Barangaroo is Australia's latest food paradise

Chef Brent Savage says the menu of his new seafood-centric Cirrus restaurant will continue to evolve.
Chef Brent Savage says the menu of his new seafood-centric Cirrus restaurant will continue to evolve.PHOTO: UNLISTED COLLECTION

Sydney chef Brent Savage, in town for the $100Gourmet dining series, is starting a restaurant in the city's new food hot spot

If you are looking for new gastronomic adventures in Sydney, head to Barangaroo, which is shaping up to be a new food hot spot.

Located north-west of Sydney's city centre, about a 10-minute drive away, the area caught the attention of foodies when Copenhagen restaurant Noma did a 10-week pop-up there in January this year.

Cafes and restaurants serving Japanese, Chinese and Turkish cuisine have already set up shop. And adding to the buzz, notable Australian chefs are also opening in the former port town.

In September, chef Brent Savage of Bentley Restaurant & Bar in Sydney's Central Business District will open his seafood-centric Cirrus restaurant, while chef Hamish Ingham and his sommelier wife Rebecca Lines of Bar H in Surry Hills will open vermouth bar and bistro Banksii.

Chef-restaurateur Matt Moran of Aria is also part of the line-up and will open a three-storey harbourside restaurant next year.

  • BOOK IT / $100GOURMET

  • WHERE: Salted & Hung, 12 Purvis Street

    WHEN: Tonight, 6, 7, 8 and 9pm (two-hour dining slots each)

    PRICE: $180++, $100++ (Citibank cardholders)

    INFO: www.100gourmet.sg

Calling Barangaroo the "new Sydney Central Business District", Savage, 38, tells The Straits Times that he had no plans to expand until the location was offered. "How many opportunities do you get to open on the waterfront?" he says.

The name Cirrus refers to thin and wispy cloud formations - in line with the curved structure of the restaurant - and has a connection to the sea too. It refers to the barbel, or fleshy filament, that grows from the mouth or snout of a fish.

Diners in Singapore will get first bite of the food from Cirrus, as he debuts the menu tomorrow at a fully booked session at Salted & Hung restaurant in Purvis Street.

Dishes for the five-course dinner ($158++) include cured kingfish with buttermilk and pickled target beetroot; marron (a type of crayfish) with saffron mayonnaise and sea lettuce; and coral trout, crisp saltbush and muntries (native cranberries).

He says: "The menu is still in the development stage for Cirrus and these dishes represent the style. It will continue to evolve."

He is also collaborating with chef Drew Nocente of Salted & Hung for the monthly $100Gourmet dining series. Limited seats are still available for dinner tonight.

For the six-course dinner menu ($180++, $100++ for Citibank card holders), Savage will serve a new dish - cured cobia fish with fermented apple, guanciale (Italian cured meat) and Mexican cucumber, along with a favourite from Bentley - salted duck with pickled muntries, comte sauce and kohlrabi.

The chef, born in Lithgow, New South Wales, got into the culinary world at the age of 16. He worked as a kitchen hand, washing dishes for his elder sister, a chef. The 41-year-old is now a culinary teacher. His younger sister, 28, is a solicitor.

"I got obsessed with the work and lifestyle. I couldn't get enough of it," says Savage, who moved on to work with the likes of chef Phillip Searle at the now-defunct Vulcans in Blackheath and chef Andrew McConnell of the now-defunct Mrs Jones in Melbourne.

At the age of 27, he opened Bentley with his business partner Nick Hildebrandt. They also own wine bar Monopole and vegetarian restaurant Yellow.

He says that like Singapore, the restaurant scene in Australia is highly competitive.

Chef Mark Best has closed his flagship Marque restaurant while Neil Perry's acclaimed Rockpool closes on Saturday and will reopen as a more casual restaurant called Eleven Bridge.

Chef Andrew McConnell's Moon Under Water restaurant will make way for his first Chinese restaurant called Ricky & Pinky.

Savage says: "Like in Singapore, we are proud of our food scene. The standard is very high and there are so many options, the quality has never been better.

"At the same time, chefs who have been awarded Three Chef Hats by The Sydney Morning Herald are opening small bistros and eateries. People can now eat high quality food at lower prices. This has an effect on fine dining."

On his end, he has also rolled with the times, giving the example of Yellow, which opened in 2013 as a Parisian-style bistro.

In January this year, he took all the menus down a vegetarian route and changed them completely, except for brunch.

It was an idea he had been brooding over for many years, says Savage, whose wife Fleur, 35, is vegetarian. She is a stay-at-home mum and they have two daughters aged four and two.

He says: "We had heaps of haters at the beginning. Regulars were very upset too. A review in The Australian had 500 comments on it and maybe one in 10 was positive. We were nervous, but laughed it off and believed that there are enough sensible people out there.

"Now it is very well received and more relevant than ever as people are more health-conscious."

• For more information on Barangaroo, go to www.thestreetsofbarangaroo.com.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Livening up the food scene Down Under'. Print Edition | Subscribe