The Shire’s Dining Scene Is Getting Some Fresh Meat (and Veg Restaurants)

Shire restaurants

Bec Fanning and her partner Tristan Rosier saw a gap in the market in the Sutherland Shire, where they live, for a new eatery. Their friends and family who also live in the area constantly headed up to Sydney restaurants because they wanted different food from what was available.

“A lot of legacy operators in The Shire, but it’s not seen any new blood in quite some time,” says Fanning. “These locals we talked to were interested in the types of restaurants that continuously pop up in Sydney and surrounds.”

Fanning and Rosier picked Shire suburb Gymea for their latest project, a restaurant called Fior, set to open in April. The couple already owned Jane and Arthur in Sydney’s Surry Hills, but decided this third venue made sense in Gymea, being not far from where they live. Head chef Will Lawson will serve an Australian riff on Italian, using all Australian or local produce.

Bobby’s is another new venue in the area, opened on Cronulla late last year. Shire locals also own the Mediterranean restaurant. Adam and Kylie Micola say knowing the area intimately made choosing it as the location for Bobby’s an easy decision.

“Residents of The Shire have always had to travel to sample something new or exciting, and fortunately, a new wave of restauranteurs is identifying with the diverse target market here,” says Adam Micola.

Shire restaurants

Another restauranteur has also recently joined The Shire’s dining scene, though without a new build. Late last year,  Sydney Restaurant Group announced it had bought Summer Salt, a Cronulla institution for 18 years. The restaurant, which sits above the sand dunes of Elouera Beach, was visited by Prince Harry on a Sydney trip in 2015.

“Everything about this restaurant made it an instant decision for us to make it part of Sydney Restaurant Group,” says the group’s owner Bill Drakopoulos. “Its views are unsurpassed, its breezy feel and open-plan make diners feel as if they’re on vacation – and there’s always plenty of parking.”

Drakopoulos, who grew up in south Sydney and spent most of his life in the area, describes diners in The Shire as knowledgeable about good food. He believes their appetite for experiencing new restaurants has never been greater.

Fanning chalks up the Shire’s now more elevated dining scene to more Sydneysiders in their 30s moving to the area, whether that’s because of the rising cost of living or what The Shire’s lifestyle can offer them as opposed to city life.

“It’s much slower paced than the city, and it’s such a nice reprieve when you’re able to switch off from your job to feel like you’re not in the thick of it,” says Fanning.

Shire restaurants
Image: Tristan Rosier and Will Lawson

“It’s like a changing of the guard. The Shire was once seen as a little bit too far, but now we think of it as easily connected. Operators are seeing it as a great market to get into, considering it’s not that far from where they normally look for spaces.”

Social media has also played a role in The Shire’s changing restaurant scene. Fanning says the content of new restaurant opening all around Sydney is shown to The Shire locals, which prompts them to wonder why that isn’t the case in their area.

“They’re becoming quite vocal, and there aren’t many people who wouldn’t know someone who has moved to The Shire for whatever reason and is on the hunt for new places to visit,” she says.

New developments are planned in Cronulla and Woolooware, both with large supermarkets in their precincts – a telling prediction, says Fanning. “Those kinds of brands don’t just go into a market if they don’t see growth.”

She predicts more Sydney food and drink operators will branch out and head to the Shire when they realise there’s a demand for new spots in the area. Adam Micola goes as far as saying, he thinks, in five years, you won’t recognise the area. The upcoming developments will help to put it on the map as an Australian food and drink destination.

“I strongly believe The Shire is on the cusp of a serious renaissance,” Micola says.

Related: 6 Foodie Experiences Not to Miss on the Far South Coast

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