Staying up late

When most of the city sleeps can be the best time to slip out for a bite.

From the rich complex cuisine of Sri Lanka to simple Australian pub fare, Kylie Kwong’s selection of late-night Sydney eateries offer an irresistible combination of flavours and atmosphere.

Benjamin Lee, Mark Pokorny (Kylie Kwong portrait)

Kylie Kwong

30 October, 2020

The Audi Q range is so irresistibly advanced you'll often find yourself driving well into the night. After all, some technology is just impossible to put down. That's why we've curated a series of our favourite nocturnal adventures around the country in 'Drives After Dark' featuring after-dark experiences from breathtaking natural nightscapes and up-late eateries to weekender getaways and more.

For Audi ambassador and celebrated chef, Kylie Kwong, work and professional commitments during ‘normal’ business hours often means that sometimes late at night is the only chance she gets to relax and regroup.

As the city quietens down and the crowds drift towards home though, for those who know where to look, intimate establishments serving late night delicacies can make the wee small hours the perfect time to step out.

Whether it be simple authentic Aussie pub fare, home-style Japanese food or a taste of Sri Lanka, here are five of Kylie’s favourites for quietening those nocturnal cravings or just celebrating the night.

The wee small hours can be the perfect time to step out for a bite

Poly Co-founder, co-owner, Chef - Matt Lindsay used to be my Head Chef at Billy Kwong for a number of years and I’ve loved witnessing his amazing career path from an inspiring employee to now as a hugely successful business owner and restaurateur. 

I love this inner-city wine and snack bar very much because Ive always preferred eating a myriad of small, super-tasty dishes, rather than several main-course sized-dishes. I always feel very comfortable and relaxed in Poly with its physical spaciousness, casual atmosphere and warm, slightly cave-likefeel. The skillfully curated drinks list appeals with its emphasis on natural wine and high-quality local producers and the food offers everything from delicate flavours to total comfort food.

Try grilled potato bread with whipped sesame or raw kingfish, horseradish, burnt mandarin, anchovy toast – a classic Matt Lindsay style dish that is simple in look, yet refined, complex and elegant in ingredient.

It’s also hard to go past the grilled oysters, horseradish emulsion and burnt leek or lambs’ tongue, pickled onion, tarama – innovative, flavoursome, delicate.

Enya Enya is a modest, small space with a truly authentic neighbourhood vibe and sense of generosity, with the main focus being on the food and good energy. Sowhenever I feel like home-style Japanese food, I head straight to chef and owner Saburo Horis soulful-hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

Sabuas he likes to be called, originally hails from Yokohama and has been classically trained. I immediately noticed Sabus culinary precision and knowhow the very first time I ate at Enya, but what really stood out for me was the ‘Xfactor in his offering. Sabu cooks with such heart and soul, I can really see and taste the difference. This very high-quality method and technique, imbued with a Mammas-home-style-cooking-spiritis at once, delicious, comforting and nourishing.

Sabu and I have a good rapport because we are both chefs. He really takes care of my wife, Nell and I because we have become very good, loyal regulars. We took in our own set of wooden chopsticks six years ago and each time we dine there, our table is set complete with our chopsticks, just like home.

From the Wakame salad with its savoury, wholesome flavours, to the colourful, generous Wafu salad or the delicate meat slivers in the Wagyu Beef salad, the flavours are delicate and perfectly balanced.

Or the piquant, cleansing taste of the pickled Mackerel, the fresh Tuna and Salmon sashimi or spicy Tuna roll.

For a heartier dish, the Wagyu beef Sukiyaki hot pot is earthy and comforting or try the home-style Miso soup or succulent Yakitori grilled chicken skewers.

Sabuas he likes to be called, originally hails from Yokohama and has been classically trained

O Tama has opened my eyes and palate to the extraordinarily beautiful, complex and fascinating cuisine of Sri Lanka

Lankan Filling Station I had never really eaten much Sri Lankan food until O Tama Carey opened Lankan Filling station (LFS), but now I am completely obsessed. O Tama used to be my Second Chef at Billy Kwong and the greatest joy for me is witnessing her inject her wonderful spirit, energy and colourful character into her very own place.

O Tama has opened my eyes and palate to the extraordinarily beautiful, complex and fascinating cuisine of Sri Lanka, her homeland. I love mixing and matching LFS delicious, highly aromatic spicey curry dishes with cooling, soothing piquant herb salads and pol sambol; or savouring sour, spicy tamarind eggplant salad with dhal or red rice. This wonderful contrast of textures, flavour and ingredients also lends itself to a really fun and convivial way to eat.

When the pandemic first hit NSW and Sydney went into lockdown, I was so inspired by how quickly O Tama was able to pivot and adapt her business, going from a casual-restaurant to a full-blown take-away and grocery store within a few weeks. There are so many dishes on O Tama’s menu to tempt, but I particularly love all of LFSs stunning sambols and pickles. Acharu – pickled pineapple, carrot, onion, cauliflower – and mixed sambol plate of Raita (cooling when eating with fiery curries), refreshing and vibrant Green Pol Sambol and the sweet and sour tastes of Seeni Sambol which perfectly complement the curries and the dhal.

For a great balance between flavour, texture, spiciness and ingredient: Potato Curry (mustard seeds, turmeric and white chillies), Eggplant with tomato and tamarind and the Prawn Curry with its fiery red curry soured using tamarind.

Then there’s the Meat Curry and the Cabbage Mallung cooked with turmeric, mustard seeds and coconut, and the Herb & Onion Salad which beautifully offsets the intensely rich and spicy mains.

The Unicorn Hotel I love the down-to-earth look and feel of this local, art deco Australian pub, which is not trying to be anything but its humble self. I find this refreshing in contrast to many of the designer, gastro-pubs around which sometimes may not embody the same heart and soul and neighbourhood warmth. For me, there is a sense of nostalgia here and what I love the most about The Unicorn is its vision to be A proud boiling billy of Aussie wine, beer, music, art, food and conversation. Its like a living piece of Australian history, a great pub to take overseas guests to, offering them a true sense of Australian pub-culture. 

The owners, who are the trailblazing, creative and energetic crew behind Marys, Young Henrys and Porteno have read the local markets needs and wants perfectly. I like the simple, wooden furniture, minimal ornamentation and dark green walls of The Unicorn, which exudes an Australian bistro, relaxed vibe.

You can never go past The Unicorns classic and totally comforting Chicken Schnitzelwith mash and gravy, plus the cauliflower cheese side and delicious leaf salad. I also love the large generous public bar area and the leaning toward local Australian natural wines as well as a great selection of Young Henry brews.

Hubert The overall look and feel of Restaurant Huberts interior design just oozes charm and atmosphere, and there’s a sense of theatre in this fine restaurant, You can see and feel owners, Anton and Stefan Fortes extraordinary eye for detail and eccentricity, creating a space that is so warm and inviting, with soft lighting and its delicious classic French bistro-style menu and brilliant drinks list. Restaurant Hubert’s combination of atmosphere and menu combine to create a unique Sydney dining experience and there are any number of my favourites on the menu.

Be that Tartare de Thon (a magical Tuna Tartare) or a perfect example of the eccentricity and innovation that is Hubert with the Escargots XO – snails never tasted quite so good.

The classic beef Tartare is full of flavour and always of wonderful quality, and the Verdure avec Beurre – seasonal buttered greens – are both rich and fresh.

I love the Pommes Anna – layered potato with the rich beurre blanc white sauce or for a lighter, more delicate combination of flavours, the Salade de Maman, made up of butter lettuce, citrus, garlic and herbs.


I love the down-to-earth look and feel of this local, art deco Australian pub