Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Occupation: Executive Chef, Coogee Pavilion
Years lived in Sydney: “Born and bred”; was away for eight years until 2014
Years worked as a chef: 18
What do you love best about Sydney’s food scene?
Sydney has a dynamic food scene. From its ability to offer a vast array of regional cuisines and late night authentic cheap eats, to a great surge of young chefs who have great training opening their own places and versions of what makes them happy. Along with that, we have the ability to still have a fine dining scene alongside the ability to stop at a small bar for a snack and bottle. Having a Chinatown that is so close to the CBD also keeps a few chefs from getting home straight after service on a Saturday night, too! Maybe the few beers also …
Name the top restaurants and dishes that you think every visitor to Sydney should try.
Golden Century: Taking last orders at 3:30 a.m., GC’s is a late night hangout for a lot of hospitality people, especially chefs who have finished service and a few beers. I must order the jellyfish and cold pig’s trotter to start and then decide between all the live fish and shellfish they have and the BBQ duck options … Rarely do I go past the live pippies with XO sauce on crispy noodle or deep fried pigeon, or drunken live prawns for that matter.
10 William: A hole in the wall local bar that stocks a great natural wine selection and amazing food by Dan Pepperell. The best bar snack in Sydney — the pretzel comes out warm with a creamy bottarga dip that can’t be beaten, and the katsu sardine sandwich on white bread is next level.
Ester: A great neighborhood restaurant with a great chef in Mat Lindsay tending the wood-fire oven. Most dishes come from the fire-licked cauldron, but while you’re deciding on what you’ll being devouring, order the Sydney rock oysters that have been flashed through the oven, for the quickest minute, until they just pop and then topped with a light horseradish emulsion that will set the mood to continue. Great wine, too!
Fratelli Paradiso: For your real Italian fix, this place is hard to go past. Sit outside and have a long Monday lunch in leafy Potts Point. Great wine, plates of pasta and a Fiorentina go a long way to making you feel you’ve found Australia’s hidden Piazza. The owners and hosts make you feel like you’ve been invited to their place for lunch, a cool place that is, relaxed yet sophisticated and on point. Don’t forget to have a coffee and indulge in one of Sydney’s best Amaro selections … “Amaro Lucano, liscio per favore …”
If you had to name one favorite dish from Coogee Pavilion, what would it be?
Grilled prawns with sparkling butter, espelette pepper, and tarragon. With Coogee Pavilion nestled by the sea, a plate of King Prawns — split then grilled on the planca — just sets the tone for a meal on a summer’s afternoon. Lightly dressed with butter that’s been spritzed with sparkling wine, then sprinkled with espelette, tarragon and a lug of grassy olive oil, it’s a nice way to start.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out in?
I’d have to say Chinatown. Being away from Sydney for so long, I missed a great Asian hub. Chinatown is close to Sydney’s CBD and offers a wonderland of Asian cuisine with regional options. Dumplings, BBQ, hot pot, Korean, Cantonese, Thai, Vietnamese, just to name a few. Food courts even have it going on here with kick-ass noodle soup! Happy Chef, number 14 please – A mix of fresh rice noodle, scalding spicy broth, tendon, tripe and a help yourself bar of fish sauce, fresh and fermented chili makes me a happy chef.
Describe your “perfect dining out day” in Sydney.
Breakfast and coffee at Fratelli Paradiso, then swing by Bourke Street Bakery for a real pork and fennel sausage roll. Crush some oysters and bubbles for lunch at Icebergs overlooking Bondi and then hit 10 William for pre-dinner drinks and snacks before letting Mat Lindsay send you his choice via the Banquette Menu at Ester. Top it off with a last minute passionfruit soufflé by Peter Doyle at est. and stroll down to Frankie’s back bar for a whisky and then head to Golden Century for a late night Chinese feast.
What’s one dish in Sydney that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with the recipe yourself?
Mike Eggert and Jemma Whiteman’s delicious snack of crisp chicken skin and Ortiz anchovy at Pinbone … I’m going to steal it.
Since it’s Sydney, we have to ask: what is your favorite place to grab a meat pie?
What are some of your top places for great cheap, quick food?
Food court at Market City for a bowl of spicy soup noodles and Mr Crackles for a Crackles Classic pork roll and cup of Crackling on Oxford Street.
