Hot 50 Restaurants 2016

The new Kensington Street precinct in Chippendale launched with plenty of hype surrounding at least two of its three marquee restaurants. Ironically, for us it’s the least pumped that has stood tall among the trio. Automata finds a sweet spot somewhere between creativity, youthful energy, genuine hospitality and simply delicious food you can’t forget. Don’t let the tasting menu-only format upset your equilibrium. In the hands of our Hottest Chef, Clayton Wells, this is a journey of constant desire: his food is its own vaguely Japanese modern thing, with lots of fermented, umami-ish flavours, and lots of raw things, too. Put down that scallop in Jerusalem artichoke juice with ground pomegranate and diced roe and you’re immediately waiting for… a piece of steamed hapuku with Dory tarama, seaweed butter and laver. Or kingfish with seaweed oil and yuzukosho crème fraîche. Seaweed is big in the Wells pantry. Followed by silken quail breast in pumpkin miso. And so on. Several visits this year proved several things: each of Wells’ dishes is superb, with a maturity unexpected in such an edgy space; wait staff do the job with humility and warmth; and the value for money is very real. Must eat: Yoghurt sorbet with sumac, persimmon and freeze-dried plum. Please consider: A sharper pencil on those by-the-glass wine prices.

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