Australia is blessed with a lot of coastline, and a wealth of seafood is hauled in every day – both from the deep, and from sustainable farms. From the classic fried fish and chips to the untouched pleasures of sashimi, fish and shellfish are available in as many ways as you can imagine. Get the flavours of the ocean concentrated into a bisque, doused in XO sauce or squeezed into dumplings, char grilled or roasted, au naturel or sauced up to the max. Then, when it comes to the bill, you can pay in confidence knowing these venues welcome American Express.
Here at Time Out, the most common request we get is for a seafood restaurant that won’t break the bank, allows you to bring your own wine and has water views. Turns out that over in Mosman, Ormeggio at the Spit’s casual offshoot is Sydney's dining unicorn – a little 50-seat, open-air, BYO restaurant. We opt for pairs of whole baby octopus dressed in a bracingly fresh salsa verde and so gently grilled that only the tips of their tentacles are crisp. A set of split king prawns with a zesty chilli lemon dressing arrive sweet and tender too.
This craft beer spot is all about dishing out seafood baskets by the harbour along with left-of-centre brews. Start with buttermilk ceviche, served with lime prawn crackers and jalapeños; or try a prawn roll with Old Bay mayo. If you’d like your seafood to be a little more substantial, try ordering the grilled John Dory with chipotle butter; or the fisherman’s basket, which comes packed with golden fried prawns, crab sticks, corn dog, scallops, battered fish, calamari rings, tartare sauce and lemon pepper fries.
This famous late-night haunt is where Sydney’s hospitality crowds go when they’ve clocked off and need plates of pippies in XO sauce, coral trout or parrot fish and salt and pepper squid. In the tanks you’ll find collection of crazy-fresh live seafood. They show you your catch in a bag on its way to the kitchen and then mere moments later those little briny bivalves have burst open to luxuriate in the unctuous, savoury seafood sauce.
This modern Macleay Street izakaya will serve you up seafood fried (the prawn toast is a crunchy, sesame seed-loaded treat), raw (try the tuna, which comes served diced on a squishy bed of avocado, and brightened up with hum of spicy gochujang paste), grilled (whole prawns come dressed with a kelp-infused butter) or even in omelettes (king crab comes sandwiched in a fluffy egg coat, with a rich curry sauce to round it out). Photograph: Nikki To
After a change of location (from Hall Street to Campbell Parade), Fishmongers makes a great argument for enjoying seafood by the big blue whenever possible. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure affair here – start by ordering king prawns (tempura or served with garlic and herbs), hoki, calamari (each battered or grilled), salmon (the style depends on the day) or octopus (marinated or chargrilled), then pick your sides from hand-cut chips, jasmine or brown rice, salad, and steamed or tempura veggies. Feeling indecisive? Try the Bondi Box with fish and calamari, or the sharing box for two or four people.
Hit peak Sydney with seaside seafood from Cirrus, the fourth venue from culinary kingpins Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt. To deprive yourself of the roasted tiger prawns here would be cruel and unusual punishment for any crustacean fan. The heat draws that savoury bisque flavour out of the shells and then they match it hit for hit with a miso mustard and a mayo spiked with pickled and roasted Padrón peppers.
Lunching at the Fish Market is hectic. The outdoor tables are usually packed with visitors and even when you do find a table, you’ll be stalked by hungry seagulls and ibises hoping to raid your goodies. Have you considered avoiding all the hassle and dining upstairs at the Chinese restaurant instead? It’s a relative shangri-la of calm up there: big blue aquariums of live seafood, and sunlight shining through windows offering views of the fishing boats of Blackwattle Bay. Scallops and prawns that have come off those boats are packaged up into dumplings, which can be enjoyed while sipping piping hot tea.
Bivalves take centre stage at this CBD bar and restaurant, which has its very own oyster library. They get fresh oysters from Frank Theodore of De Costi Seafoods, who sources sustainable molluscs from 20 different regions of National Park environments across Australia. Order up rock oysters from NSW’s Omboyn River, or try a saline bite from Little Swanport in Tasmania.
You’ll find Zushi in Darlinghurst and Surry Hills, but when it comes to enjoying the Japanese joint’s extensive raw bar and sushi selection, its Barangaroo outpost is place to go. Set up just back from the harbour, the alfresco-ish setting (it’s totally undercover but open-air) makes for the perfect spot to order up freshly shucked oyster with chilli ponzu vinaigrette and citrus-spiked hiramasa kingfish carpaccio with blood orange and finger lime. Also, get a group together and go for the sashimi boat – which sees a super-photogenic, tasty selection of market fresh fish, delicately placed on a wooden model boat.