There’s a reason why Billy Kwong has been a staple on Sydney’s dining scene ever since Governor Macquarie roamed the land.
This fun Australian-Chinese eating house is a breath of fresh air in Sydney’s overly-starched restaurant game. Found on Potts Point’s star-studded restaurant strip – Macleay Street – Billy Kwong reverberates with warmth, energy and authenticity. You genuinely feel like you’ve been invited into chef extraordinaire Kylie Kwong’s home. (Maybe it’s her travel memorabilia adorning the walls that does it).
Prepare to fangirl over Kylie Kwong
Despite this being Kylie Kwong’s flagship restaurant, when I recently visited with my gal pal Ali, I had no delusions of bumping into the celebrity chef. I assumed she has better things to do with her time – like being famous – than working the restaurant herself. Clearly the cynic in me thought Billy Kwong was a brilliant marketing exercise, bringing the personality of Kylie Kwong to life, right down to the hand-written specials menu, but just not by Kylie.
When the waitress told us that the stir-fried field mushrooms had been replaced with pumpkin because Kylie had found some glorious butternut at the Eveleigh Markets that morning, I thought what a line! Right up there with the pick-up lines you get from the suits on a Friday night at The Establishment.
That’s when I saw Kylie diligently standing at the pass, like the captain of a ship, Bluetooth headset in ear, scrutinising everything that left the open kitchen.
A native Australian twist on Chinese food
Typifying Kylie Kwong’s style, the menu favours locally-grown, organic and biodynamic produce, with Australian native bush foods woven into the mix. It’s probably no surprise then that everything is unbelievably fresh and rich in flavour.
Organic saltbush cakes are generally not something I would ever see on a menu and think to order. But they came highly recommended by several friends; friends whom I now need to seek out and thank because the cakes are just out of this world. The ultra crispy pastry shells are packed with deliciously salty native saltbush leaves, and the accompanying chilli sauce and tamari is a dream match.
The pork buns, which are marinated in beautiful Wayside Chapel honey, are also worthy of a letter home. While the noodles and dumplings are like proper silk.
Billy Kwong is…
Given Sydney chews through restaurants like Trump does press secretaries, the fact that Billy Kwong has been around since the year 2000 is an admirable feat.
Moving from Surry Hills to Potts Point in 2015, Billy Kwong has now entered a new, sophisticated era. It’s right at home next to the distinguished Macleay Street restaurants (including Cho Cho San, Monopole, Yellow and The Apollo) that are Billy Kwong’s neighbours. When the restaurant left Surry Hills, so did the walk-in only policy (you can now book online) and the stools have been replaced by proper backed chairs, but the charm is still here. As are the crowds.
It’s not just the food that makes Billy Kwong a Gold Logie, the service is also impeccable. Our waitress kindly told us that she thought we’d ordered too much food (never!) and carefully suggested we hold on the last dish. Thank pork bun she did because we were inordinately full after only four shared dishes. Not to mention, Ali was clearly in a food coma, having fallen asleep at the table and starting to ramble something about Ringo Starr. Nope, we definitely didn’t need the Cantonese-style fried rice.
Billy Kwong is not a cheap night out (try Chefs Gallery for that) and only open for dinner (excluding Sundays when it’s open from 12pm), but gosh it’s good.
Billy Kwong | 1/28 Macleay Street, Potts Point, New South Wales
Phone: (02) 9332 3300