Looking for ways to support women? These fabulous Sydney bars and restaurants are run by women.
In an industry often thought of as being male-dominated, there are a strong assembly of hustling, smart and innovative women driving Sydney’s food and bar culture. From creative ideas to delectable experimental dinners and cocktails to die for, women have their finger on Sydney’s hospitality pulse.
Shop 1/515 Crown Street, Surry Hills
The new, Tuscan-inspired, pocket-sized restaurant, ‘Giuls’, is run by Giulia Treuner, managed by Esmeralda Perez (ex-head chef of Carbon Mexican Woodfire in Bondi) and mostly staffed by women.
Both women leveraged their deep experience in hospitality to create their gem. This modern Italian eatery was inspired by the neighbourhood restaurants that populate Italian streets. With accents of red, green and white, it encapsulates the Italian vibe remarkably well. The floor-to-ceiling windows, umbrellas and al fresco dining make it a perfect place to enjoy a meal and catch the sun at the same time.
The opening of Giuls largely celebrates the relationship women. Treuner recalls that she had pitched the idea to Perez, and within only a matter of hours, the two had formed a business. Giuls was developed in the middle of lockdown, which meant that Treuner faced stressful hardships like no other. However, through collaboration and partnership with female hospitality entrepreneurs, she managed to create one of Surry Hills’ finest Italian venues. Though she is originally from Germany, Treuner highlights that her unmatched love for pasta is what motivated her to establish a business of her own.
Both Treuner and Perez are mothers too – with Perez only recently being a new mum, alongside her wife. Perez was born in Italy, so it’s safe to say she knows good pasta through and through. These women clearly take on many roles – as mothers, restaurant owners, workers and inspirations to women in hospitality. They emphasise that the only way to succeed is to support other women and to follow your dreams regardless of what anyone says.
Giuls promotes a simple menu featuring fresh pasta made on the premises. The squid-ink fettuccine pasta, complemented with a creamy vodka sauce is a local favourite, as is the kingfish crudo and creamy burrata before the main meals.
58 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
Out late at night? Head to Nicole Galloway’s CBD basement bar and taqueria, Barrio Cellar. Galloway’s knowledge about food is incredibly extensive, having travelled through different regions of Mexico, working with like-minded chefs, restauranteurs and producers. She claims that her goal for Barrio Cellar was to create a menu that celebrates the seriously flavourful and visual delights of Mexico.
The interior, designed by Luchetti Krelle – also co-run by female artist, Rachel Luchetti – features wide booths, communal tables and a dazzling bar. Its atmosphere emulates a hard-to-resist, cool vibe with the inside modelling the authentic industrial Latin America. Crowd favourites include the camaron quesadilla, barrio cob, tostadas and fried chicky.
Galloway, along with her partner Peter Lew, also have two existing establishments – ‘Fei Jai’ (a traditional Cantonese Chinese eatery) and ‘Chula’ (a modern Mexican restaurant. It’s name means ‘pretty’ and ‘hot’ in Mexican slang) – which are also worth visiting.
10/33 Barangaroo Avenue / 2A/265A Crown Street, Surry Hills
Zushi is co-owned and managed by Serena Ang. It presents a modern and easy take on the Japanese Izakaya-style way of eating. Ang emphasises the importance of offering only the highest quality of food – sourcing vegetables and organic meat, sustainably. Also, 90% of the menu is gluten-free. The architecture of the venue was designed by Koichi Takada Architects which brings Japanese sensibility to Australian designs.
Ang, in tandem with her brother, Raymond, possesses decades of hospitality experience. They also have a catering business of their own. Ang alone has over 17 years of experience working in bars, restaurants and nightclubs, so it’s obvious that she knows the nitty-gritty of hospitality.
Zushi is situated along the waters amongst the line of restaurants at Barangaroo. The best time to dine at Zushi is definitely at golden hour. Raymond says that he intentionally wanted a waterfront bar so that people can enjoy a nice, calming glass of beer after work, as the sun goes down. The top picks include the sashimi, wagyu roll and rainbow roll. There is also a second branch at Surry Hills.
7/23 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
love.fish perfectly embodies its food ethos and statement – ‘a fish bar with a green heart’, sourcing sustainable and scrumptious seafood. Michelle Grand-Milkovic, in partnership with her husband, Michael Milkovic, aspires to showcase the finest local and seasonal jewels from Australian waters.
