Stanley St Merchants, Darlinghurst

The world’s first crowdfunded restaurant, Stanley St Merchants, has opened in Darlinghurst. Expect queues out the door, and locally foraged food on the tables.

You know you’re in for something special when the guys behind your dinner post this on their Facebook a week before opening:

“Our first delivery of insects arrived yesterday. Matt, Duncan, and Jo are very excited about that.”

Excited? About insects? It starts to make more sense when you realise ‘Matt’ is award-winning chef and renowned food forager, Matt Stone, who himself owns a cricket farm, and zero-waste outfit (Silo) in Melbourne.

He, along with Duncan McCance (Collective Espresso) are the culinary minds behind Stanley St Merchants, and can be named responsible for its high-end bush-tucker dishes of crispy crickets in seven Australian spices, and charcoal toasted marshmallow with Rye berries, flowers, and ants. (Both so amazingly crisp and flavoursome they’ll have even the most fretful eater crunching on them in confirmation.)

While Matt and Duncan take care of the grub, Bobby Carey (ex-Shady Pines) and Jez Spencer (West Winds gin) take care of the booze. This includes, but isn’t limited to, native Australian spirits from Lark Distillery, and the strongest cocktails you can make with honey and bitters. Look out for the double shot cocktails, and try not to fall off your bar stool too early in the evening.

Tasting Notes
Foraging for food and good times at Stanley St Merchants? Here’s how:

The vibe: Casual cool, with a dash of illegal gambling.

Cuisine: True blue Australiana.

Ideal for: Trendy young go-getters, and late-night booze hounds.

Bartender’s choice: Battle of Darlinghurst ($18)

Try the...Charcoal toasted marshmallow, Rye berries, flowers and ants ($10)

By the way...Look out for the daily specials, featuring ingredients foraged by Matt on the day.

Find Stanley St Merchants on Facebook

Some context for the uninitiated – because it is a little hard to get your head around:

A little over three months ago, these four lads entered IconPark’s restaurant start-up competition. It was a comp based heavily on crowdfunding, and involved a Dragon’s Den-like pitch, coaching and mentoring by hospitality experts, and public pledges to fund the idea into a reality. The winner was to receive the space at IconPark HQ on Stanley St for three-months to convert into their dream restaurant using the money they earned from pledges.

Obviously, these guys won. And with their spoils (a total of $281,370), they created Stanley St Merchants – an outfit after Matt’s own heart, which showcases seasonally responsible and native produce (beef from the Blue Mountains, ants from Western Australia) across three dining spaces.

The first is the kitchen and front-of-house bar, which includes a chef’s table allowing punters a clear view of the cooks at work. The high ceiling and sporadic globes, give light to a long wall of mirrors, each reflecting the pristine white tiles of the kitchen, and their shelves of colourful fermentations and picklings. Their prime purpose: to tease us from all corners of the room.

Upstairs is the main dining area, and is a huge, sprawling space with divisions quite akin to a European train station. Pay close attention to the bar stools, they’ll be ridden with the names of pledgers who backed these boys during the heat of the competition. Same goes with the doors on the bathroom stalls. Stare if you dare, but don’t take too long.

Your cocktail’s missing you already.

Down back is where you’re likely to find us, sipping our smokey Tattletale cocktail inside the secret haven called Uncle Sal’s House of Cards and Dominos. It’s a throwback to the days when the premises was occupied by an illegal gambling room and requires a password for entry, which is released via the outfit’s Facebook page.

Barely a week in, and already the boys behind Stanley St Merchants are run off their feet. They might be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night drinks, but they’re only here for three-months (as per the competition’s t’s and c’s), so backers are getting in quick. Us included.

See in the games room, players.

Heading for dinner and cocktails at Stanley St Merchants?

Address: 78 Stanley St, Darlinghurst

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 7am-12am, Sunday 8am-10pm


Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is the travel editor at On top of being an avid traveller, she's an all-round bargain hunter. If there's a deal on hotels or a sale on flights, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too. Though probably not before she buys her own ticket.

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