Scoop: Taylor Swift eats in restaurant – and we missed the story

<span>‘It’s me, hi’ … Taylor Swift took Sydney (and Guardian Australia) by surprise when she stopped by Italian restaurant Pellegrino 2000 in Surry Hills on Tuesday.</span><span>Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP</span>
‘It’s me, hi’ … Taylor Swift took Sydney (and Guardian Australia) by surprise when she stopped by Italian restaurant Pellegrino 2000 in Surry Hills on Tuesday.Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

It takes less than a minute to walk from Guardian Australia’s office to Pellegrino 2000, a tiny Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

So it could be safely assumed that when Taylor Swift dined at the eatery on Tuesday evening it would be well documented by our crack team. Or not.

The US megastar, whose movements in Sydney for the sold-out Eras Tour are a guarded secret, managed to evade the eyes of the press for an evening of revelry at the restaurant.

But it wasn’t only Guardian Australia who didn’t realise pop royalty was just metres away.

Related: Taylor Swift: The Eras tour Melbourne show review – eye-popping spectacle from a generous performer

Chris Melotti didn’t think twice when he arrived at Pellegrino 2000 for his birthday dinner at about 7.30pm and his party was seated in the restaurant’s main room instead of the downstairs cellar where he’d booked.

But he clocked something was afoot at about 9pm. He looked outside and saw a line of people, many wearing Taylor Swift merchandise, staring at him through the window.

“Then it was literally like two minutes later, we were about to leave then the staff asked if we could wait a moment,” he recalls. “Then we saw her bodyguards and then she appeared.”

It was the first time Swift – who dined at the restaurant with her support act, Sabrina Carpenter – had been publicly spotted since she landed in Sydney for the second stop on her Eras Tour in Australia after performing in Melbourne last weekend.

“A lot of people have been jealous because they’re like, ‘Wow, you’re not even that much a Swift fan and there you were,’” Melotti says.

Also conspicuously present outside the restaurant on Tuesday night was a small footpath garden bed cordoned off with safety tape and a sign warning of “possible asbestos” in the mulch.

Swift’s arrival in Australia has coincided with a widespread health and safety scare across Sydney and regional New South Wales, as authorities investigate possible asbestos-contaminated mulch at hundreds of locations.

Sydney Olympic Park, the precinct where Swift is due to perform to about 300,000 fans over four days, was also swept up in the crisis last week amid an asbestos scare at a nearby median strip. (Authorities subsequently gave it the all-clear.)

The ‘Swift effect’

Pellegrino 2000 may soon be hit by the so-called “Swift effect”. In New York, it has become a feat to get a reservation where the singer has dined.

The surrounding restaurants in Surry Hills are hoping they will benefit from the overflow.

“I joked this morning that we should change our name to ‘the restaurant next door to where Tay Tay dined’,” says Rebecca Yazbek, owner of Nomad, a restaurant across the road.

Yazbek says her staff were also none the wiser until they heard the commotion as Swift exited the restaurant, then saw her car drive past.

“We’ve been joking like ‘Oh she saw us!’,” Yazbek says. “Hopefully she was like ‘Oh that restaurant looks cool, that can be the next one.’”

Like Melotti, Yazbek is not a self-proclaimed Swiftie, but is enthralled by the buzz around her visit. Especially when compared to when Dua Lipa dined at Nomad in 2022 – the hype around that tour and the superstar’s movements paled in comparison to the Swift effect.

“From my 38-year-old brain it’s just so wonderfully ludicrous, it just makes me smile and makes me laugh,” she says.

Related: My daughter and I missed out on tickets to Taylor Swift – but I’m not sorry | Bridget Robertson

The Nomad Group have already benefitted from Swiftonomics (where Swift goes, businesses bloom) in Melbourne last weekend during the Eras Tour.

“Our restaurants in Melbourne over the weekend were jammed, and we absolutely think that’s because of Tay Tay being in town.”

“I’m hoping we see an uptick in people going to the teeny tiny restaurant that is Pellegrinos, which we love, but being across the road hopefully we get some overflow. … get our little Tay Tay uptick.”