I love language almost as much as I love food and I enjoy combining the two, discovering what the original meaning of food words tells us about the history of that food. Lately I’ve had cause to think about two terms often used synonymously: ‘Fast Food’ and ‘Junk Food’. For the word geeks out there, according to my fellow lexicographer and food-lover John Ayto, both originated in the USA – Fast Food in the 1950s for food that could be prepared and/or served quickly, and Junk Food, about 20 years later, for food with mass appeal but little nutritional value … not necessarily the same thing. Increasingly, traditional ‘fast food’ dishes are being made with quality Ingredients by some of our top chefs, served in smart casual settings with good service and decent drinks lists. Meals at the below establishments can be fast – or slow, if you’re not in a hurry – but no one could call them junk!
Boronia Kitchen Hunters Hill
The take-away menu at this smart all-day eatery may be fast to grab-and-go, but the slow-cooked lamb shoulder takes 5 hours to prepare. And the duckfat potatoes, rotisserie chooks, salads and jaffles prepared by Simon Sandall, one-time Aria head chef, are as far from ‘junk food’ as it gets.
Zeus (various locations)
Souvlaki, late-night snack of party-goers and taxi drivers, regains its ancient origins of fresh grilled meat and healthy salad wrapped in flatbread. Try a glass of Greek wine or boutique beer with classic lamb and tzatziki or chicken, slaw and preserved lemon mayo and finish with mastic ice cream.
The Paddington Paddington
The humble barbecue chook is standard takeaway fare, but when the free-range birds are brined and cooked on a huge French rotisserie by Ben Greeno, it’s a different thing altogether. Add a range of interesting sides and other dishes, great drinks list and smart service and I might just stay all night.
Salmon & Bear Crows Nest
Mark Jensen, who loves campfire cooking, sustainable seafood and boutique brews, brings it all together in this Alaskan-log-cabin. Choose a fish to be cooked over the coals, add a sauce and couple of sides (like seriously good corn salad or Asian greens), or go simple beer-battered hoki and chips.
Burger Project Sydney
Everyone’s doing “gourmet burgers”, but Neil Perry takes the fast-food burger chain model and makes it real (and fun) with hand-moulded, grass-fed Cape Grim beef patties, house-made ice cream, sodas, and Valrhona chocolate shakes plus decent beer and wine by the glass.