What To Expect at Mitch Orr’s Sky-High New Restaurant, Kiln, in Surry Hills’ Ace Hotel

Mitch Orr’s Jatz crackers are back. This time, the chef, known for his irreverent, boundary-pushing take on dining, is serving them at Kiln, the new diner he’s leading on the 18th floor of the Ace Hotel in Surry Hills. It’s currently in soft-opening phase and officially launches on October 11.

“I think people have sort of made it a calling card, so to speak,” Orr says of the crackers, which became a signature at Acme, the singular Rushcutters Bay diner he co-owned and cheffed at for five years. “It’s something that’s fun and silly – and it’s nostalgic for everybody.”

At Kiln, the crackers are served with a dollop of smoked butter and a spiral of anchovy. “A lot of my food is that sort of high-low approach,” says Orr, who went on to work at Cicciabella Bondi and Pilu at Freshwater following Acme’s closure in 2019. “I like to play in that sort of realm and play off that combination.” He says the high-low effect comes into play at Kiln in the way dishes are served – “very simply, it’s all to share, and we want people to be using their hands and getting amongst it”.

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The centrepiece of the new diner is the wood fire, which Orr uses to cook quality produce – mostly vegetables and seafood – with flavours and ingredients from all over woven in. Grilled scallops get zingy with preserved lemon butter, while a tuna tartare is served with a radish and turnip kimchi. On the current menu, there’s just one red-meat main (a dry-aged rib eye with ponzu).

“It’s very much a conscious decision to not have a mass of meat on the menu. Ace wanted a seafood- and vegetable-focused menu,” says Orr. (Ace Sydney’s other restaurant, Loam, on the hotel’s ground floor, is similarly veggie- and seafood-focused.) “That’s the way I like to eat, too. I like to eat mostly vegetables, then a little bit of protein. Everyone seems to be really liking all the vegetable dishes.”

He cites the roasted eggplant with macadamia and curry leaf, and spigarello served with capers and green chilli as two of the most popular dishes so far, as well as two mushroom dishes: grilled snowflake mushrooms with wasabi leaf, and oyster mushrooms with a fermented- onion glaze.

Veggies aside, there’s a handsome dish of marron served in the shell with dessert lime and long pepper, and an impressive plate of squid sliced ​​into calamari and drizzled in a lemon-y dressing. And dessert is an intriguing prospect – think corn ice-cream with popcorn and salted caramel, and a steamed chocolate cake with poor man’s orange sorbet. While the food will be doing the talking, the view – through floor-to-ceiling windows that enclose the whole top-floor space – is also a big drawcard.

“I’m excited for people to come up and see the space,” says Orr. “Because it’s up on level 18, the different aspects of the city you get to see from up here are really cool. It’s a really beautiful space, it’s definitely the most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever been able to work in. I can’t wait for everyone to be able to come up and enjoy it as well.”

Kiln is currently in soft-launch and will officially open on level 18 of the Ace Hotel, at 47–53 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney, on October 11, 2022.