Up From Down Under: Australian and New Zealand Openings in NYC

New Zealand and Australia might be considered afterthoughts among New York bars and restaurants, but a new wave of Trans-Tasman spots is primed to change that. Open now are The Musket Room and Hawker Bar (pictured), with the latter spinning off Burke & Wills and the Manhattan Cricket Club later this summer.

Hawker Bar is a successor to The Sunburnt Cow empire, which is fading out of New York City. Prospect Heights’ former Sunburnt Calf location now hosts a restaurant inspired by the small-scale stands of Southeast Asia. Skewers, clay pots, and an outdoor charcoal grill highlight the techniques. The menu globetrots from Singapore to Thailand to Vietnam, touching down for caramel chicken, snails in black bean sauce, and chicken hearts with sake and mirin. The cocktail menu covers similar territory, with Thai basil, five-spice, and lemongrass for accents. Kung fu flicks add atmosphere inside, while the sweet back garden benefits from paper lanterns and hanging herbs. Happy hour is a good time to get an introduction, with cocktails going two-for-one and skewers at only $2 a pop.

The Hawker Bar crew is also inheriting the Upper West Side location of the Sunburnt Calf, which will become Burke & Wills next month. The restaurant is named for British adventurers who died crossing Australia. The interior nods to the explorers’ journals, with wildlife and outback scenes upping the transporting feel. The kitchen showcases modern Australia, with a raw bar, a rotisserie, and a mix of small and large plates. Global accents dot the menu: stuffed lamb leg with Greek “chimichurri,” scallop ceviche, and black kale salad with fava, pumpkin seeds, and tahini. The glass-roofed dining room in back carries over from the previous incarnation, with the bar up front stocking classic cocktails and wines from the Southern Hemisphere.

A staircase up from Burke & Wills will be an exclusive cocktail spot in a neighborhood decidedly short on them. The Manhattan Cricket Club takes historic Anglo-Australian sporting societies as a starting point, then moves quickly into contemporary territory. A library front room will be decked out with mirrors and mahogany, with a swank back bar for classic cocktailing. Live jazz vocalists will make for better Upper West Side date nights.

Down in Nolita, The Musket Room also keeps with national heritage, taking its name from the Maori battles of the 19th century. The Elizabeth Street spot joins Kiwiana and not much else as New York ambassadors of New Zealand cuisine. Chef/owner Matt Lambert hails from Auckland, and his kitchen covers his country’s culinary history from Asian and Old World influences up to today’s locavoriciousness. Think corned Wagyu tongue with almond, black lime, and chocolate, or venison seasoned by gin, fennel, and licorice. The space is elegant in an understated way, with distressed wood and brick, and the wine list relies on New Zealand vintages. Anything less would be unpatriotic.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for The Musket RoomHawker Bar, Burke & Willis, Manhattan Cricket Club, The Sunburnt Cow, Kiwiana; More by Ethan Wolff; Buy Ethan’s Book; Follow Ethan on Twitter]

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