These aren’t the sort of counter meals you may have enjoyed in outback pubs on long road trips – but the modern, urban incarnation where, rather than sit at a fancy clothed table, you perch on a bar stool at a counter that opens straight into the kitchen and enjoy the theatre of it all as much as the food, which is often passed across to you by the chef who’s prepared it. I love it – especially at these 5 very different restaurants. Counter seating (or high top seating, as it’s sometimes known) is often limited so be sure to request it when booking.
Cafe Paci, Newtown
I’m in love with Pasi Petanen’s mozzarella in carrozza (with anchovies and basil, who wouldn’t be?), the trout XO with gnocchi and crisp pommes allumettes atop a shred of potato salad with anchovies and deep-fried parsley! Counter seating makes chatting easier at this buzzing spot.
Firedoor, Surry Hills
There’s no gas or electric cooking in this kitchen, instead huge ovens create coals from over a dozen types of wood (from fruit trees to wine barrels). And flames leap under height-adjustable barbecues where Lennox Hastie cooks everything from delicate swordfish belly with cumquat to dry-aged beef rib (cut from a huge chunk hanging in view).
Nomad, Surry Hills
A buzzing kitchen and menu full of shared, Med-influenced dishes equals one of my favourite dining experiences at this restaurant that cures, pickles and preserves everything, even its own charcuterie and cheeses. Add smoked eel croquettes, tabbouli of toasted grains with sour cherries, and BBQ wagyu tongue with chimichurri and we’re off to a great start.
Cured & Cultured (Bennelong), Sydney
While Bennelong proper is still open – the Cured & Cultured bar is (temporarily we hope) closed due to staff shortages. I love the unique atmosphere of Bennelong in the front sail of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Most of all I love a seat at the Cured & Cultured Counter where I can watch the action, enjoy the view and feast on the $75 Chef’s Menu – best seat in town!
Momofuku Seiōbo – CLOSED
Paul Carmichael’s menu combines Aussie Ingredients (from native Davidson plums to Cowra-grown lamb) with his Caribbean heritage – jerk chicken skin with lime, and busted roti with onion and muntries are especially memorable. Watching his choreographed team prepare and plate the 12+-course tasting menu is as exciting as the flavours.
Updated 7 April 2022