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Eat and Drink

Influx of Australian-owned and -inspired restaurants expands options from the land down under

Bourke Street Bakery, purveyors of an Australian staple,

Bourke Street Bakery, purveyors of an Australian staple, the sausage roll, made its U.S. debut this spring in NoMad. Photo Credit: Alan Benson

An influx of Australian-owned or -inspired eateries has NYC serving up fresh and multi-influenced ingredients tied to the land down under. From adopting cooking methods brought by European and Asian immigrants to honoring indigenous plants and meats, the cuisine in all its forms is available within the city limits — in a cup or a glass or on a plate. 

In May 2019, Bourke Street Bakery (15 E. 28th St., bourkestreetbakery.com), a major Sydney bakery and cafe noted for its sourdough breads, ginger brûlée tarts, other pastries and sausage rolls, made its U.S. debut in NoMad. Paul Allam, its founder, chef and baker, didn’t know much about the city's Australian restaurant scene around the time he and his wife, Jessica Grynberg, moved from Australia to the city in 2017.

“Many of the Aussies that we’ve met here, for the most part, weren’t in the hospitality business in Sydney, before they opened in New York City. So, we weren’t really aware of their food or brands back home,” he explained. “We knew that Australians, and some Aussie brands, had been a part of the coffee culture here, but that’s about it.”

The new bakery has had fans of the brand coming in along with the locally curious.

“The opening weekend was a high percentage of Australians but now, a month in, our customers are New Yorkers of every shade and variety,” said Allam.

Another newcomer is Sonnyboy (65 Rivington St., sonnyboynyc.com) a Lower East Side all-day cafe, brunch spot and cocktail bar that opened in February 2019. Co-founded by Aussies Joshua Evans and Nick Duckworth (who also run Banter) and Stefano D'Orsogna, the eatery features twists on Australian staples such as harissa-folded eggs and an avocado mash toast with goat cheese from Victoria, Australia. Evans noted that many city denizens are focused on healthy eating and seeking organic, fresh and made-to-order food. 

“... And Australians do that very well,” he said.

A growing population

The rise in Australian owned businesses in the city coincides with expats' growing footprint. The nonprofit group The Australian Community, which helps connect the continent's immigrants with business, social and financial services, tracks the number of expats living in America. In 2006, when the U.S. began to offer E-3 Visas to qualified Australians with a bachelor's degree, the number of Australians in the U.S. was under 2,000 — in 2017 it jumped to more than 15,000, according to data the nonprofit found from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program.

"For a lot of our members, it’s a big fish in a small pond scenario," said The Australian Community founder James Boland. "If you’re going to throw yourself into more shark-infested waters, you’d want to be in the biggest market. They’re here to test themselves among the best in the world."

Heathe St. Clair, director of operations for Burke & Wills (226 W. 79th St., 646-823-9251, burkeandwillsny.com), a modern Australian restaurant on the Upper West Side since August 2013, noted an uptick of Aussies living in the city since his arrival to America in 1996. At that time, the NYC community was quite small and Australian eateries were few.

“People didn’t know too much about us; now, there are so many more Australians in the States,” he said. 

With his casual front bar, back area dining room and upstairs cocktail lounge called The Manhattan Cricket Club, St. Clair noted that his customer base is about 5% Australian but finds that other customers are “looking to explore other [dining] options that New York has to offer.”

Reflecting cultures and tastes

“Australian cuisine is like American cuisine; it’s very inclusive,” said Katherine Fuchs, who since December 2012 has served as executive chef and a tri-partner at The Thirsty Koala (35-12 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria, thethirstykoala.com).

Along with lamb and kangaroo, Fuchs incorporates other native ingredients — what’s collectively called “bush tucker” — into her recipes. They can include lemon myrtle, a sweet-smelling and tasting plant; wattle seed, which has a caramel coffee flavor and is often used in baking; and Tasmanian pepper berry, which gives off a spicy aftertaste.

Australian-style or -influenced cafes in NYC, reflecting Australia’s espresso culture, are also percolating. Forerunners have been the chains Café Grumpy, founded in Greenpoint in 2005, and Bluestone Lane, started in August 2013. Others include Saltwater Coffee in the East Village, Merriweather Coffee + Kitchen in the West Village and Hutch & Waldo Café on the Upper East Side.

Named after a street in Melbourne and opened in 2013, Little Collins (667 Lexington Ave., littlecollinsnyc.com), is a counter-serve cafe in midtown offering pour-overs. The cafe serves flat whites and piccolo lattes (the latter is similar to a cortado), both Australian specialties. Avocado smash and other breakfast choices are also on the menu. 

“We do get a lot of Australians who are visiting the city and maybe are a little bit homesick [for food],” said co-owner and Aussie Leon Unglik. 

Must-try Aussie delights

New to trying Australian food and drink? Here are a few options to get you started.

Lamington

This Australian dessert is made from firm squares of sponge cake that get dipped in chocolate and rolled in dried coconut; it can also be filled with strawberry jam.

Sausage rolls

Australia’s answer to pigs in a blanket, this pastry delight features sausage meat wrapped in puff pastry.

Flat white

This espresso drink is comparable to a latte, but it contains less milk and has more of a microfoam.

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