Are there any favorite watering holes you love frequenting?
10 William St., Wine Library, Henrietta’s, Shady Pines.
What food is your guilty pleasure, and where do you go to get it?
Burger at Mary’s in Newtown with a pint of Resch’s, followed by a bottle from their sneaky natural wine list to wash down their fried chicken with hot sauce.
Since this is a site geared for travelers, are there any favorite restaurants or bars at Sydney Airport or in Sydney’s hotels that you particularly enjoy visiting?
Palmer & Co. speakeasy sits underneath the Establishment Hotel and is a great place for a Negroni.
Are there any foods native to Sydney that visitors should try to seek out?
Sydney rock oysters are indigenous to the Sydney Basin and parts of the east coast of Australia. Eat them somewhere you can see them being shucked, preferably by the ocean and with a glass of something cold. Vegemite toast for breakfast is a no brainer.
What would you say every visitor must see or do before leaving Sydney?
Do the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk passing by Waverley Cemetery and finish with lunch at Coogee Pavilion.
Chef Toft’s Shortlist:
Coogee Pavilion, 169 Dolphin Street, Coogee, NSW; Mediterranean/seafood, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Golden Century Seafood Restaurant, 393-399 Sussex Street (Haymarket); Chinese, lunch and dinner daily, late night supper Friday-Saturday.
10 William St., 10 William Street, Paddington, NSW; Italian, lunch Friday-Saturday, dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Ester, 46-52 Meagher Street (Chippendale); modern Australian, lunch Friday and Sunday, dinner Monday-Saturday.
Fratelli Paradiso, 12-16 Challis Avenue, Potts Point, NSW; Italian, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Happy Chef Noodle Restaurant, Sussex Centre food court, 401 Sussex Street (Haymarket); Chinese/Malaysian, lunch and dinner daily.
Bourke Street Bakery, 46a Macleay Street, Potts Point, NSW; bakery, breakfast and lunch daily.
Multiple locations throughout NSW.
Icebergs, 1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach, NSW; Italian, lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sunday.
est. Restaurant, 252 George Street (CBD); contemporary Australian, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Frankie’s Pizza, 50 Hunter Street (CBD); pizza and bar, open daily.
Market City Food Court, 9-13 Hay Street (Haymarket); shopping mall, food court open for lunch and dinner daily.
Mr Crackles, 155 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, NSW; sandwiches, lunch and dinner daily, late night Thursday-Saturday.
Wine Library, 18 Oxford Street, Woollahra, NSW; wine bar, open daily.
Henrietta Supper Club, 292 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, NSW; new American and bar, dinner and late night Wednesday-Sunday, closed Monday-Tuesday.
Shady Pines Saloon, 256 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, NSW; bar, open daily.
Mary’s, 6 Mary Street, Newtown, NSW; burgers/bar, lunch Friday-Sunday, dinner and late night daily.
Palmer & Co., Abercrombie Lane (CBD); cocktail bar, open daily.
About the Chef: Jordan Toft’s fascination with food literally goes back to his high chair days, when he excitedly anticipated his meal of mashed potatoes and pumpkin made by his mother. Fast forward to his teen years, and that’s when he started seeing food as a potential career path. Toft’s early chef days started in his hometown of Sydney, working in the kitchen of the famous Opera House. In 2000, he joined Chef Peter Doyle at his restaurant, Celsius, and then became his sous chef at est., which was named Restaurant of the Year in its first year.
The idea of living and working abroad soon appealed to him, and felt a sense of security in that: “If it didn’t work out for some reason, there was always Australia and Sydney to come back to as a safety net.” In 2006, he took the plunge and moved to Europe, where he ran a luxury chalet in the Alps and worked as a personal chef for a businessman, which allowed him to travel between and experience the authentic cuisines of Spain, France and Italy. Four years later, he moved to Los Angeles to become the Executive Chef at Eveleigh. These experiences abroad helped Toft learn the value of restraint and influenced the way he treated produce.
After eight years away from his homeland, Chef Toft returned to Sydney and took on the role of Executive Chef at Merivale’s Coogee Pavilion, where his menu draws upon flavors that he experienced and was inspired by during his time in Europe and the States.