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Alfie's Martini
Photograph: Supplied/Alfie's

Sydney's 2023 dining trends: From bone-chilling Martinis to late-night eating

These are the dining and drinking trends that dominated this year

Avril Treasure
Written by
Avril Treasure

Forget New Year’s resolutions – as 2023 comes to a close we're keen to take a moment and look back at the year that has been. Because in the land of the food and drink, there’s been a lot. And while some trends have managed to stay firmly in the zeitgeist and on menus (burrata and crudo, we’re looking at you), 2023 had some new exciting food and drink trends pop up. From Martinis to new fine French restaurants, we’ve had a hell of a year eating and drinking around town, and it looks like you have, too. So, what were the big dining trends of 2023? Let’s dive right in.

The Martini was the drink of the year

In an odd juxtaposition, 2023 was the year of the Crocs, it was also the year of the Martini – and we’re on board (or, trolley) with that. Whether you like yours extra dirty (us), with vodka instead of gin, and served ice-cold (everyone), the punchy-tipple graced many a bar and restaurant menu this year. Bonus points to those who shook things up, like Le Foote with its two-sip Martini, and Alfie’s with its minus-10-degree Martini, served from a thermos to ensure it’s ice ice cold, baby. We dug the on-point cocktail at Bistro George and Longshore, too.

Snacks and wine at Lil Sis
Photograph: Steven Woodburn

Wine bars that are more like restaurants

Back in the day, it was all about the vino at Sydney’s wine bars. And don’t get us wrong, that’s still the case. But in 2023, there have been loads of wine bar openings where there’s just as much attention, focus and care on what comes out of the kitchen, as well as what’s being poured. Take Surry Hills neighbourhood spot Bar Copains, for example; Parisian rock 'n' roll wine bar Caravin; Chippendale’s cool sibling Lil Sis; and Lennox Hastie’s love letter to Basque Country, Gildas (yes, the Albion Street spot opened 2022, but late 2022, so it scrapes through). So yes, you can stroll in for a glass of new or old age vino at any of these great places, but you can also settle in for a pretty impressive dinner, too.

French restaurant openings were the plat du jour

It was a big year for restaurant openings (just take a look at all the ace ones here). And while there was some diversity, like Sri Lankan eatery Kurumba, Chinese restaurant Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant, and elevated Indian diner Raja, there’s no doubt about it, French food was having a moment. From Armorica to Caravin, Chez Blue, ParlourBistro Nido and Chez Crix, Sydneysiders couldn't get enough of fine French fare, which makes sense, because it’s très délicieux. Oh, and did we mention Sydney institution Bistro Moncur celebrated its 30th birthday? 

A spread of delicious food at Poetica Bar and Grill
Photograph: Steven Woodburn

We couldn't get enough of excellent steak (sorry, vegos)

Earlier this year, news dropped that five Sydney restaurants had been voted in the top 50 World’s Best Steak Restaurants, including Rockpool Bar and Grill, Kingsleys Woolloomooloo, Bistecca, Porteño and The Gidley – and yes, we were blushing pink too. Newcomers Clam Bar, Poetica Bar & Grill, Alfie’s, and The Sanderson served up brilliant steaks as well (you can check out the best cuts here), and we say, keep ’em coming.

The dining room at Armorica Grande Brasserie
Photograph: Supplied/Armorica Grande Brasserie

Forget cozzie livs, when it comes dining we still love to treat ourselves

Restaurant openings with grandeur and opulence (and yes, at times eye-watering prices) dominated this year, perhaps proving that every once in a while we still love to throw caution to the wind and go all out. From drop-dead gorgeous Parisian brasserie Armorica to the luxe Brasserie 1930, cool Mediterranean grill Le Foote, New York-style steakhouse Clam Bar, and swish Bistro George, Sydney’s new venues may have won you over with their good looks and charm, but we reckon you’ll return for their damn good food, wine and cracking vibes. (Of course, for the times you don’t have the cash to splash, the good news is you can still get a rocking feed at Sydney’s cheap eats.)

Two gildas
Photograph: Nikki To

The gilda was the snack of the year

Sydney is having a full-blown love affair with the gilda, and it’s one rendezvous we’re glad to be a part of. A traditional pinchos snack, the gold-tier bite consists of a plump and briny olive, salty anchovy and sharp guindilla pepper held together by a cocktail stick. It’s balanced, punchy flavour on a stick, and it’s our death-row bite. We gobbled them down at Bar Lucia in Potts Point, wine bar Lil Sis, Gildas (of course), red-hued Vermuteria, food bar Deux Freres – and will do it again in 2024.

People enjoying food at Derrel's
Photograph: Michael Naumoff

Late-night dining is making a comeback

This year, we saw more and more venues extend their opening and dining hours, as the push for Sydney’s nightlife economy grows. Take new late-night Indian Derrel's, which is open until 2am on the weekends, Lebanese bar and restaurant Zaffi, which is open until 4am on the weekends, and Jimmy's Falafel, which stays open until the wee hours from Thursdays. These new spots join old faithfuls Hubert, The Gidley, and Indian Home Diner, to name a few, who all serve tasty plates late at night (you can check out more, here). And, that’s not even mentioning all the bars that are now staying open way past your bedtime.

The bar are at The Caterpillar Club
Photograph: Supplied/The Caterpillar Club

Live music venues are starting to have a renaissance

You don’t need to have eyes to know Sydney’s nightlife has taken a beating over the last decade. But trust us when we say a lot is being done to turn that around, including six new game-changing reforms set to rev up Sydney's nightlife once and for all. Two of the reforms state that live music venues are able to stay open two hours later, and single noise complaints can no longer shut down venues. And it’s working – we’ve just seen the opening of Swillhouse's new live music venue The Caterpillar Club, which is open until 4am most nights. Odd Culture’s soon-to-open live music venue The Pleasure Club will also stay open until 4am. Another one of our favourite openings this year has been Enmore Road’s new live music bar The Trocadero Room. And if you need more convincing, you can check out this great list of all the bars and clubs with live music in Sydney. So the next time someone says “Sydney’s nightlife is dead”, walk away and head straight to The Caterpillar Club for a dance and drink. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. 

Delicious Korean dishes at Kood Tea Café and Korean Kitchen
Photograph: Avril Treasure

New Korean joints have cropped up all over town

Like French food, Korean cuisine is having its time in the spotlight in Sydney (and you can read all the reasons why we reckon you should visit South Korea, here). From funky eatery Funda with its Y2K vibes, to Korean wine bar and restaurant Bar Soul, slick Korean barbecue Soot, and cheap eat Kood Tea Café and Korean Kitchen, it seems Sydneysiders can’t get enough of this Seoul-food, and neither can we. (If you’re in the mood for Korean barbecue, you can check out our favourite spots here.) 

Courtyard at Totti's Bondi
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Alfresco dining is here to stay

Another important reform that has been introduced this year under the NSW Government's ‘Vibrancy Package' is around alfresco dining. Because let’s face it: with stellar weather and great looks, Sydney is made for outside dining. Now, it’s easier for businesses to apply for alfresco dining set-ups, even right on the road – and you can check out our guide to Sydney’s beautiful alfresco dining venues here. Spritz and snack in the sunshine? Don’t mind if we do.

Want more? Check out our Editors' favourite dishes of 2023.

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