Naturally, the best selections from the menu include locally-sourced, fresh oysters, fish and crustaceans. The duo also say that they want their kids to have the choice of high-quality and ethically-sourced seafood when they’re 40, so ensuring that love.fish’s food ethos aligns with their sustainability ethos.
The co-owners mention that they’ve always wanted a place at Barangaroo, to provide their customers with a unique experience at the waterfront.
Bloodwood Restaurant & Bar
416 King Street, Newtown
This modern bistro was founded in 2010 by Claire Van Vuuren, a high-regarded woman in the restaurant industry. As chef and owner of Bloodwood, she juggles the roles very skilfully.
Van Vuuren’s journey with food actually did not begin with food, but rather a paintbrush. After Van Vuuren graduated with her Fine Arts degree, she jetted off to Europe for a long period of time. On this trip, she realised that hospitality was not just a side-gig or a way to pay the bills – it was her destiny.
From there, she began an apprenticeship and never looked back. She was 25 at the time she changed her career. Despite being older than most of her colleagues, she felt that this made her wiser and more determined to constantly hone her culinary skills, especially in a male-driven industry.
Van Vuuren is a massive supporter of women in hospitality, having founded the organisation, ‘Women in Hospitality’. This organisation supports and mentors females in the restaurant industry. It helps them to not just stay, but progress as far as they can, alongside a community of like-minded women.
Not to mention, she is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and continues to support the arts industry.
Bloodwood strives to provide bold and heartfelt food paired with naturally-made wines. It’s a narrow, industrial yet very eccentric place, scattered with slightly bizarre and recycled objects. The menu consists of shared plates, including polenta chips, kingfish crudo and roasted pumpkin.
Van Vuuren lives by the philosophy, that women should support women – that no one has to be alone, to be the best.
2/4 College Street, Sydney
Business owner, Heaven Leigh, is a third-generation restauranteur who runs ‘Bodhi Restaurant’. Bodhi has come to be Australia’s longest-established pan-Asian vegan restaurant.
Leigh is a first-generation Australian, having lived in South-East Asia most of her life and worked in modern Asian restaurants in Hong Kong, as well as Australia and the UK.
Her mother, Lee-Leng Whong founded the original Bodhi concept in 1988, as the first vegan yum cha restaurant in Australia. Leigh says that her mother had a ‘spiritual epiphany when she met a Taoist monk. Her mother had never heard of vegan or vegetarian food, and neither did Sydney at the time. Leigh was about 11 or 12 when her mother decided to establish a vegan restaurant so that she had a place to eat at every day.
Leigh, being a mixed-race, female restauranteur found it difficult to navigate the hospitality world. Despite that, she climbed up the ladder by working very hard, being bold and being culturally sensitive.
not just in the hospitality industry, but in the Asian community as well, she found that one of the primary cultural understandings is to respect men and your elders. Nonetheless, she remained humble and willing to learn, particularly from the strong women in her own family.
Like many of the female entrepreneurs mentioned, she foregrounds the importance of working collaboratively with other women to succeed.
Bodhi’s menu highlights include grilled pumpkin curry with crisp kale, faux meat sliders and faux Peking duck pancakes, made by the most competent female chefs. In fact, Bodhi had Australia’s first female Head Yum Cha Chef which was previously unheard of.
As well as being a chef and business owner, she is a mother of two and enjoys journaling, yoga and meditation.
403 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Bad Mama offers an Art Gallery-esque, atmospheric drinking and dining experience. It pans out over three floors with impressive bars, food and live music. Gemma Lin established Bad Mama, which reflects the colourful nightlife and food of her homes in Taiwan – specifically Yehliu, a rustic, fishing village in Taiwan – and Japan. She’s won global awards for the restaurant’s innovative and environmentally-conscious design. She works beside her husband, Adam Hunt is also the co-artistic conspirator of Bad Mamas – but he often likes to remain in the shadows and let Gemma Lin shine.
Bad Mama’s specialised dishes include crispy duck pancakes, pork belly steak and cumin-spiced lamb dumplings, which terrifically accompany the Japanese cocktails.