Sydney is a small pond. We may be known for our multicultural society and easy-going attitude towards life, but when it comes to creativity, I often think there aren’t enough of us, getting bored enough, to really force us to think outside the square. This is the case in every industry, but when food crazes hit (the most recent – Mexican-fusion, à la the Norfolk, Tio’s Cerveceria, El Loco, to name a few), it’s refreshing to see something new. Enter Food Society. Eastern European the way my own grandfather would’ve experienced it (having come from the former Yugoslavia), this place is a welcome breath of fresh air to the food scene in Sydney today. Co-owners Sonia Stanojevic and Brendan Lloyd have aeons of hospitality experience between them, and while they open their doors to diners in-house, they’re busy out the back working around the clock on their special event catering services as well.
Sydney is in a pickle, quite literally, with pickled vegetable offerings being found on the menus of restaurants across the city (see Freda’s, Gardels Bar, Chiswick, Balla). And these are some good pickles (even better that they’re free)! Served with grissini and a Spiced Apple Pie Cocktail, we enjoy them as we ponder the menu and wait for our party to arrive. I notice, at Food Society, there is just so much to see. The menus, which are full of vegetarian items to tempt the tastebuds, the decor, homely and vintage with a slight garage sale feel, the patrons, a mix of East Sydney-siders with those that have travelled further afar to be here, and best of all, as always, the food.
Even with four people to help me order, and eat the vege-friendly options, we simply can’t cover them all off. Asparagus, onion and feta pierogi is a good start, and even better is Fried cauliflower with paprika, parsley, watercress and red wine vinegar, which we have been advised by Sonia will “change your life”. No self-respecting food lover could bypass Cucumber Salad, one of life’s simple pleasures, and Potato salad with dill pickles and egg manages to scrape in on the list, despite my penchant for egg-free fare.
Somewhere in the process of ordering Sonia has plonked herself down at the seat beside us and proceeds to answer all of my probing questions about the business, menu and catering side of things. She is the perfect host in every way, charming, knowledgeable and most off all has that Eastern European edge to her which dares you to love every minute of it, have another drink and settle into the night, just my kind of gal. The next minute, I am staring into a port glass and inhaling Advocaat and Burnt Caramel Vodka in the way of a Crème Caramel, the new shot they are sampling on the menu. For somebody who is fairly adverse to dairy (physically), it has everything good about a Crème Caramel, the intoxicating aroma, slippery sweetness and blissful aftertaste, but without the sickening, stomach wrenching feeling you get from drinking beverages meant for baby cows.
Lastly, Zucchini stuffed with ricotta, olive and lemon with rocket and tomato tips us over the edge and makes us breathe deeply and loosen the buttons while sipping on Ata Rangi’s Crimson, a pinot noir we had tried in Martinborough the week prior and loved just as much the second time around.
A photographic tour around the place allows me to explore the nooks and crannies, filled with olive jars, antique bottles and a small patch of grass in the kitchen, which I forgot to ask about. We allow Sonia to talk us into dessert, Walnut Soufflé with walnut ice cream and chocolate sauce, and Chocolate ganache with a chocolate mousse, white chocolate ice cream and coated in bitter tuile, both of which are truly worth the consequences of overindulgence. No Yugoslav feast could ever be complete without Slivovitz, and a Zuta Osa (plum) reminds me of being in Croatia and having to block my nose to down the stuff, a memory well worth preserving, pun intended. It is especially delightful to be surrounded by great people, all in the spirit of it, soaking up the atmosphere and genuinely having a good time.
People often ask me where to dine, for dates, birthdays, casual gatherings, meetings with mother-in-laws, every occasion imaginable. Often, I’m stuck trying to think of somewhere accessible, affordable and that covers all the other bases (takes bookings, something for everyone, licensed, plenty of seating, great atmosphere, incredible food, talking pieces and conversation starters around the room, the list honestly goes on and on and on). Every time I’ve been asked the question lately, Food Society has been the first, and last, that ticks them all off. All I shall have to do now is find an excuse to go back…
91 Riley Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(02) 8090 3462