Good news: you don’t have to be a guest at Surry Hills’ hotly anticipated Ace Hotel Sydney to enjoy its medley of bars and restaurants – they want us all to come and hang out in their common areas (bring your laptop and settle in). More good news: Loam, the first restaurant to open in the Ace’s Sydney compound, has thrown open its doors, welcoming its first diners and offering a glimpse of the hotel group’s first venue in the southern hemisphere.

Since its 1999 inception in Belltown, Seattle, the Ace brand has become so hip it sometimes hurts. (Who could forget the Portlandia episode where each guest is given a complimentary turntable upon check in at the “Deuce Hotel”?) But the group is sincere in its commitment to capturing the essence of each hotel’s location to create inclusive, community-driven hubs where people connect over the best things in life: art, culture, music, food and wine.

The 257-room hotel is in the old Tyne House on Surry Hills’ Wentworth Avenue. It was designed in partnership with Flack Studios and draws from the neighbourhood’s colourful past. Ceramicist James Lemon’s multicoloured stone concierge desk makes for a playful welcome, while also referencing the building’s historical significance – it’s on the site of one of Australia’s earliest ceramic kilns, where convict potter Jonathan Leak began making tiles, bricks and pipes in the 1820s. (Kiln, the hotel’s Mitch Orr-led rooftop restaurant, will soon open.) There are nods to the razor-wielding gangs that ruled Surry Hills in the Prohibition era, and the sunken space in the lobby bar – with orange-carpet upholstered lounges – recalls the mid-century interiors of Australian homes in the 1960s. It might just be the best room in town.

Anchoring it all is Loam, a sister to the restaurant at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles. The name is a reference to the nutrient-rich soil that lies deep in the ground.

“If you dig lower than dirt, you reach loam,” Ace Hotel Group’s vice president of food and beverage, Susan Buckley, tells Broadsheet. “And that’s where everything sprouts.”

The 65-seat restaurant is a low-lit space, framed by soft leather banquettes, with natural light filtering through a skylight in the centre of a wooden ceiling. A large mosaic by legendary Australian ceramicist Glenn Barkley runs down the centre wall. It’s an earthy space – soft and inviting (no turntables as far as we can see).

“Hospitality is all about generosity,” Buckley says. “We want Loam to be a true neighbourhood spot where everyone is welcome to gather and be together.”

Loam has opened with a dinner menu, and will launch breakfast and lunch in the coming weeks. The menu has been created by Ace Sydney executive chef Heidi Flanagan, and she’s “spinning things on their head a bit”, Buckley says.

While the menu does include sustainable meat and fish, it’s plant-forward and driven by produce from independent farmers and producers. The tonkatsu portobello burger is a grand construction with a crunch from fried portobello mushroom, crisp slaw and battered onion rings. Daily market fish is grilled until its skin is crisp, and served with a brown butter and warrigal greens. Western Australian octopus is charred in a Moroccan spice until the tentacles are black, and served with smoky eggplant and dried olive. The wine list, by Mike Bennie of P&V Wine & Liquor Merchants, maintains the approach he’s known for: preferencing an evolving list of small Australian producers.

Buckley says she’s loved seeing how bustling the restaurants in the neighbourhood have been during her time in Sydney. “Every coffeehouse and breakfast establishment is full of people gathering, sharing and connecting.

“When I walk around Sydney I see how important breakfast is in this town. That’s a big LA thing, too – the connection over breakfast. That’s why we are focusing on a great breakfast program at Loam, to draw people in to gather and have a place for the local community.”

The breakfast menu will feature a riff on that Sydney staple, smashed avo. Flanagan has given the dish a Loam-over with avocado crushed on house-made almond flatbread. There’s also a verdant chia and sorrel pudding with toasted coconut and mango, and muesli served with a house-made coconut yoghurt and oat milk. For the umami-lovers, the veggie-filled magic morning bowl has organic red rice and comes with a side broth of dashi served tableside. A house rye waffle is served two ways: sweet with mascarpone, passionfruit curd and grilled bananas, or savoury with vodka and beetroot-cured salmon, a light crème fraîche, and radish and trout caviar. Mecca coffee and teas by Tea Craft offer homegrown pleasures.

“We’re not trying to bring LA to Sydney,” Buckley says. “We want this Loam to take root and grow in its own unique way. Philosophically, the name is rooted in the simple idea that sharing a good meal is a great way to sprout new friendships and can help fuel new ideas and grow community.”

Loam
47/53 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills
(02) 8099 8799

Hours:
Daily 5.30pm–10pm

acehotel.com
@loamsurryhills