Now it’s May, I think I’m safe to tell you what you already know – what’s hot in food from where I sit – smack bang in the middle of inner-city Sydney. There are zero surprises and as many predictions. Read on to find out what’s hot right now.
From brewing your own beer and cider to from-scratch sourdough to a beehive on the roof, to pickling, canning and preserving, diy (do it yourself) and dit (do it together) food sprung up post-GFC as part of a wider trend including knitting, gardening and squeezing all your soap remnants into one big ball (ok, maybe not so much).
It’s now cool to act like a Granny and no one will laugh at you for growing your own kale. It’s kinda like how we used to take the piss out of people who ate squid, or garlic, or other ‘weird’ foods in the 70s and 80s, and now you can’t walk into a pub without someone shoving a plate of calamari and aioli in your face. We’re all guerilla gardeners and apprentice artisan bakers these days, but even so, this trend has spawned a whole market of people who would quite like to pickle their own cumquats, but simply haven’t the time. This is why ‘homestyle cooking’ is everywhere in cafes right now. Call me crazy, but if I want ‘homestyle food’, I’ll go to…my house?
2. Every kind of non-espresso coffee (except instant)
Cold drip, siphon/syphon, filter/pourover, french press, stovetop – we’re still loving our fresh ground beans, but espresso just doesn’t have the novelty these other methods do. Add to this the fact that an espresso machine is a pretty pricey (and huge) piece of gear, and low-tech gadgetry becomes a lot more attractive.
People are tasting coffees the way they once tasted wines, and the less milk and sugar the better. It’s fashionable to want to taste the coffee all by its lonesome (well, with water) and all else is considered additive – sugar, milk, cut that shit out right now. We’re all about purity, simplicity
Right now it is suddenly *so important* where your food comes from. Locavore is the organic of 5 years ago, with people growing truss tomatoes on their teensy apartment balconies. We hate Colesworths ‘cause of the pressure they put on food prices, farmers and the waste that results when less-than-picturesque produce is rejected (and yet Aldi is apparently fine?) so we’re jumping on the Farmer’s Market bandwagon like there’s no tomorrow. Which is fair enough, as food security is one of the single biggest issues we face; there may *be* no tomorrow if we don’t sort this shit the fuck *out*. Oh, and heirloom tomatoes. We like those.
4. cocktails and other concoctions
From the old fashioned to the walrus slime parfait (yes, I made that up), cocktails are hot, and the bars that serve them even more so. Signature drinks, mixologists, ‘freestyle’ bars with no menus- it’s all happening. Ok, so a Caipirinha will set you back 16 rather than 6 dollars, but it’s worth it to pretend you’re in Brasil, or Cuba, or an episode of Mad Men, or a Marylin Monroe film or… a really expensive bar. Wake up and smell the spiced rum.
5. ‘Americana’ is still going strong
Anywhere that does a half decent take on South American, Central American, Mexican, southern US or just plain junk food is the place to be seen instagramming on your iphone right now. Hotdogs and Ice cream sandwiches are everywhere, tacos are the word du jour, Brasilian, Peruvian and Argentinean food is more and more common. You can get Chicken and waffles at the Jazz City Diner and burger joints are still going strong. Food bloggers are baking up American candy-flavoured-treats like there’s no tomorrow. Dive bar food and deep fried everything is well and truly on the menu – from The Dip’s Deep fried birthday cake to The Norfolk’s deep fried pickles to the Abercrombie’s deep fried pizza, pubs and bars are dishing up what everyone in the rest of the world thinks Americans eat.
Anyway…you tell me. What’s hot right now in your books? And where can we get it?
The early Sydney small bars were ultra-trendy, with high price tags on drinks. I won’t name names, but their simple formula left me cold – fancy cocktails + retro furniture + no windows + overpriced bear and wine + overcrowding + nowhere to sit = not a great night out. How, I wondered, could anyone afford to go to these places and have more than one drink? Thus I became a smallbar cynic. I wouldn’t have, for lack of a better pun, a bar of them. Until Freda’s.
Freda’s isn’t small, it’s large. But it doesn’t feel large because it employs this revolutionary idea I like to call hospitality. That’s what happens when the staff can be bothered to say hello. It’s where there are chairs to sit on and music that ranges from a hum to upbeat background noise – on Saturday night, you’re just short of shouting but you probably won’t notice. It’s where the food comes out quickly and the bread comes with it, where you can order at the bar or have table service, your choice. It’s where every person that serves you treats you like a person, not a nuisance at the end of a woolworth’s deli-style queue, and you treat them like a person right back.
How to get there
Freda’s is on Regent street, just north of Cleveland. Look out for a giant red tongue of the PR agency nearby. It’s is in an alleyway, right by the dance studio, opposite the servo where all the taxis refuel. You know the place.
When you walk into Freda’s, most likely someone will greet you. If it’s early, maybe several people will. It’s an exposed brick warehouse that has been sympathetically restored, with a pared-back aesthetic, bare light bulbs, a daily blackboard menu and wooden finishes.
I recommend Happy Hour if you’re skint. They always have a $5 beer and a $5 wine and some crazy oyster deal. Around 5pm they put up their shareplate menu, it’s mostly cold stuff, things that are pickled and braised and delicious. Everything seems to come with free bread and go well with drinking. The food menu changes daily and they are renowned for their pickled octopus- sounds weird but delicious. I’ve tried their eggplant and tahini (amazing), and one weekend I think we tried everything on the menu except the sujuk, beetroot yogurt and the oysters. Everything was smashing – vinegary, charred, complex, textural. The wine list is impressive as well, and of course there are cocktails. Also, they serve lunch sandwiches. And lunch coffee.
Freda’s has its finger on the pulse, but the pulse of someone who’s just had a leisurely latte and a pumpkin scone rather than a $20 glass of champagne and a handful of speed. And it shows. It’s about to be blogged to death and recently received a favourable review in the SMH. It’s the kind of place that’s impossible not to like, like that kid in high school who was unrealistically good looking, got good marks, was great at sport and, to top it all off, nice as pie. But cooler. And with pickled octopus on the menu.
109 Cleveland Street
Chippendale, NSW, 2008
(02) 8971 7336
Monday-Friday 11:00am – Midnight
Saturday 4:00pm – Midnight
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