First Look: Chippendale’s Culinary Revolution Continues With the Opening of Saint George.
The all-day restaurant and wine bar has an ex-Becasse fine-diner chef and 70 wines to keep you busy.
Saint George is positioned between gritty Railway Square and the thriving Kensington Street precinct on a corner that, until recently, was a convenience store dispensing energy drinks and snacks. Helmed by a chef with Michelin-star credentials, James Metcalfe, Saint George is similarly hoping to provide sustenance for those in need.
“Coffee and booze for the working class” is printed on one of its giant windows overlooking busy George Street. And while caffeine, wines and cocktails are part of the stylish room’s inevitable draw, it’s what’s coming from the kitchen that we’re most excited about.
Metcalfe was once head chef of Becasse, the celebrated but now-closed CBD fine diner, and Paddington’s The Bellevue. His consultancy and recruitment firm JRM Hospitality was approached by the upstairs +U shared workspace to run the all-day venue.
Among the morning headliners is a smoked Wagyu-brisket hash served with fried eggs and a house-made chilli ketchup, and the Omelette Arnold Bennett, a transcendent mix of eggs, smoked haddock and cheese sauce named after the author who regularly ordered it at London’s Savoy Hotel.
While the menu hints at Metcalfe’s British background – his resume also includes stints in multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in London – the chef insists the cafe-cum-wine bar belies that definition.
“We don’t want to be labelled British,” he told Broadsheet. “There are things on the menu that skew slightly that way because they’re things I’ve always done, but the foundation of the menu is seasonal, local and produce-driven food.”
For lunch, Saint George has sandwiches for those wanting a more grab-and-go snack including the classic New Orleans muffaletta, which Metcalf insists isn’t an incitement of war with nearby A1 Canteen. “Ours is nowhere near as pretty,” he says.
There are also salads and for those sitting in, a steak and chips that elevates Saint George from cafe to restaurant status. Golden, crisp chips are served with a marble score four Ranger’s Valley rump cap and a house butter. “We want to do everything, even things that seem simple, to a high standard,” Metcalfe says. “We’re still doing a bacon and egg roll, for example, we’re just going to do the best bacon and egg roll possible. We want to apply that knowledge and passion to every dish and every drink.”
Dusk shifts the focus from the coffee machine to the cocktail shaker, with boozy concoctions featuring house-made infusions and reductions. The Dragon Slayer combines banana-infused Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey with salted caramel and bitters, and the Earl Grey Martini utilises a tea-infused Bombay Sapphire.
There’s also wine. “There are close to 70 bottles on the list,” says JRM general manager Ben Pearce, “with about 40 per cent from Australia and New Zealand.”
You can pair the drinks with a parade of shared dishes that highlight Metcalfe’s considerable skill. “We think of it as a wine bar with food rather than a restaurant with a drinks list,” says Metcalfe.
The challenges of converting the space from a convenience store into a stylish eatery fell to designer Christopher Grinham of H&E Architects (Chiswick in Woollahara and Barangaroo House). While the black tiles, brass highlights (including a subtle Saint George’s Cross set into a tiled wall) and white marble bar means the space transitions from a day to night venue easily, the original pressed tin ceiling demonstrates how under utilised it was.
The striking vintage hand slicer in the centre of the room dispenses a selection of premium charcuterie to order, including David Blackmore’s Wagyu bresaola, which Metcalfe calls “the best cured meat on the market”.
And the name? Metcalfe says it’s about his aspirations. “We want to be the saint of George Street.”
Published by Tristan Lutze | Photography by Amy Heycock
Saint George is slated to open October 24.
822 George Street, Chippendale
Mon to Sun 7am–10pm