A rooftop party palace atop Sydney’s Ace Hotel blends nostalgia with hope for better times ahead.
Dec 20, 2022 1:00am
I miss 2019. Life was simpler. Gentler. And Mitch Orr’s Jatz cracker, even with its very 2022 update of an anchovy curl and a blob of smoked butter, tastes like 2019 and it made me very happy, very nostalgic and very glad to have him back.
Orr is serving his signature Jatz snack – made famous at his much-missed wild ride Acme until its pre-pandemic closure – at his new home at Kiln, the rooftop restaurant of the Ace Hotel in Sydney’s Surry Hills. When you know you’re making a bite everyone will talk about, and will become the Instagram emblem for your entire establishment, you spend time getting it right. And Orr gets it right. It’s a salty, comforting crunch of good memories – he smokes the butter in the ash of the wood-fire grill – and I’m grateful that my coeliac friend has to surrender the second one to me.
There are plenty of hits here beyond the Jatz. Orr’s LinkedIn profile describes him as a chef who likes cooking “dishes that divide people” but you’d have rocks in your head if you had any issues with his alfonsino crudo – a fish that you don’t see raw often, that he folds into a blush-pink rosette with petals of peach on bright yellow tomato jelly. Looks-wise it has kids’ birthday party vibes and taste-wise, it’s a triple threat of brine and juice and savoury brilliance. A great nugget of oyster mushroom isn’t as pretty, but its heavenly fermented onion glaze made my eyes glaze with bliss. And fillets of coral trout get a good kiss of char, and a dreamy goddess-green pistachio dressing.
The menu – split into what I was told was four small-to-large sections – has some progression issues; the bit where I sourced the crudo was also home to a tartare, a carpaccio, and stracciatella and we were encouraged to order “at least two”, which felt like overkill from the “cold/wet” food group. I’m also not sure what a bowl of plain koshihikari rice is doing plonked in the middle of the veg area. But whatever you get is exceptional so just choose what looks tasty, keep the wine coming from Mike Bennie’s boisterously good-time list and you’ll do fine.
The fun’s happening off the table here as well. There’s an energy to Kiln that feels very global with its blingy cityscape views, ’70s décor and ’90s hip-hop soundtrack – Monty Koludrovic’s LA hotspot Grandmaster Recorders comes to mind. When the weather calls for it, the retractable roof will crank open on the terraces and the party will almost certainly ratchet up several more notches. That feels like exactly what Sydney needs right now. Perhaps the 2020s are going to be okay after all.
For more restaurant reviews, check out our 2022 December issue on sale now.