Diner eyes will be fixed on North Sydney this Thursday, September 29 with the opening of RAFI, a 300-seat restaurant and bar where the design brief was to have fun and the restaurant’s culinary chief Patrick Friesen co-produced the menu.

RAFI’s executive head chef, Matias Cilloniz, only touched down in Sydney last week, arriving from Central restaurant in Peru, which nabbed second spot at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards. “We had to work on dishes together via Zoom,” says Friesen (a onetime head chef Queen Chow Manly).

The first thing you notice is there are nine vegetable dishes on RAFI’s opening menu, with head-turning marriages of eggplant with organic honey, asparagus, pea and pistachio, and wild green and cheese pie with tomato chilli jam.

Executive head chef Matias Cilloniz recently landed from Central restaurant in Peru.
Executive head chef Matias Cilloniz recently landed from Central restaurant in Peru. Photo: Steven Woodburn

“People put a steak on the grill and think it’s a dish,” Friesen says. He’s taken stock of the way he entertains at home: a big portion of protein in the middle and lots of greens around it. At RAFI you can pair whole market fish of the day, wagyu sirloin or Glacier 51 Toothfish skewers with vegetable dishes. There is also an impressive raw section with oysters, scallops and tuna.

RAFI is the latest venue from Applejack, the group behind Bopp & Tone in the city and The Butler at Potts Point. It takes its name from the first initials of the children of Applejack owners Ben Carroll and Hamish Watts.

“The food in Peru is next level at the moment, but we’re in no way a Peruvian restaurant,” co-owner Ben Carroll says of Cilloniz’s involvement.

As pioneers of a mantra Carroll describes as “look bar, act restaurant” RAFI shares the group’s love of foliage. “Hamish has a green thumb,” Carroll says. 

“We gave Luchetti Krelle free rein to have a lot of fun with the space,” he says. And the design outfit met the brief with a colour palette that jumps from mustard orange to blue and burgundy.

“RAFI has a massive outdoor area,” Carroll says.

Open Mon to Sat lunch and dinner.

99 Mount Street, North Sydney, 02 8376 2900, rafisydney.com.au