Picture this: a veteran of Sydney’s boutique hospitality scene wants to work for himself; travel throughout the USA has got the creative juices flowing; his 14-year-old daughter loves to watch Riverdale; and a northern beaches village is crying out for an injection of excitement. Enter Sunset Diner with all the colours and flavours of 50’s America.
Established for just over 12 months, Sunset Diner is the brainchild of Avalon local and Executive Chef Ben Varela. Having worked for various hotel groups and venues such as The Woollahra, The Paddington, Four In Hand and The Collaroy, the time was right to open a venue in his own neighbourhood. It’s been an incredible success; attracting couples, families and groups of all ages from all over Sydney to the fabulous pink and peach interior.
“The mix of people is really interesting - we have local families really supporting us, people from the city renting homes on the beaches, overseas tourists, parties of every demographic, teens hanging out, dogs in the courtyard - it’s such a great, community feel”, comments Varela. The Instagram community is loving it too, finding it impossible to resist the bright colours, neon signs and fresh Miami vibe.
The people wouldn’t come unless the food really delivered and the diner has certainly nailed a delicious burger. Salty’s pick is the Chicken Katsu with crumbed chicken, sesame kewpie mayo, pickled ginger, Japanese BBQ sauce and cucumber pickle. Delivery is a big part of the business, not only in product and service but literally, having just signed up to Uber Eats. Long-time colleague Lloyd Canney works alongside Varela in the kitchen and, careful not to be pigeonholed as a burger joint, the salads are equally as popular. Choose from the Vitality, Havana or Sencha with crispy chicken, poached chicken, crumbed mushroom, Tempura broccoli (gets our vote) or Barramundi. Of course, the bar complements the menu with a great selection of wines, beers and cocktails.
The Sunset is a happy place where the chairs are pink, the shakes come with cream and a cherry on top and the sundaes are an indulgent OTT affair. Varela muses, “when the kids of Avalon think back to their childhood, they’ll remember hanging out here and all the great memories associated with that”. This winning recipe is one of several, Varela hopes, with plans to expand the concept.
This local mother of a teenage son is certainly keen to see more. Last I heard, my son was hanging out with a bunch of his mates eating Tempura broccoli in the Diner’s leafy courtyard. Now that’s a talking point.