Studied retro: Chester White Cured Diner, Potts Point. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Jenny Brockie, host of Insight on SBS, from the eastern suburbs
Host de force: Jenny Brockie of SBS.
Chester White Cured Diner, Potts Point
"It's typical of the way I choose to eat. It's quite small, not very deep as a place, it's just got bar seats, retro bar stools, run by the same people who run Buffalo Dining. It's in-between food, picking food, the sort of place you can go if you're going somewhere else afterwards. There are multiple aspects of it, not just the food. It's a really nice, casual environment and that's what I like.
"The 'more than a snack and less than a full meal' style of eating is very good for me – I'm busy but can come and have a catch-up, sit over the bar with a glass of wine and have a chat. It's not event dining, which I enjoy occasionally, but I much prefer an environment where I can have a chat with the person behind the bar."
"It's just easy, you can come in and eat as much or as little as you'd like. Cured meat is one of their specials, so it's not a place for vegetarians. The culatello is beautiful, lightly salted but just delicious. The thing I would recommend, if they have it on the menu, is a dish called del mare – prawn and scallop ceviche, wrapped in radicchio leaf, cured ocean trout with wasabi mayo and kale chips. It's easy food, in-between casual; you could go in there by yourself and have a pleasant, quick something by yourself; or go on the way to a party if you are not sure there'll be enough food. It's picking food."
"One of the great things at working at SBS is the store of food knowledge in this building.
"It's the 10th anniversary of Insight – pretty exciting. Television years are like dog years, it's the equivalent of being 70, really. Throughout the year we're picking things from the archive, such compelling stories and so much fascinating material. I've never been in a job anywhere near this long, I think it's because every week it's different – the characters, the people are different, you can never anticipate; you can never walk in with a set of expectations, you have to be prepared to roll with the mood in the room. Some weeks you walk in and everybody's in a buzz, other times it's much harder and much more difficult to get people to be relaxed and talk about their story. There are so many variables you can't control. It's never predictable and that's why I'm still there."
Chester White Cured Diner, 1/3 Orwell Street, Potts Point. 9332 3692
Sides $3-$6; plates $12-$22; desserts $10; $40 for two, plus wine.
3.5 OUT OF FIVE STARS
Value and Potts Point. Chalk and cheese. Lady Gaga and subtle. Abbott and budgies. As far as unmatched pairings go, the enclave flush with the Cross but a world away in socio-economic standing is not known for its parsimonious eateries. Never mind parsimonious eateries with cleverly pared-down style and a fun, far-flung wine list to match. Chester White Cured Diner is the newish kid in town and it's here to thigh-slappingly challenge all that.
Take a trio of cool cats (Marcelo Garrao, Peter Kypreos and Michael Fantuz from Darlinghurst's Buffalo Dining Club, no less), stick 'em in cowboy shirts, hats and boots, plonk one or two of them into a room that is on the small side for their sizeable energy levels, feed and water the amassed after-work crowd, and you're close to Chester's intimate buzz.
Approach from the other side of Orwell Street to see how unexpectedly twee the spot is – tables in the front sit behind a white fence and under Paddington lace-type ironwork on the terrace's balconies above.
The front room is all bar and all studied retro – take a perch there and as Brockie, our TV host de force, advises, hold forth on the cured meats and fish, the bread and the olives, the cheese and the pickles. Portions are really generous; the meat platter is a romp through salted hindquarters, from firey salumi to "a bit of butt" – that's the culatello, which, as Jenny Brockie suggests, really is a very good bit of butt. The colourful mound of pickled vegetables is a crunchy palate cleanser and there's plenty of crusty bread, too.
We let her continue to call the shots: after our meat platter, we launch into the platter of cured ocean trout – bright, deep red and translucent next to pale piles of ceviche in leafy bowls. It's a decent amount of fresh, healthy food for little over $20. Then, for good balance, we embark on a robust bowl of vegetarian polpette, the soft, weighty balls of ricotta and spinach dressed in a fine tomato ragu.
It's called a diner but food is one element of many here. Drinks are as important, as is the music and the small and cosy set-up. And, dipping in no small part into – dare I say it? – hipster territory (beards, '50s, slow food, side partings, to name a few totems), it is nevertheless easy to settle into. Kitchen hands are on show, silent players dressed in black who wash and construct and clear behind the friendly, dynamic ringside action for the bar seats.
It's a great spot to graze and glug and sip and nibble and try another wine or off-the-beaten-track beer. It's a little New York, a lot Bondi, just a little showy and altogether pretty wholesome. Chester's is a welcome addition to Sydney's scenier streets.