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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry: Lee Tran Lam quizzes chefs, critics, bar staff and other people from the world of food about their career highlights and lowlights, war stories and favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney.

Nov 11, 2017

Sarah Doyle has played a pivotal role in Sydney's hospitality scene. But there was a time she worked three jobs just to help keep Bodega running. It was the first restaurant she opened with husband and chef Elvis Abrahanowicz, fellow co-owner and chef Ben Milgate and their business partner/sommelier Joe Valore. And it was a game-changer – its fun, punk, loud focus on good food and good times was a contrast to the mannered French fine-dining scene that was reigning in Sydney hospitality at the time. But the queues came – and they took the chance to follow it up with Porteno.

“I think you’re really going to struggle here,” a customer told them. And when they found themselves short of money to buy cheesy sauce at Harry's Cafe de Wheels, they wondered if they'd made a dangerous gamble. “What have we done?” Sarah wondered. "We put everything into this."
But a rave review by Terry Durack in The Sydney Morning Herald led to Porteno's blockbuster following – which has sparked more venues for the team: Bodega 1904 at the Tramsheds, Porteno splitting into a special events venue and a stand-alone restaurant, Wyno, the wine bar next to Porteno, and Continental Deli Bar Bistro, which is known for its canned treats – like the Mar-tinny cocktail and Neopoli-tin gelato. Then there are the other businesses they've helped back – like LP's Quality Meats, Mary's and Stanbuli.

Sarah has many fantastic stories from her 11 years in hospitality – from her early days working at Australia's Wonderland to her amazing ability to land the mid-century Marie-Louise salon site for Stanbuli and her career highlight of seeing one of her idols dine at Porteno.
Plus, she shares her unique perspective of being a long-time vegetarian who works in restaurants famous for their meat dishes, her unlikely career path to becoming a well-known figure within hospitality and where she likes to eat and drink in Sydney.

PS Look out for Continental's cameo at the Newtown Locals Aussie barbecue at Newtown Festival this Sunday.