I’m not talking about the counter meals I enjoy in outback pubs on long road trips here. This counter dining is the modern, urbane 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 counter dining, especially at these five very different restaurants. Counter seating (or high top seating, as it’s sometimes called) is often limited, so be sure to request it when booking.
Firedoor (Surry Hills)
There’s no gas or electric cooking in the Firedoor kitchen, instead huge ovens create coals with over a dozen types of wood (from fruit trees to wine barrels). Flames leap under height-adjustable barbecues where Lennox Hastie cooks everything from delicate pipis in XO to dry-aged beef rib. A seat at the counter here is an unforgettable experience.
Izy.Aki (The Rocks)
While classic omakase can be a bit formal and reverential, chef Darren Templeman mixes up intimate omakase-style service with a relaxed izakaya vibe in tiny Izy.Aki. From the counter here you can watch Darren deftly assemble dishes like bluefin tuna with salsify and dehydrated caviar and sommelier Aurelian shake up a mean yuzu & wasabi margarita!
Gilda’s (Surry Hills)
Just as I love the counter at Firedoor, so too I adore a seat at the marble-topped bar at its little sister, Gilda’s! Alone or with friends, I love watching the chefs plate up and the bustle in the very open kitchen while grazing on plates of Spanish-inspired snacks, sipping Sherries and discovering Basque specialties like Pacharan sloe liqueur.
Cafe Paci (Newtown)
While the kitchen’s hidden from view, counter seating at this buzzing spot – that’s as much about wine as it is food – is a great way to chat with the bar staff and get their advice on what to drink next. Whatever you drink, be sure to try Pasi Petanen’s mozzarella in carrozza and trout XO with gnocchi!
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’s big on curing, pickling and preserving – even its own charcuterie. Grab a seat at the counter and watch those chefs hustle!
Updated 09 Feb 2024