Automata | Clayton Wells | Restaurant | Natural wine | Old Clare Hotel | Sydney Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Automata HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
Open: Lunch Sun, dinner Wed - Sat
Price: Moderate

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +61 2 8277 8555
Address: Old Clare Hotel, 5 Kensington St
Chippendale, New South Wales, 2008
Country: Australia

Automata is a sleek yet charming restaurant in inner Sydney serving absolutely delicious food overseen by talented chef Clayton Wells.
Clayton has assembled talented staff for both the kitchen and the front-of-house. While Clayton and his team turn out the beautiful food, the dining room is supervised by the charming Abby Meinke who most recently served us at one of our favourite Sydney venues, Moon Park. At the third corner of the triangle is the gregarious Tim Watkins who has a freaky talent for unconventional drink and food matches. The wine list he oversees is very strong but he also might conjure up a rare sake or a very rare vermouth for a particular dish.
We have only eaten here four or five times, but on both occasions we were delighted with the food, the drinks and the service.
On our most recent visit two beautiful, small snacks were first sent out. A small wedge of cos lettuce brushed with oyster emulsion and sprinkled with chopped chives combined crunch, cream and visual appeal. Next to it on the plate a small bundle of enoki was wrapped in a thin slice of wagyu tongue that had been napped with a scrumptious miso cream.
Next came Tasmanian cherries given a savoury treatment with a gentle touch of fermentation, dehydrated mustard, mustard oil and onion cheeks. This was a clever and delicious dish and was perfect with a Panevino rosé. This Sardinian wine made by baker and winemaker Gianfranco Manca is one of our ‘go to’ wines when we see it on a wine list because it is very flexible and matches well with dishes based on vegetables and fermented flavours. The flavour leaps out of the glass due to the careful organic farming and the natural fermentation and low sulphur levels in the wine.
Next came a dish of kingfish bathed in yuzu and crème fraiche, then topped with thin slices of tart plum and caper skins. It looked almost too good to eat! The flavour combination was a winner.
And the next dish was an absolutely stunning mix of red, brown and green. The colours verged on unreal and there was a touch of unreality about the dish too. The red (now purple) cabbage is the 'steak' braised in sauerkraut juices and the meat (smoked venison) is the garnish. And the green is predominately parsley and anchovy. Brilliant.
Dessert was a pumpkin seed sorbet sitting over a mound of blackberries which, in turn, sat on a peach and sherry caramel. This provided a refreshing end to a very satisfying and exciting meal.
This is the type of food we seek out more and more these days. It relies on the intelligent use of interesting ingredients from the fruit and vegetable families with occasional forays into proteins, but often with the proteins playing a support role such as with the brilliant cabbage dish we were served on this occasion where the smoked venison was grated and presented as a garnish rather than the hero of the dish.


The editors of supply some of the wines to Automata through their wine importing business Living Wines.

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