Automata, Sydney

Author: Pat Nourse
Photography: Nikki To

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Automata, Sydney.

Everything about Automata's ID work seems to suggest that the restaurant serves things like fricasséed nuts and bolts in a sauce of brake fluid, or energon cubes sprinkled with crystallised dilithium, so when food made of plants and animals starts to land on the table it's almost something of a surprise. Clayton Wells, latterly sous-chef at Momofuku Seiobo, offers a five-course menu for $88 that he says will change frequently. The highlights of week one have been the chopped bits of storm clam served on the shell in a rosemary-tinged dashi, and the meaty, sticky inside-skirt steak with juicy shiitake and morels sauced with brown butter and tamari. The absolute standout, though, is the hapuku. Steamed and served with a sauce of its cured roe and sea succulents, the fish is presented veiled under a swatch of wet laver, making it one of the more challenging plates to commit to Instagram that Sydney has seen in 2015. Dangerous wine enthusiasts Tim Watkins and Abby Meinke (he previously of Pilu, she of Moon Park) provide drinks and service that are every bit as compelling as the offerings from the kitchen, and their engaging manner does much to soften the space's mechanical-animal aesthetic. The four-seat bar, meanwhile, is worth a visit for the snacks alone - highly addictive anchovy-stuffed fried olives, and a star turn from burrata dressed with shellfish oil. Automata for the people.

Automata, 5 Kensington St, Chippendale, NSW, (02) 8277 8555. Dinner Wed-Sat, lunch Sun.

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