Everybody loves Nigella Lawson. And Nigella? Well, she loves Australia, and has long been a frequent visitor. She has previously said she feels “gorgeously at home” here and dreams of spending three months a year down under. (She has been here since the beginning of May, so perhaps she’s making the dream a reality.)
As you’d expect, while she’s in Sydney, Nigella’s eating schedule is studded with the city’s greatest hits – Sean’s Bondi, Fratelli Paradiso, Bourke Street Bakery – as well as buzzy favourites such as Porkfat, Cafe Paci and Ragazzi. It’s inner city-heavy, yes, but that’s hardly surprising for a culinary celebrity staying in Potts Point.
Thanks to Nigella’s fastidious documenting of her dining destinations on social media, it’s easy to work out how she might eat for a day in Sydney – and that’s just what I did.
10am: Breakfast at Small’s Deli, Potts Point, $40.48
I start the day at Small’s Deli. My tightly planned eating schedule is nearly derailed by a banking mishap, and eating like Nigella can’t be done on a $0 budget – but my breakfast companion, Sally, saves the day.
I’m hoping to order the meatball sandwich. The owners, Emily van Loon and Ben Shemesh, tell me Nigella first ate it when she visited in 2022; this time around, she “literally came from the airport … straight to us, because she really wanted the meatballs again”.
“Luckily, we had them back on! We’d just put them back on the menu as a special,” Van Loon says. The meatballs stayed on the menu for three weeks longer than usual, too, as Nigella fans made their pilgrimages.
Unluckily for me, I’ve missed them by just three or four days, so instead we order the porchetta with caraway-roasted apples, radicchio and tarragon sauce on a panini. It’s no meatball sandwich, but it’s saucy and maximalist in a way I think Nigella would have gravitated towards. The sandwich is a festival of textures – melting pork fat and yielding meat with caramel-gold edges, squishy cooked fruit, crunchy-yet-tender leaves, and the robust, crusty panini holding it all together.
The flavours are surprising in their contrasts: the apples are assertive in their sweetness, the sauce is herbaceous and grassy – even a little medicinal thanks to tarragon’s anise edge combined with the caraway and gently bitter radicchio. But it works wonderfully.
Noon: Lunch at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Bondi, $172 (drinks not included)
On Instagram, Nigella wrote, “Are you even in Sydney if you don’t go to @icebergsdiningroomandbar?” Despite living in Sydney all my life, it’s my first time eating at this Bondi institution for beautiful people. I think this may be because – while the food is delicious and looks very sexy – Icebergs occupies that juncture of “modern Australian dining” which mostly just means “Italian”, and I don’t really need to go to Bondi for that.
Still, the view is as stunning as you’d expect. They’ve seated me and my lunch friend, Rio, at a table next to the glass doors of the balcony. (One of the staff, Ben, tells me Nigella was given a similar spot.) Even before we sit down, the Icebergs team is already across my order – it’s Nigella’s exact order – so all we have to do is sit back and drink in the sunlight.
First up are beef tartare and gamberetti. The tartare is mixed tableside, which is fun and theatrical, and comes with a near-dangerously crisp rye cracker that is glossy and blistered. The gamberetti, or school prawns, with crunchy fried shells is another masterclass in texture. Rio and I discuss whether the aioli is sufficiently garlicky to distinguish it from mayonnaise.
Next is maccheroncini with kangaroo ragu and beer-battered dory and chips. The battered fish is like one gigantic nugget of gold, jewelled with sparkling flaky salt, while the chips (skins on) are deeply satisfying and flavoursome – remarkably so for fried potato.
But Rio and I agree the ragu is the star of the meal – subtly spicy, rich yet not overly so, with pasta as al dente as it comes. It comes dusted with a potent forest-green herb powder, which I am told is kale, spigarello and sage.