Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bowery Lane Spreads Warmth in Sydney CBD

Drawing from inspiration of industrial New York and the owner’s routes from Melbourne, Bowery Lane is a new dining establishment that has opened for a few months now in the Sydney CBD, in the heart of the Sydney’s business district where on a weekday, the streets are filled with professionals rushing around from meetings to meetings, with only time to catch their breath when their grumbling stomachs sends a signal that it is time to stop for lunch. Bowery Lane is located on 1 O’Connell Street in the Sydney CBD and for anyone who knows that part of the city would be familiar the street is dominated by slick looking commercial buildings and office blocks with the odd dining establishment here or there.

I had heard by word of mouth that Bowery Lane was a new establishment in the area offering a different, a rustic and more wholesome dining experience. So I tried Bowery Lane for dinner one weekday evening after work. I also had a chance to get to know Kaz Derbas, co-owner of Bowery Lane who was originally from Melbourne. Kaz told me a little bit about his story and how Bowery Lane was born.

The Space

What I think of a dining establishment usually happens well before I taste the food. When I first walked in Bowery Lane, you will fall in love with the industrial chic and rustic modern interiors. As you step into the establishment, you will notice the split levels. The lower area is dominated by the coffee machine which churns out the morning coffee for the city professional on the constant run. To soften the industrial lines, the back counter is decorated with plants, branches and bird-like nesting places, a clever design reflecting the establishment’s name, ‘bower’ as in the ‘bower bird’. For those who are in tune to nature, the bower bird is renowned for their unique courtship behaviour, where males build a structure and decorate it with sticks and brightly coloured objects in an attempt to attract a mate. The décor behind the lower counter is fitting for its name I thought. My curiosity on the establishment’s interior design certainly attracted my attention.

After spending a few seconds admiring what I just stepped into, a dapper looking man on top of the stairs warmly greeted me with a smile, as if he knew who I was and was expecting me. It was Kaz Derbas, co-owner of Bowery Lane. There was an immediate sense of comfort in this establishment. Kaz showed me to my table. The dining tables are located on the upper floor in the open area that is split into two sections: the charming and cosy booths probably designed to seat 2 people comfortably (ideal for romantic dates) and the remaining dining area for larger groups seeking to catchup around the table for some banter and good laughs. The dining area is lit by faint stains of light from bare bulbs against exposed concrete walls giving the modern interiors an industrial feel with a touch of romantic class.

Given the location of Bowery Lane, it is not surprising that the establishment is filled with professional people in suits, with their jackets off, who had also finished worked for the day and were just chilling out with friends.

About the Owner

I’ve always believed the soul of the establishment doesn’t just reside with the food that you are served. An establishment is as much about and defined by the people behind establishment as it is about the food.

Kaz Derbas, one of the co-owners of Bowery Lane, tells me he has only been in Sydney for about 7 years. You might remember Kaz Derbas’ name being associated with establishments like Vesta Italian in Darling Quarter, Hugos Manly, and Janus, the core person behind the menus and the goodness produced at these establishments.

On reminiscing his boyhood days with Middle Eastern and South American heritage growing up in Coburg in Melbourne, a keen sportsman in athletics, and the son of father who would give his loved ones the biggest hugs and kisses that would scare off Kaz’s nieces and nephews, Kaz told me his love for food had its origins from helping his family’s dining establishment after school where he learnt to make pizzas and Italian food and where meal times involve food being shared around the table.

“There is a sense of warmth and connection with people when food is shared around the table”, Kaz told me and this is where the idea of the shared plates on the Bowery Lane menu came from.

Having once been involved in a family business in Melbourne, he decided on a big move to Sydney for a change.

Not surprisingly, we ended up discussing (debating) the ‘Melbourne versus Sydney’ food scene and dining experience. Melbourne feels more “warm, eclectic and European” Kaz says. Although I’m Sydney born and bred, I’ve just returned from a visit to Melbourne, and dare I say it, I’m with Kaz on that one. Sydney could do with more high quality brunch places. It’s slowly getting there. But what Melbourne doesn’t offer so much, like the beaches and the outdoor life, Sydney makes up for with its beautiful harbour and seaside pockets.

Bowery Lane was born after and inspired by a trip to New York. Named after 'The Bowery' which was the oldest thoroughfare on Manhattan Island. When the Dutch settled Manhattan Island, they named the path ‘Bouwerij’ road, the word being an old Dutch word for 'farm' because it connected farmlands and estates on the outskirts to the heart of the city in today’s Wall Street and Battery Park area. This reflects the establishment’s food that is crafted from farm-fresh local and seasonal ingredients. It could also be a metaphor for bringing a bit of Melbourne’s rustic warmth to Sydney.

With 12 chefs in the Bowery Lane kitchen and in operation for only two months, “we need more space”, Kaz says, a sure and promising sign that this little establishment is becoming a huge success with Sydney siders.

When I asked Kaz, who is on a constant look out for inspiration too after also just returned from Melbourne ‘café hopping’, the best advice he would give after being in the food industry over the years, he replied, “Follow your heart” and do what feels right.

The Bar

The bar was my favourite area of the establishment. The back wall display pops with colour from the wine and spirit bottles that were neatly lined up against the neon industrial lighting. There was a sense of masculinity and certainty in this space that assured me (or certainly left that impression) that I would be served some of the finest cocktails in Sydney. The bartender served me a fine ‘Mai Tai’. He explains to me it’s a Hawaiian cocktail that featured prominently in America in the 1950s and 1960s. You may remember Elvis and Blue Hawaii?


What We Ordered

Normally how I order my dishes for dinner is I work backwards. I start with looking at the dessert menu and see what can fit around that. So once I had my eyes on dessert, we ordered the mains. Dessert, we didn’t really ‘choose’ as Kaz suggested we have to try the Strawberry Shortcake and the Jar of Cookies and Cream. I will have my eye on the Ice Cream Sandwich on my second visit.

For mains we decided to go with the Yamba Prawn Sliders ($16) and the shared plate of Pork Collar and scratchings with apple parsley and fennel salad and spiced pear chutney ($46) with a side dish of Baby Cos of peas, bean and mint ($9). The servings are large and more than enough food for two people. All of it was wholesome, fresh and delicious ensuring by the end of the meal I was happily rolling out.


Desserts at Bowery Lane are irresistible and not to be missed. We had the Jar of Cookies and Cream with honeycomb, vanilla and dark chocolate ($13) and the Strawberry Shortcake with vanilla bean ice cream and macerated berries ($13).

As I leave Kaz says "please come back anytime. My home is your home".

I like the spirit, style and warmth at Bowery Lane and all of the food served. Despite my sweet spot for desserts, the shared plates is the name of the game here.  

Bowery Lane is a high quality establishment, providing a pleasurable dining experience. It has the big thumbs up for me. I can’t wait to go back.

Bowery Lane
1 O’Connell St, Sydney
Mon-Wed: 7am - 10pm
Thur-Fri: 7am – Late
Sat: 5pm - Late02 9252 8017

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