Top 5 Counter Meals

These aren’t the sort of counter meals you may have enjoyed in outback pubs on long road trips – but the modern, urban incarnation where, rather than sit at a fancy clothed table, you perch on a bar stool at a counter that opens straight into the kitchen and enjoy the theatre of it all as much as the food, which is often passed across to you by the chef who’s prepared it. I love it – especially at these five very different restaurants. Counter seating is often limited so be sure to request it when booking.


Firedoor, Surry Hills
There’s no gas or electric cooking in this kitchen, instead huge ovens create coals from over a dozen types of wood (from fruit trees to wine barrels). And flames leap under height-adjustable barbecues where Lennox Hastie cooks everything from delicate swordfish belly with cumquat to dry-aged beef rib (cut from a huge chunk hanging in view).


Momofuku Seiōbo, Pyrmont
Paul Carmichael’s recently launched menu combines Aussie ingredients (from native Davidson plums to Cowra-grown lamb) with his Caribbean heritage – jerk chicken skin with lime, and busted roti with onion and muntries are especially memorable. Watching his choreographed team prepare and plate the 12+-course tasting menu is as exciting as the flavours.


Nomad, Surry Hills
A buzzing kitchen and menu full of shared, Med-influenced dishes equals one of my favourite dining experiences at this restaurant that cures, pickles and preserves everything, even its own charcuterie and cheeses. Add smoked eel croquettes, tabbouli of toasted grains with sour cherries, and BBQ wagyu tongue with chimichurri and we’re off to a great start.


Chester White Cured Diner, Potts Point
I thought I’d slipped through a 1950s time warp when I stumbled across this tiny space with a long white-tiled counter lined with retro burgundy leather stools. The perfect place to enjoy a plate of salumi, glass of wine or Italian cocktail and people watch. No bookings.


Milano Torino, Rosebery
With a focus on the food of Italy’s north, notably Piedmont, there’s a lot for me to love here – not least bagna cauda, vitello tonnato, excellent agnolotti with burnt butter and sage, and a delish monte bianco dessert of meringue, cream and chestnut puree. Scoring one of the few counter seats makes it all the more fun.