Greek food might get a bad rap as greasy, gyro-driven, late-night fare, but you won’t find blotto crowds wolfing meat off a spit here. Think more neo-classical Greek than toga party. Yet some of the best bits of the menu will set you back just a few drachma, like the creamiest, airiest, blush-toned taramasalata that’s been potted this side of the Aegean. It arrives topped with the brilliant fire opal orbs of salmon fish roe and screams to be eaten with warm triangles of the house-made pita.
Sydney’s underground grunge palace also happens to serve up some of the city’s best pizza. Order the classic pepperoni with a mug of craft beer and snag a candlelit booth with a red-and-white-check tablecloth for all the old-school pizzeria atmos you can handle, with a side of head-banging beats pounding the walls next door. Crunchy from crust to base, the pepperoni pizza is basically a spicy-sausage-delivery system. It’s all about the meat, mood and metal tunes down here.
Get all the finger lickin’ southern fried chicken your arteries can handle at this Potts Points haven for lovers of the deep fried. Order a Stinger chicken burger and get the best bits of a bucket of fried chicken in a burger with all the fixings. Subtle heat from the crunchy buttermilk-battered bird sneaks up on you, tempered by a layer of brilliant yellow American cheese and bed of ’slaw. It’s an American-sized meal, especially with a side of waffle fries, that’s like a little roller coaster ride in your mouth that you want to get on again and again and again.
Nab an outdoor table and order the stracciatella, tomatoes and basil for a brilliant bite and perfect people watching. It's bascially a more interesting caprese salad with a base of soft cheese that's like the soft inside of a ball of burrata that sort of gently pools on the plate. It has a drizzle of peppery, punchy olive oil, really ripe cherry tomatoes that have been tenderised with some sort of amazing dressing, fragrant baby basil leaves and a few shavings of young cucumber for crunch, and comes with a basket of rolls so that it's pretty much a stealthy meal for a twenty.
This normcore-porn Japanese-Scandi café is mostly frequented by seriously cool coffee freaks, but a teeny tiny kitchen delivers dishes so Insta-perfect you won’t want to eat them. That is, until you taste them. The souffled hotcake is art on a plate and a party on your palate. The edges – caramelised bananas baked right in – are crunchy, yielding to a pillowy middle. You’ll want to eat the dollop of chestnut cream like it’s a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, it’s so damn good. And the whole thing is topped with a sugary crumble and edible flowers for good looks, a floral edge and a textural finish.
The bright colours and kitschy patterns of Caribbean beach life dominate this gritty corner of Crown Street. With its vast rum list and a menu laced with the sweet and hot notes of Jamaica’s famed jerk seasoning. Though the patois peppered everywhere might be a little cringey, the jerk chicken is a culinary export the world can’t get enough of. They’re grilled in a marinade chockas with hot pepper and allspice that’ll make your lips tingle and taste buds fire in the best possible way.
The cheek-by-jowl ground floor of Paddo’s 10 William Street is where you’ll want to order the dish that’s stood the test of time (and changing menus). It’s an inventive bar snack that’ll scratch all your umami itches – salty, delicately whipped taramasalata (bottargasalata?) covered in a dusting of the cured roe with a warm, crunchy, deep brown knot of seed-crusted pretzel on the side for dipping. Bar food (and people watching) doesn’t get more elevated than this.
Subtle changes are afoot at this long-serving Darlinghurst wine bar now that it’s back under stewardship of original owner Matt Swieboda. Even the smaller plates, like pickled sardines, are hearty enough to calm your post-cubicle hanger. Four thick, grilled soldiers of Iggy's bread are stacked with gently pickled sardine atop a schmear of spicy ’nduja with a frond of dill sandwiched between. Hot, sour and herby make a good combo, and there’ll certainly be something on the glass list to go with it.
Trust the herbivores to figure out how to make kale taste good. This long-running vegan eatery on Crown Street in Surry Hills might not look like the cutting edge of meat-free menus, but the kitchen here makes outstanding, inventive, unashamedly vegan fare that stands up to any palate. Try the row of crisp pan-fried gyoza stuffed with tender wilted kale and savoury Australian saltbush, a blood-orange citrus glaze bringing brightness to the dish, for a surprisingly filling and tasty entrée.
This open-fronted, black and red bento box of an izakaya is tucked away down one of the Surry Hills’ quieter thoroughfares and serves up elevated Japanese pub food worthy of meal status, and not just as filler to soak up the sake. Order classic vegetable tempura – lightly battered and flash fried to create a light, crunchy, non-greasy shell around slices and stalks of hot veg like sweet, asparagus and shiitake – and you can’t go wrong. It’s light and somehow feels good for you, as opposed to the gut bombs fried up when this dish is wrangled by a lesser chef.