Many of us have always flocked to the trusty streets of the Inner West or Cabramatta for epic pho and banh mi. Now, there’s a new kid on the block turning things up in Sydney’s city – and it's perfect for post-work Vietnamese feeds or a couple of cheeky cocktails on a Friday night.
Like many good things in Sydney, Hello Auntie originally set up shop in the foodie and brew mecca of Marrickville. Four years on and head chef slash owner Cuong Nguyen has done us all a solid and expanded his brand of Vietnamese feasting to the new bustling precinct of Darling Square. She’s one of Sydney’s new mega precincts and houses almost 30 fresh venues (which you should start exploring, stat).
Around the grounds, you’ll find a sling of neon lights, Tokyo-inspired concept stores, tea houses, K-Beauty boutiques and tattoo parlours but for a different take on the classic banh xeo, dog-friendly vibes and an ever-so-secret drink menu that glows in the dark (only available upon request), make your way to Hello Auntie.
Compared to its sister venue, Hello Auntie 2.0 preaches a more bar-heavy vibe. Bringing a new-school vision of Vietnamese eats to the Haymarket hotspot, this beauty is not a copy and paste version of its Inner West original. Instead, you’ll find a sleeker look, that features a monochrome colour palette, mood lighting and wooden accents as dining tables pour out onto the footpath. All this makes for one hell of a place to shack up for a casual and cool date night or late-night cocktails.
While Nguyen is already well-known for his experimental approach to Vietnamese feasts (a style he’s nailed after years preparing European and Mediterranean food), the feeds he’s whipping up at Hello Auntie 2.0 are next level. Your hot tip here is that everything's meant to be shared and you’re going to be encouraged to step outside your taste comfort zone.
Here, the menu is purposely smaller than the Marrickville store, so Nguyen can focus on developing a range of dishes with new and exciting flavour profiles and concepts (and that means an ever-changing menu). Lunch means a hefty focus on classic dishes of hearty proportions, while dinner is all about experimentation and that includes the aforementioned mysterious “secret food and cocktail menu” which you’ll need a UV light to read and it’s only available upon request.
The best things you could treat your tastebuds to are dishes like the beef tartare with chives, shallots, capers, cornichon and sesame, as well as the egg noodles with shimeji, shitake, stracciatella, truffle and pistachio. If you’d rather go a more traditional way, then hit classics like the crispy banh xeo or the prawn and scallop spinach fried rice with X.O sauce, cured egg yolk and tobiko.
Plus, if you’re looking for a joint that shares the love for bigger groups, Hello Auntie also plates up an insane banquet (which only needs a minimum of four people to order).
One of the main features of this new store is its focus on drinks; there’s the option of sake pairing where Nguyen has hand-picked each sake according to the flavours of specific dishes. There’s also an impressive list of cocktails infused with Asian aromatics like the “Umeshu Sour” with vodka, peach, Cointreau, pineapple and toasted marshmallows, and the “Koh Samui” with Pandan, Bacardi white rum, Thai basil gome, and lime.
And good news, the crew here also whips up an epic Happy Hour worth getting around weekly. It kicks off at 6pm every day (including weekends) and means you’re in for $10 cocktails, $10 wines by the glass and $7 spirits. If you’re here with a group, then we suggest you go hard on the carafes. There’s a bubbly cold-press cucumber concoction to get into and a gin-filled combo loaded with rose tea, soju and orange.
Want to know what else is around Darling Square? Head right here.
Image credit: Hello Auntie