Housed inside the newly revamped The Old Clare Hotel, Automata hits fine dining with unpretentious stride. Clayton Wells, formerly sous chef at Momofuku Seiobo (which I loved, by the way – check out my post here), has found a new home in Chippendale. Menu changes crop up in the blink of an eye, so there’s a very good chance that these dishes I devoured are no longer making the rounds.
Snacks to start are a crimped mouthful of salmon skin and soft witlof wedges coated in violet mustard, then strewn with chopped chives. Floral and intriguing, this bodes well for the flurry of courses to come.
The first course of stracciatella, fermented peach, kelp oil, tomato, and sea blite is the stuff of my dreams. The salty pop of sea blite against the sweetness of the peach and the beautiful, stringy texture of the stracciatella cheese (the oozy goodness that’s in the center of burrata, FYI) gets me mumbling ‘this is so good’ over and over. It’s my favorite of the entire menu.
The complimentary bread is served as mini batched rolls still warm to the touch. It’s decent, but it’s the whipped Pepe Saya butter made with chicken jus and pumpkin seed that’s spectacular. Light, bright, and full of umami intensity, we can’t help but nod our heads vigorously when offered another round.
Next up is the blue mackerel, pickled red onion, mackerel emulsion, kombu butter, and dill. I haven’t met a kombu butter that I don’t like (granted we’ve only met 2 or 3 times probably). Mackerel loiters somewhere at the bottom of my list of preferred fish to eat, but it took me by surprise by how much I liked it here. The row of pickled onion briskly cuts through the richness of the fish and the butter.
The smoked quail draped with a delicate web of hispi cabbage comes next. A bed of barley that’s somewhat reminiscent of risotto lolls underneath.
The last of the savories, the wagyu intercostal, dill pickles and turnip puree is ridic. It’s a smattering of tasty, tasty things on a plate. The only thing I don’t really get is the radish. I normally love radish, but it doesn’t get my vote here. The housemade dill pickle, on the other hand, is ace, as is the smooth turnip puree.
I’m not into cloying desserts, so the lemon posset is exactly up my alley. The velvety lemon posset rests over a nutty black sesame smear with lemon thyme, blueberry sorbet and fresh blueberries. A shard of blueberry meringue balances on top.
The five courses at Automata will set you back $88, and the optional beverage pairing is $55 (we shared the beverage pairing). I adore Abby Meinke who serves us our matched drinks today. We’ve encountered her before at Moon Park, where she was restaurant manager. She carries professionalism and a sharp sense of humor with her.
The restaurant interior is smart, slick, and minimalist. But the long, communal table makes accidental eavesdropping on neighboring D&Ms inescapable. If you seat yourself facing inwards, you’ll get a full view of the theatrics in the open kitchen.
Side note: if you find yourself looking for a cheeky cocktail in the area, the bar at The Old Care Hotel is tops. Great cocktails, and even table service (I can’t even remember the last time I had table service at a bar in Sydney).
5 Kensington St, Chippendale NSW 2008
Wednesday-Saturday dinner from 6pm
Friday & Sunday lunch from 12pm