The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry | A Sydney Food Blog

Duke Bistro, Darlinghurst

November 1st, 2010  |  Published in Restaurants  |  11 Comments

Duke Bistro, Darlinghurst, Sydney

When Bloodwood opened earlier this year, and everyone rushed to declare “casual dining” as the hot new thing in Sydney, I felt a tad skeptical. Bloodwood is great, but can a trend really exist when Exhibit A only holds one example? Well, since March, we’ve seen the opening of Berta, Eathouse Diner, District Dining and now Duke Bistro, which proves the forecasts to be resoundingly right (and my boring, overcautious self to be wrong). Not that I really mind – these are all excellent places to eat my words.

Duke Bistro has only been open for a week, but if you’re a culinary trainspotter, you probably would’ve known about it for a while, given its impressive line-up (commanding the kitchen are Thomas Lim, ex-Tetsuya’s, and Mitchell Orr, 2010 Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year and formerly of Sepia; service-wise, there’s Kylie Javier, who used to be front of house at Bentley, to name a few of its A-team).

Duke Bistro, Darlinghurst, Sydney

The restaurant, which is upstairs from the Flinders Hotel, has a whipsmart feel to it – everything from the menu to the decor is sparked by invention, wit and a livewire element of fun. There’s the Tomato, Strawberry, Burrata & Shiso ($15), a dish which already has netted itself an online fan base, and understandably so. Pitting these odd dance partners together is a fine gamble – the creamy/clean cheese, sweet strawberry and jolting tomato end up busting some good moves together.

Duke Bistro, Darlinghurst, Sydney

Unmissable are the Tater Tots with Edamame ($15), which are feisty takes on a cafeteria/frozen-food staple. At Duke Bistro, these spiky-crisp potatoes are more like mini rosti, full of loud, golden crunch. Usually drizzled with house-made gravy, my serve comes with yuzu and konbu mayonnaise – a zippy and beyond-satisfying vego alternative.

Duke Bistro is impressively considerate about vegetarian options – for instance, when serving the Egg, Seasonal Mushrooms, Almonds ($15), the staff puts the dashi in a (cute) beaker on the side, so Will has the option of tipping the fish stock onto his portion, while I can steer clear of it altogether. And can I say, even without the dashi, the mushrooms are amazing? I’m not sure what the secret weapon is (loads of butter?), but the chefs manage to unmask so many exquisite flavours from the medley of enoki, cloud ear, snow fungus and oyster mushrooms. (Also, the idea of paying only $15 for such a high-grade dish is something of a mind-spinner.)

Duke Bistro, Darlinghurst, Sydney

As for Will’s Lamb Belly with Cumin, Eggplant, Pearl Onions ($16), he likes it so much that he probably set some kind of land-speed record in finishing it.

Being a tragic sugar fiend, I ask to see the dessert menu right at the start, so I know to be prepared for the Knickerbocker Glory ($12). This glass-full of yum has layers of mango jelly, rhubarb, beetroot meringue and panna cotta ice cream. As much as I like it (enough to repeatedly bother the poor staff with the details), I think I would’ve preferred it with the standard strawberry instead of the understudy ingredient, rhubarb.

Duke Bistro, Darlinghurst, Sydney

Menu aside, I also enjoy the decor at Duke; instead of shedding its pub past with some overslick new refit, the bistro adds clever instances of upcycling: there are candle holders created from teacups; lampshades made out of everything from beer bottles, bird cages and traditional conical Vietnamese hats (repainted in shiny, eye-catching jolts of black and red).

The staff are also brilliant – the right level of friendly, enthusiastic (but not salesman-like), menu-savvy, approachable and good-humoured.

Hell, even the cutlery (by Studio William) is cool. And when your bill arrives, it is safeguarded by two mini macarons (which are eaten in a flash). What’s not to like?

Note: Sadly, Duke Bistro is now closed, but you can find former staff members doing great things at 121BC, Momofuku Seiobo and Pinbone.

Upstairs at the Flinders Hotel (you can enter directly from the street level), 63 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst NSW (02) 9332 3180,

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  1. leetranlam says:

    Suze, I’m such a goose, I accidentally pressed “delete” when I meant “approve” and alas, your comment is now in some black hole that I can’t locate (so sorry – this is what I get for blogging at 12.30AM). But, to answer your question, yes, we did try to take pics of the knickerbocker in all its glory, but alas none of them turned out. Good excuse to order it to see for yourself though. Oh and the burrata and your belly will be good friends, I can imagine it.

  2. OohLookBel says:

    They’re onto a winner here, I thin: Gorgeous modern food and reasonable prices are the way to go. Thanks for the speedy update!

  3. MelbaToast says:

    Tatter Tots – what fun!

  4. Howard says:

    Looking forward to trying this out, looks like a few talented up and comer Chefs are working there!

  5. i need to add to my wishlist to check out. sounds like a very interesting menu 🙂

  6. Jobe says:

    The burrata takeover of Sydney continues. This is indeed wonderful news.

  7. The lamb belly seems to be a favourite item so far; looks delish!

  8. Minh says:

    The burrata dish sounds like an amazing combination! Checking this place out tonight on your review 😀

  9. Sounds like another brilliant new & affordable addition to the Sydney scene – I’m loving the value! I’ll definitely be looking it up – great review!

  10. Piggyeatalot says:

    Hi! Thanks for the Porno-riffic pics- YUMMMM!!! Can I ask, do you think my 60 yr old parents will like it? Mum’s open minded but dad can be a bit traditional sometimes 😛

  11. leetranlam says:

    @Piggyeatalot It depends – Will has taken his mother, who loved it, but regarding your dad, the food is not very “traditional” and it doesn’t have the structure of a three course meal. You order lots to share and it is very fun, clever, witty food. Check out the menu online and run it by your parents first, to be safe!

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Hi, I'm Lee Tran Lam. When not blogging with my mouth full, I'm usually writing, presenting Local Fidelity on FBi radio, making zines, producing podcasts or continually breaking promises about how I really am gonna get through my book pile one day.

All the good pictures on this blog are by photography ace (and patient boyfriend), Will Reichelt, (all the dodgy ones can be credited to me)!

The lovely banner is by friend and ultra-talented illustrator Grace Lee.

This site redesign was made possible by the next-level generosity and expertise of Daniel Boud, whose code-tinkering ways are only outranked by his seriously inspired way with a camera.

You can read more about my co-conspirators here.

This is a blog I do for pure fun and zero influence – there's no sponsorship, sneaky advertorial or advertising. I pay for all the food mentioned, 'cos it seems the ethical thing to do.


This is a blog about eating and drinking in Sydney, Australia (with the odd cross-border or off-topic detour). BYO appetite.

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