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The Unicorn Hotel chicken schnitzel
Photograph: Anna Kucera The Unicorn Hotel's chicken schnitzel

The best chicken schnitzels in Sydney

There are some hungers that only schnitzel can answer, so next time you're craving golden crumbed fillets head for one of these schnitty hot spots

By Time Out editors
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Crumbed chicken breast hammered out flat might sound like an incredibly simple dish, but there is an art to getting schnitzel right. The shell needs to be well-seasoned and to stick to the meat instead of falling off like an ill-fitting jacket. The meat needs to be cooked through but remain tender and juicy. And the quality of your sauce is a linchpin to the whole enterprise - good gravy is everything. We ate a lot of schnitzel to bring you this list – may our stomachs and waistbands have mercy on us.

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Chicken schnitzel
Photograph: Sally Parsons

Unicorn Hotel

Bars Paddington

Just a short walk up from Taylor Square, you can order Sydney’s unofficial best schnitty ever – but looking at this plate of free-range freshness, with its crunchy coating laying on a bed of mash and housemade gravy, we may just make it official. The chicken is sourced from the Bannockburn region, brined in 10 per cent salt for four hours, flattened, crumbed and herbed before it becomes this truly scrumptious schnit. It dominates the plate, with the wing pointing to the heavens. A pillow of buttery smooth mashed potatoes underlies it, and it's surrounded by a rich pool of gravy. Watch out for friends who didn't order as well as you to try to dip their chips into your abundance of gravy. There’s no messing around here: only a sprig of greenery for garnish. With a schnitty like this, you don't need much more.  

Chicken schnitzel
Photograph: Nick Dent

Harry's

Bars Surry Hills

Harry has lost his harpoon, but he can still serve up a chicken schnitzel to puncture a whale-sized hunger. Among décor evoking Old Havana, you can get a hunk of free-range bird garnished with deep-fried capers and sprigs of fried parsley – small details that make a big difference. Thick and golden in the middle but tapering to crisp, dark edges, this schnitty is juicy to the bite. A thatch of skinny fries and a smattering of gently sour (not sugary) coleslaw are included, but peppercorn sauce is an extra $3 and could have been a little more peppercorny. The basic deal is on the pricey side at $21 but rock up on Monday and it’ll only set you back $15, with a drink included into the bargain. 

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Una's Upstairs

Bars Darlinghurst

Una’s is a Darlinghurst institution that nails European comfort food, with its homely atmosphere and food from the heart. Enter into a kitschy wonderland full of alp paintings, figurines, disco balls and a few pride flags. You can order many takes on the humble schnitty here, a chicken Jaeger Schnitzel with mushroom sauce, rösti and cabbage salad is the crowd-pleaserA huge schnitzel almost hides the plate, propped up on a bed of creamy potato rosti with crunchy edges and poured over with a mushroom sauce. It's crisp, salty and zested with a lemon wedge, and $24.40. Hearty, rich and generously proportioned, it's no wonder waitstaff are regularly asked for takeaway containers.  Come here for a schnit to leave you well-fed and slightly sleepy – and with a sudden craving to rewatch The Sound of Music.

West Village

Bars Petersham

We know there were a few tears shed for the old White Cockatoo. Not because it was a particularly outstanding establishment, but because it did cheap drinks and schnitzels that were so big they came on a platter. Now it’s the West Village, and the good news is there’s still a schnitzel on the menu – it’s a Vienna schnitzel, not chicken, but it’s big. Not platter big, but still a sizeable, tender fillet of veal hammered flat, thinly crumbed and fried until golden brown and properly crunchy. The burnt butter with capers, parsley and lemon ladled over the top is a punchy, zesty foil to what is essentially a deep-fried steak.

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schnitzel with creamed spinach and lecso salad
Photograph: ELT

21 Espresso

The Eastern European café in Double Bay has been feeding generations of Sydneysiders. You don't come here for the up to date decor - you come for the schnitzels, matzo ball soup and the light-as-air cheesecake. They're famous for their half'n'half veal and chicken schnitzel platter with a side of creamed spinach. We like to add an order of lecso salad (a Hungarian capsicum dish like a ratatouille) or the super creamy mushroom sauce.

Chicken schnitzel at the Erko
Photograph: Alannah Maher

Erskineville Hotel

Bars Erskineville

The vibes are always homely here but the quality of meals at this gastro pub can be hit and miss. There's a whole menu for dogs at this famously pup-lovin' venue (with far more choices than vegan diners might find) but they also do a line in straight-up counter meals. The house schnitzel, at $22, ticks all the right boxes; tender, juicy chicken; properly crisp, golden shell; plus coleslaw (mixed up with rocket) and shoestring fries on the side. We opt for the tradtional garlic butter over gravy or mushroom sauce. Slather the disc over the crispy shell of your schnitty to add a tangy, herbaceous flavour profile. The picture isn’t complete without a local brew to accompany your meal. We reckon it’s worth shelling out the extra two bucks for a side of mushroom to dip your chippies in.

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Manly Wharf Bar schnitzel
Photograph: Maxim Boon

Manly Wharf Bar

Bars Manly

Ordering a schnitzel can be a Goldilocks scenario. Some are too big, some are too small, but here, the schnitty is juuuust right. This perfectly portioned butterflied breast has a lightly herbed crumb, generous enough to seal in all the juices to keep the meat as succulent as possible. It helps that the bird is only gently tenderised, allowing for a chunkier slice of chook than your average pub schnit. Once fired to just the right shade of amber-gold – a hue somewhere in between a freshly washed labrador and Ron Weasley – there’s nothing left to do but give this delicious fried Frisbee a sprinkling of sea salt flakes (the fancy kind) and lay it on a bed of hand-cut chips, fried up with the same expert touch. The side salad is served in its own accompanying bowl - no sweaty lettuce wilting against the hot chippies here – and dressed with a piquant and peppery house vinaigrette. A serving of mayonnaise, a la Belgium, and a fresh lemon wedge come as standard, but it’s worth opting for a side of mushroom sauce.

Plate of schnitzel with cabbage and potato mash on the side
Photograph: Coral Chum

Tommy's Beer Cafe

Bars Glebe

Punters who come to Tommy's are usually there for a bite of the densely breaded Hunter schnitzel that comes on a plate thick with silky mash, a heap of sweet pickled red cabbage, and a bowl of cream sauce brimming with mushrooms. If not that, it's or for one of the half-litre beers that range from delicious dark lagers to the classic Budejovicky Budvar. Best to get both. As classic rock plays over any lull in the noise, the wooden benches and tables add a cozy atmosphere to this ever-popular Glebe staple, one where it’s easy to talk for hours while the friendly staff bring you plates of snacks from an array of choices that include a surprisingly decadent slow-cooked buffalo cheek to a fat, fresh, salt-crusted pretzel.

More tasty treats this way

The best bar snacks in Sydney

Bars

As the line between restaurant and bar becomes increasingly blurry, it's now possible to make a whole meal out of the excellent bar snacks flying over the counter at our favourite haunts. These are the places we head when we're not sure if drinks is going to turn into dinner, but we want to keep our options open.

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