Applejack Hospitality continues to snake its tentacles across Sydney with the impending opening of Rafi, a 300-seat contemporary diner in North Sydney. When it opens in September, Rafi will join Applejack venues including north-of-the-bridge spots Socal Neutral Bay and The Botanist Kirribilli, as well as CBD diner Bopp & Tone, Surry Hills boozer Forrester’s and Potts Point eatery The Butler.
Matías Cillóniz has been appointed executive head chef; he comes to Sydney from Peru, where he’s racked up experience at Central (currently ranked second in the World’s 50 Best list), as well as apprenticeships at two-Michelin-starred restaurant Paco Roncero Resaurante in Madrid. Inspired by Sydney’s coastline, his menu will roll with the seasons. Expect seafood and veggies cooked over charcoal, dished up in a small-plate format for sharing.
You might expect to find raw South Coast tuna with fresh yuzu; crispy potatoes with sea urchin and cultured cream; grilled Glacier 51 toothfish with chickpea miso and chilli; and dry-aged duck crown with mustard leaves and plum.
To pair with what Cillóniz calls his “surprising and nourishing” food is a drinks list by Applejack’s group bars manager Lachy Sturrock and group sommelier Amandine Rouviere. Bright cocktails, tap beers and locally produced wines will all be on the pour.
Design firm Luchetti Krelle (Jane, Bathers’ Pavilion, Momofuku Seiobo) is overseeing the interiors, which will offer diners a number of ways to experience the venue. An island bar will sprawl through the light-flooded main dining room, while a glasshouse and private gazebos will sit on the spacious al fresco terrace, which is inspired by the outdoor diners found in southern Europe. There will also be a private dining room and a chef’s kitchen for bespoke events and experiences. Bar stools will be wrapped in fabric inspired by the flora and fauna of the Australian desert, by Walmajarri artist Jimmy Pike.
North Sydney is evolving to become a hub for corporates, with a slate of banking, telco, media and tech companies moving to Sydney’s second-largest CBD in recent years. That progression will be fast-tracked in 2024 when Victoria Cross metro station opens in the centre of the business district, with a bunch of new hospo venues expected to follow suit.
“[I was] born and bred in the north; North Sydney was where I fell in love with hospitality, so the area has special significance for me,” said Ben Carroll, who co-owns Applejack with Hamish Watts, in a statement. “With Rafi we want to put North Sydney back on the centre stage, with a world class restaurant in a setting to match.”
Rafi is slated to open in September, and bookings are now open.