch spirits are homegrown. Nearly a quarter of the name-checked farmers, producers and suppliers are Indigenous.

On paper, this might sound like a premise better tailored to a high-falutin fine diner than a local hangout. In reality, the most Australian thing about this comely two-storey corner spot in Darlinghurst, which opened last December, might be its easygoing and egalitarian spirit.

Slip into the walk-ins-only bar on street level, and you’ll pick up on it straight away. Here, in what feels like a compact and romantically reimagined country pub, it’s all about nostalgic fun. Call for a classic burger with the lot alongside a frosty Yulli’s Brews lager, then ping all of your childhood pleasure receptors over a fairy bread ice-cream sandwich — a collab with Gelato Messina that may already be a fixture on your Instagram feed.

It’s upstairs, across two squeezy dining rooms and a wrap-around verandah, that more intricate ideas take flight. A trio of crisp, fluffy potato scallops capped with raw Abrolhos Island scallops turns out to be as much a play on temperature and texture as it is a play on words. Black vinegar takes an heirloom tomato salad on an unexpected detour, the umami impact evened out by sour cherries and the lime-like perfume of waxflower leaves.

The Public Bar at The Waratah, Sydney

The menu — overseen by Icebergs Dining Room and Bar alumnus Lewin White – never gets too tricky for its own good. Brick chicken is exactly that, cooked till blackened and gently sweetened by a honey-laced gravy. Mango sorbet bands together with another sorbet made from amazake, a fermented Japanese rice tonic, in a breezy dairy-free dessert that’s like a grown-up Weis bar.

Given Evan Stroeve, one of the country’s most accomplished barmen, is a co-owner, you’ll probably want to have a solid crack at the cocktails. His signature Waratah Spritz is an ideal starting point, wedding Archie Rose vodka and watermelon wine with a rhubarb apéritif and a dash of vanilla. Two sips in and you may, as I was, be tempted to conquer the rest of the line-up, which explores the flavours of the Daintree with uncommon nuance and finesse.

In what some would call an oversaturated market, it’s refreshing to see experienced young operators asking big questions and setting out, as the menu puts it, to “explore Australia together”. That’s no easy endeavour, but in this case it’s propelled by such a genuine sense of curiosity and care that it’s one worth undertaking. And, if early signs are any indication, it’s already bearing fruit.

Potato scallops at The Waratah, Sydney

The Waratah
308-310 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst, NSW
Lewin White
Price Guide
Opening Hours
Lunch Sat-Sun; Dinner Wed-Sun
Tastes like home.

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