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Cheap Hacks for Fancy Places

Want to eat at the best restaurants in town without dropping a wad of $$$? Here's our sneaky tips.

Photograph: Daniel Boud

Eating out in Sydney is expensive. It can be a struggle to get change from $200 for two, even at a mid-level joint. But we’ve got some tips for you, Sydney. Here’s how to eat at the best restaurants in town without breaking the bank.

Quay

Hack... the wine
You can knock a massive cost off your dinner at Quay by following these two easy tips: Go for the $175 four-course meal over the $235 eight-course dego – it’s still at least eight dishes if you’re down to share, so is better value. And ask the sommelier to give you half glasses of wine to match each of the eight dishes you've ordered between two. This might be the ultimate hack at Quay, because when we go in, six glasses of beautiful wine, carefully matched to our particular choice of dishes by experts, set us back only $65. This is an expensive restaurant, but that is fantastic value.

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The Rocks

Automata

Hack... the lunch
For one of the best restaurants in Sydney, this joint ain’t actually that pricey (normally it’s a set menu of five – brilliant – courses for $88). At lunch though, they’ve started doing three-courses for $55, so you can drink an extra glass of natural wine from their carefully curated wine list.  

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Chippendale

Bennelong

Hack... the pre-theatre menu
Lunch or dinner at Bennelong is normally $130 per head. And with food of this calibre, it’s worth every penny. But go a little earlier and not only can you enjoy the sunset over the bridge, but those three-courses drop to $105, and two are only $80. When we dined there recently, we shared a starter between two, had a main each and shared pudding (the portion sizes at dessert are generous, especially the chocolate cake). With a side of bread and a bottle of wine, we made it out for just over $200 ($160 if we hadn’t been wine-gluttons).

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Sydney

Firedoor

Hack… the lunch
Firedoor is not a cheap eat – it would be hard to get out with change from $100 per head­ at evening service (more if you want to try that steak). Like so many things, though, you get what you pay for. But at their new $55 three-course lunches on Thursday and Fridays you get way more than what you pay for, because the food ­– and experience – are un-freaking-real. And better yet, you can actually afford to eat there. For the full rundown of what sort of dishes to expect at lunch, check out our story here (you might want to bring a bib).

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Surry Hills

Billy Kwong

Hack... the markets
There are two options here. First of all, did you know you can just hit up Billy Kwong for a few snacks at the bar? Well you can. Walk on it and order a serve of dumplings, a side of native greens and a glass of Project wine and your dinner is set. Wanna go even cheaper? Hit up Carriageworks Farmers Markets on Saturdays to try Billy Kwong food at a fraction of the cost. Try the giant pork bun – you’ll be lost forever in that hot, oily, amazing chilli sauce.

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Elizabeth Bay

Pilu at Freshwater

Hack... the Kiosk
Been hanging to try Pilu’s famous suckling pig but can’t raise the coin? Then get down to Pilu at brekky or lunchtime; skip past the fancy gate to the restaurant and head into the Kiosk café next door. There you can get the same pig shredded up and stuffed between Sonoma sourdough with mayo, fresh slices of apple and peppery rocket for $14.50. Ask for it toasted – trust us. 

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Freshwater

Bentley Restaurant and Bar

Hack... the bar
You can sit up in the restaurant proper for the full Bentley shebang, or down in the cheap seats in the bar for a more casual affair. It’s the same food though, cooked by the same chefs, so what’s the difference? The price, that’s what. Try the best darn pastrami sandwich of your life in the form of the Bentley Sandwich, go a side of those famous chips or try their house-cured meats. Regardless of what you do, it’s going to be a feast.

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Sydney

Rockpool

Hack... the bar
You don’t need to go the full dego at Rockpool. Why not just plonk yourself at the bar and have a plate of pasta, some crab or a bowl of the finest congee this side of the CBD? Best of all, the bar menu offers the best dish at Rockpool – the date tart – as a petit four, for only $3. Skip dessert and order a few of these instead. If you eat like this, you could literally be in and out of here for under $50 a head. Who needs a $185 eight-course degustation anyway?

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Sydney

Yellow

Hack... the breakfast
Situated in the historic Yellow building at the Paris end of Macleay Street, it’s hard to find a more delightful restaurant in Sydney than Yellow. They’ve recently gone veggo for their evening service, but meat is still on the menu at the weekend brunch. Prices are pretty fair here anyway, but that brekky is extraordinary value – we’re talking about the best breakfast in Sydney, people. Try the poached eggs with charred corn and ham hock consommé, which is $18 (you’re going to pay that for most good breakfasts in Sydney now anyway). And promise us you won’t leave without trying that liquorice bread – order one per head to avoid arguments.

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Potts Point

Momofuku Seiobo

Hack... the bar
Did you know that you don’t need to wait an age to get a table at Momofuku Seiƍbo, that you can just eat your dinner at the bar instead? Whereas the restaurant is degustation only, in the bar you can eat a big or a small thing like snapper ceviche, fried chicken or a jerked-up pork chop. Just make sure to get to the venue before it opens to secure a seat at the bar, as there are only a handful of seats and it’s first in, best dressed.

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Darling Harbour

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The ultimate Sydney restaurant hit list

Unless you have the metabolism of a nine-year-old and the finances of a Kardashian, you never stand a chance against Sydney's ferocious dining machine. The openings just don't stop – and ain't nobody got time to keep on top of what's what. Except us, of course. Behold: our definitive eat-and-destroy list.

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By: Time Out editors

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