Aussie culinary invasion of New York City
Sydney’s cultural assets of yesterday -- Kamahl, Olivia Newton John, and Test Match -- don’t really possess street value in New York City.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t find other well-known "tastes" of Australia all over the United States' biggest city.
From the common (sausage rolls, flat whites and draft Coopers) to more modern "fused" cuisines, Aussie grub is making its NYC mark in Sydney-style cafes and pubs.
Still reeling from the blasphemous impact Outback Steakhouse had on the national identity, Sydney restaurateurs have claimed territory on New York’s Lower East Side, leaving behind the clichés of yesterday.
Arterial food lines are radiating out to Brooklyn and to the Upper West Side in what has been termed the “Aussie invasion.”
It’s resonating right up to the top -- even Julia Gillard had a beer at The Australian pub.
In creating the Tuck Shop, “to fill the gap in the market for mates to grab a meat pie,” co-owner Niall Grant was influenced by a Cronulla surf shack and Harry’s Café de Wheels.
On First Street near First Avenue on the Lower East Side (Kramer's "center of the universe" for "Seinfeld" fans) and staffed by Scots, Brits, Irish, Kiwis, Australians and Yanks, the Tuck Shop resembles any given brekki spot down on Coogee Beach. A mash of accents meet over cups of Milo and green curry chook pies.
The staff are Australian-trained in the art of coffee -- a proper flat white (not quite a latte) and long black (not quite an Americano) are difficult to get hold of in a city paved with Starbucks.
Pride of place in the cafe is taken by a mounted Kamahl album, boxing glove signed by Kostya Tzsu, an original “Test Match” board game and a bat signed by the Australian cricket team.
68 E. First St., New York City; tel. +1 212-979-5200 and 115 St. Marks Place, New York City; tel. +1 212-979-5200
On the cusp of Soho and Little Italy, Ruby’s Cafe serves Australian-style burgers. The Bronte, Bondi, Whaleys and Bluey are each a variation of the fried egg, pineapple and sweet chili standard -- served with Aussie-style coffee and complimentary olives.
Frequented by nearby New York University students, the service in this tiny room is understated, especially when compared with the fussy, I'm-working-for-tips style of American service.
Of the fake cow that adorns a wall, burger-maker Balta says: “Once a kid pointed out that the shape of the cow looks like a map of Australia -- he was a genius! But otherwise we don’t really have anything that (directly) references Australia.”
Aussie owners Nick Mathers and Lincoln Pitcher also run Kingswood (“not the bloody Kingswood”) in the West Village -- a fancier restaurant that has won praise from critics.
Ruby’s Cafe: 219 Mulberry St., New York City; tel. +1 212-925-5755
The Kingswood: 121 W. Tenth St., New York City; tel. +1 212-645-0018
Eight Mile Creek
Across the street from Ruby's, Eight Mile Creek, offers “contemporary Australian cooking."
Occupying the deeper end of Australian cuisine, it gives insight into the fusion that has taken hold in Sydney -- from four-star establishments down to the RSL.
“Australian food isn’t damper bread and bully beef anymore,” says co-owner Andrew Jordan.
Citing the Wharf Bar in Manly and The Golden Sheaf Hotel in Double Bay as inspirations, Jordan says his restaurant has moved toward inventive cooking, wine pairings and a careful appreciation of ingredients.
French, Italian and Asian influences inform the lamb shanks, mussels, barramundi and emu Carpaccio.
“Your mum’s fridge had tomato sauce in it,” Jordan says. “Sydneysiders now have sambal, oelek, chilies, hoisin sauce, mint and bok chuy, and know how to use them.”
240 Mulberry St., New York City; tel. +1 212-431-4635
In midtown, The Australian stands on Thirty-eighth Street, between Times Square and Fifth Avenue.
The beer selection includes Boags, Tooheys New and all four Coopers, including two on tap -- a rarity in the U.S.
“Wine, people know about,” says owner Matt Astill. “But beer, you have to educate them that there’s not just the Foster's oil can. We try to convert them to genuine Australian products.”
Lunch is a mixture of pan-Asian creations, alongside a traditional roast.
Astill has aimed for “a place that is unapologetically Australian, but not tacky -- a warm imagining of those older-school, inner city Sydney pubs.”
A Sydney boy himself, Astill prides himself on the subtler touches around the bar -- the vintage sporting posters, cast iron railing and overall evocation of a Victorian-era pub.
It was enough to lure in Julia Gillard on her recent trip to the U.S.
Astill says she had a beer, but didn’t down the whole thing.
20 W. 38th St., New York City; tel. +1 212-869-8601