The discreet charm of borderless cuisine
Claim to fame: The new-generation of Sydney wine bars
Reason to go: To-die-for snacks that’ll keep you guessing
Look out for: The room-service menu Poly does for Paramount Hotel, upstairs
There’s always a moment of unease when a favorite owner-operated restaurant embarks on its first expansion. That tricky, sophomore effort has famously been the undoing of some unique and wonderful eateries around the world––sometimes the brilliance doesn’t quite stretch to multiple venues, and you end up with two middling places rather than that one incredible spot you used to cherish. Not so with Poly. Turns out Chef and co-owner Mat Lindsay’s inspiration can fill two menus and many more besides.
In fact, that’s one of the key challenges with Poly. The cafeteria-bar style setting is a constant––communal tables, long banks of stools facing walls of bottles, a hearty noise-level––as is the briskness of the staff and the quality (and expense) of the artisanal-leaning drinks list. But the food changes so often that the hand-cut egg noodles that you fell for at lunch, creamy and rich in a sauce of grilled onion and egg, will be gone by dinner, only to be replaced by elegant little pasta parcels of potato napped with roasted chili. (Don’t get us wrong, it’s a good problem to have.)
Such are Lindsay’s gifts that it’s hard to pin down a culinary style, let alone a dish that is a signature. Often the menu reads European, but then suddenly the years Lindsay spent cooking haute Cantonese at Billy Kwong will assert themselves, or he’ll quietly demonstrate a remarkable and hitherto unmentioned facility with the flavors of Lebanon. Here’s a hunk of oxtail done “like pastrami”, glazed in burnt honey. There’s a barbecued spatchcock, flattened out, sauced with fermented chili vinegar and a savory custard, the very best kind of chicken-and-egg situation.
By the time you dig into a chocolate and licorice brulée with a shimmering, elderflower-dotted surface, or you poke a spoon into the perfectly confident one-two punch of an apple sorbet splashed with Calvados, you’ll have given up trying to pin Poly on a map, and will be simply pressing it firmly into your favorites. Vive la différence.