Surry Hills is no stranger to venues with character and good food, and now it has Fauna to add to the mix – an Australian contemporary restaurant with a European twist. Located on Fitzroy Street in a stunning terrace house with three separate dining spaces, Fauna caters to all occasions, from a girl’s night out; a special get-together with family or friends; to date night. 

As we enter Fauna, the first thing we notice is the tastefully decorated and intimate 16-person dining room which is particularly cosy and welcoming on a cold night. The subtle lighting and candles set the tone for a relaxing evening of good food, drinks and conversation. 

Upstairs is the Bar Room, which accommodates 18 guests. Again, the earthy tones and subtle lighting used throughout the venue carry through to the Bar Room, coupled with stylish rattan furniture. The Outdoor Garden has the capacity to seat 16 guests, which on a nice sunny day, is the perfect space for a private function. 

After spending time working in LA, co-owners Geraint Coles and Julia Quisumbing knew precisely how they wanted Fauna to look and feel. Geraint reflects on the cultural love affair that existed in LA for the ‘great neighbourhood restaurant’, and he wanted to replicate that in Sydney. “We wanted a space that we felt people could forge a relationship with – the type of place we would want to go ourselves – warm service, familiar faces, and food that’s made with love and precision.” 

Head chef Ace Espiritu (formerly Icebergs Dining Room and Bar) and his team have created an impressive menu, which draws inspiration from Italian-Mediterranenan cuisine. “When putting together the concept the meal structure was important to us, we wanted people to be able to take their time when dining here, and the classic Italian 4-course structure made the most sense. It helps that I love to cook like that!” says Ace. 

School prawns with yuzu-kosho aioli

Anna, our friendly host explains the best way to enjoy the full Fauna experience is to select a dish from each course to share. We decide to try the Kingfish crudo; the school prawns with yuzu-kosho aioli; the carbonara, guanciale, pecorino, parmesan and egg yolk; and the twice-cooked pork belly, charred corn salsa, tamarind glaze with fennel cream. 

The dishes appear at an impressive, but relaxed pace and all four genuinely hit the spot. It’s hard to pick a favourite, although the bite-size school prawns deserve a shout-out. It’s quite a unique and fun dish to share, with its crunchy texture, offset by the tangy yuzu-kosho aioli.

This shared style of dining does leave you feeling satisfied, but of course, there’s always room for dessert. Particularly when it’s as good as Chef Espiritu’s citrus tart, topped with Italian meringue with a side of burnt caramel. Sharing this particular dessert is hard and great care is taken, dividing it evenly between the two of us. 

It’s also the little things that make the evening enjoyable, such as the low noise level, which even when the dining room is at capacity, is surprisingly quiet. Unlike other larger venues, there’s no need to lean in or raise your voice a notch or two to carry on a decent conversation. 

Citrus tart with Italian meringue.

Based on the number of guests turning up for dinner as we’re about to leave, it seems the secret is out among the locals and it will only be a matter of time before word spreads outside Surry Hills circles. Our only advice is to get in now before the ‘others’ find out about this Surry Hills gem. 

  • Where: 59 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
  • Lunch: Saturday – Sunday, 12pm to 3pm
  • Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday, 5.30pm to 11:00pm