Neild Avenue: The hottest new restaurant in Sydney

Neild Avenue opens in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay as a place where friends, family and unpretentious dining can all finally meet, writes Lisa Thomas.

The Vogue Living team has been at 12 Neild Ave less than 30 minutes and Maurice Terzini – host, co-owner, manager – has asked us three times if we’d like water, coffee, tea. He’s not over the top, simply attentive, for hospitality courses through Terzini’s veins like wine into the tipped glasses of his eager patrons. His mind is hyper-trained to spot flaws, gaps, loopholes in service. After more than two decades in the industry (he opened Melbourne’s Caffe e Cucina in 1988 at the tender age of 20), he knows what he’s doing. He knows what needs work. And he knows that his new venture, the trattoria-style Mediterranean restaurant that cost $3 million to make, has all the ingredients in place to surprise Sydney diners with a fresh new alternative to the ubiquitous wine bar or gastropub.

Neild Avenue is on, naturally, Neild Avenue in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay, a street known more for its fabric houses and proximity to the luxury car dealerships of nearby McLachlan Avenue than for streetwise Mediterranean fare. That’s all about to change, with Terzini and his business partner, chef Robert Marchetti, livening up the area with their signature energy and flair for food. Australian Carl Pickering, of Rome architectural firm Lazzarini Pickering, is their long-time collaborator and was tasked with bringing the inherent Terzini-Marchetti magic to life, using just two or three materials. “We don’t have a specific brief. The challenge is to have one idea rather than 10,” says Terzini. “We always believe that the atmosphere should reflect the price range, the food you’re serving, the style of service that you’re getting. I love working with Carl because he really understands that we want restaurants to appeal from ages eight to 80. As well as all walks of life.”

Terzini says that he, Marchetti and Pickering have a “DNA strand” in all their work. “You can tell our restaurants. We’ve developed a particular type of service – we didn’t invent it but we reignited it, particularly in Australia ¬– the trattoria, casual, cutlery-on-the-table style of dining. I don’t think many people were doing it before us, apart from Chinese restaurants. And now it’s everywhere.”

Terzini is not overstating the duo’s role in the evolution of the Australian restaurant psyche. In the cutthroat arena of dining, Terzini and Marchetti are rock stars, with a string of hits to their names to make aspiring restaurateurs weep: Sydney’s North Bondi Italian Food and Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, and, in their hometown further south, Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons (at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, named for the pair’s fathers), the latter two of which Pickering also designed. Then there are the venues Terzini and Marchetti individually built into star returns: Otto, The Melbourne Wine Room, The Latin – the list goes on.

Despite their track record, Terzini isn’t immune to the fear of failure, reflexively flanking each statement with “let’s hope”. He’s cautiously optimistic about the restaurant, which opened its doors on Thursday November 17 in trademark Terzini/Marchetti style, with little fanfare yet many fans. “It’s like being in Formula 1; we’ve just joined the circuit,” he says. “We need to go around a bit before we get to where we want to be.”


They’re nearing the finish. Neild Avenue is an impressive, theatrical space – an old heritage warehouse converted into comfortable booth and table seating, adorned in monochrome tones (the chequered black-and-white placemats a nod to Terzini and Marchetti’s Italian homeland) and untreated wood. Polished concrete floors reflect the bare, simple aesthetic in the barn-like room, while cutlery is stashed in steel table pockets, ready for use. The fit-out, despite its initial expense, is a deliberate attempt to subvert the notion of ‘fine dining’, and simplicity is the whole point. “For us, everything needs to be accessible,” says Terzini. “We’re not a 30-seater restaurant; we’re doing volume of people so we want elegance without having to order glassware five months in advance from some specialised place.”

The restaurant’s rustic appeal is counter-balanced by touches of formality. Frenetic jazz vivifies the air. Vivid colour appears in murals, by artist Anthony Lister, overhead; the view varies from a rainbow sky to Titian-haired beauties, depending on where you sit. The wooden ‘houses’ on which the murals sit are attached to a rigging system and can be raised or lowered according to mood and occasion (or to determine each); they can also be removed, to allow for fabric panels or fairy lights in their place. Tonight, they’re set for the evening’s sitting, high enough that you can see the entire restaurant yet low enough to create a sense of intimacy. “ The idea is to break up the volume,” says Terzini. “As much as it’s beautiful, I don’t want to eat in a big empty space.”

With an operation of this size and scale, Terzini and Marchetti are running on little to no sleep, working up to 19-hour days readying the kitchen for the onslaught of diners expected during the lead-up to Christmas. “I’m not the only one,” says Terzini. “Some of the kids in the team, they’re pulling 16, 17 hours a day.” There are 10 in the kitchen during any one service. The menu is described as ‘continental European’: beer-battered mussels, coal-grilled octopus, a whole section devoted to “ancient soups” (such as lamb shoulder) and mains divided into “seafood”, “kebabs”, “birds” and “meat”. Prices range from $11 to $42, with the option of sharing plates or ordering a main to yourself. My VL colleague dined at Neild Avenue on opening night and says the food (she had the “delicious” fresh hummus and chicken with sumac, “beautifully flavoured” rice pilaf and lightly dressed parsley) is “simple but sophisticated”.

With yet more staff behind the bar, tending to the mounted wine barrels and concocting cocktails with granita and Campari, the restaurant is a hive of activity. With all of the hype and growing repute, can diners expect to ever get in? Terzini and Marchetti favour a no-bookings policy, for its “fun and informality”. If the queue-weary remain unconvinced, Terzini explains: “If you get home from work and you want to go out for dinner on a Friday night, try ringing up any good restaurant that takes bookings and you won’t get in. In fact, most restaurants, you won’t get in for a month. A non-booking restaurant provides that flexibility for the diner. You can come in any time.”

And that, gente, is what a modern trattoria is all about.

Neild Avenue, 10 Neild Avenue Rushcutters Bay, New South Wales, (02) 8353 4400.

Text: Lisa Thomas
Photographs: Craig Wall

18 Responses to “Neild Avenue: The hottest new restaurant in Sydney”
  1. I love all of these. Its great to see black. A colour I use a lot. Ive just painted my dining chairs black 🙂

  2. am says:

    Don’t smile will you! wow, they look like a friendly bunch…. so inviting!

  3. strummer says:

    “place where friends, family and unpretentious dining can all finally meet”
    Good lord , ive never been to anything that Terizini and co have done that isn’t pretentious !

  4. Mick says:

    Tell me more about the food

  5. fabio says:

    cool chairs! where are they come from?

  6. A non-booking restaurant is such a good idea and the place looks great. I love the ceiling. What kind of food are you going to serve?

  7. Liliana Neves says:

    wooww nice!!! I love it! There’s a portugueses lighting brand that would look great in this spaces…

    Merry Christmas!! 🙂

  8. Struan Robertson says:

    Who is the head Chef? I have eaten there twice and the food and atmosphere is great.
    My compliments to all the staff.

  9. Marcelo Sales says:

    The place is great but there’s nothing special in the food they have to improve
    a lot to be a high level restaurant !!!

  10. Onedrumstick says:

    Non-booking restaurants suck. The only plan you can make is to wait 2 hours.

  11. Alicia says:

    I love those drum lights! Does anybody know where they came from?

  12. Angie says:

    Mmm food was delish and our waiter (far right in photo) was a feast for the eyes 🙂

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  2. […] is a multicultural country. Just the other night I had dinner at a popular Sydney hotspot on Neild Avenue (yes, it’s Maurice Terzini’s latest venture and was great for atmosphere and impossible […]

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