You won’t find anything here that resembles your school canteen lunch. A1 Canteen offers an elegant menu that moves seamlessly from breakfast to lunch, with the harmonious addition of brunch cocktails from 10am. Like the refined décor, the dishes on each menu are a modern reinvention of classic café fare – try the grilled mortadella and fried egg sandwich, with fermented chilli – supported by top quality ingredients and expert preparation.
This classic burger joint is a killer spot for late-night eats – they’re slinging buns until the witching hour on Fridays and Saturdays. When you take shelter within the artfully graffitied dining room, you’ll get to choose between burger favourites like a southern fried chicken number, a beef and bacon king or a groovy chickpea and sweet potato combo. They’ve got carb-loaded sides sorted with poutine and potato scallops, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the lot slide down a fun contraption from the elevated kitchen.
This might just be the pinnacle of Thai cuisine in Sydney. While you can hunt out a pad Thai and Panang curry on the menu, Moon Restaurant has earned its reputation as an innovator with more unusual dishes that cross the continents. Their oxtail soup has morphed considerably from its European roots, with intensely sour citrus notes likening it to a tom yum broth. And while the price matches the high level of skill involved in crafting such dishes, your Liven rewards sweeten the deal.
Yes, Black Star Pastry is the home of Sydney's famous strawberry watermelon cake, but there's so much more to this dinky Newtown patîsserie café. There's the buttery, ham hunk-filled quiche Lorraine; chunky braised meat pies ensconced in feather-light pastry; and of course those excellent sausage rolls. But back to sweets: perfect cubes of chocolate torte, Portuguese-style custard flans and fashionably dressed ginger ninjas (deadlier gingerbread men) are all hard to resist.
Sydneysideres know that finding somewhere to cook your decent breakfast in the CBD can be a mite trifling, so Pablo and Rusty's offering is welcome indeed. After a night on the town the café's dish of two poached eggs, thick cut bacon, fried potato rounds and toast abounds with good things to sop up last night's sins. Just make sure you leave room for dessert with a healthy selection of cupcakes, muffins and slices.
Sydney's answer to Shake Shack-style burgers is Burger Project: Neil Perry's foray into the fast-food-but-by-a-chef world. And it doesn't disappoint. The chips are served skin-on and hand-cut, the shakes are generously ice-creamed and outrageously frothy, and the burgers themselves are juicy and reminiscent of an upgraded milk bar offering. For a delightful lunch order the double cheeseburger and get two thin patties, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and some thick slices of raw onion, all on a toasted bun.
Dodee Paidang proudly states that it's not a fusion restaurant and adamantly refuses to pander to Western palates. What you'll find here is traditional Thai street food or dishes original to the restaurant. The main event is the signature tom yum noodle, coming in a clean, sweetly porky, hot-and-sour broth hit with generous spoonfuls of fried garlic and topped with crisp wonton strips. The rest of the menu follows suit, with classic dishes created and served by native Thai speakers to an adoring and diverse crowd of Sydneysiders.
Din Tai Fung has been the place to get xiao long bao since 1958 when cooking oil trader Bingyi Yang and his wife started their first small restaurant in Taiwan. Since then, Din Tai Fung has expanded to Japan, Korea, Indonesia, the US and Australia, with several stores in Sydney alone. Remember, to eat these soupy pork dumplings without scalding yourself or your dinner guests you first need to take a small bite from the top of the dumpling and drink some of the soup out.
Surry Hills is blessed with a bevy of cafés, including this rustic Japanese spot on the sleepier southern end of Bourke Street. The natto linguine is an inventive dish that takes advantage of the unique texture of natto (fermented soybean), umami elements (nori, shallot and soy), fresh okra, perfumed shiso leaves, sesame and egg yolk for a silky, light sauce that makes perfect sense on top of linguine.
Think of Fratelli Fresh as the nonna you never had. The Italian eatery is all about recreating gioie della tavola (the "joys of the table") through a welcoming atmosphere and authentic trattoria-style meals. That means the menu is split up into antipasti, pasta, secondi and sides and salads at lunch, with pizza making an appearance at dinner. And while tiramisù is on the dessert menu, it's a dainty banoffee torta that is Fratelli's signature sweet.
In a city with terrific Thai food on every corner, it's impressive that the Chat Thai family has managed to carve out a seven-restaurant empire. It's possibly got something to do with the consistently good Thai favourites they serve up, like chicken and prawn wontons, redfish fritters and their own version of Hainanese chicken rice. Or maybe it's the fact that they serve deep-fried banana fritters that are crisp and sesame seed-spiked on the outside and hot and syrupy on the inside.
Behind the doors and lush garden of a Redfern terrace house lies Oratnek: a café from Bills ex-head chef Kenny Takayama that's worth going to for the pork katsu sandwich (which contains a weighty 200 grams of meat and takes 15 minutes to make). The grassy hue of matcha also pops up regularly at Oratnek and not just in latte form. Tiramisù, French toast and the lamington all get given the matcha treatment.
The first thing you'll want to order at New Shanghai are the crab and pork buns. Between their crisp, golden bottoms and pillowy tops they are nothing short of pefectly seasoned heaven. But there's more to this ubiquitous (New Shanghai has three stores in Sydney) Chinese diner than just the buns. The cold sesame noodles are perfect for hot summer nights while the clams with XO sauce swish between salty and sweet.
From the hand-pulled noodles to the freshy pleated dumplings, Chefs Gallery consistently proves it knows its way around modern Chinese and pan Asian cuisine. Start with solid favourites like small plates of chilli and sesame marinated cucumber salad before ordering off a menu that spans roti, fried rice, sharing-style meat dishes and noodles. Get an emoji-face custard bun for dessert and watch as sweet custard spurts colourfully from its doughy face.
This Japano-Nordic café has a pared-back layout inspired by Japanese farmhouses. Open sandwiches (smorrebrod) come in a malty, chewy rye that they bake in-house. As far as smugly beautiful lunches go, your plate of three slices topped with sweet chunks of butter-poached prawn meat, just fastened to the bread with a yuzu kosho buttermilk dressing, is the one to beat. Students lope in wearing hoodies for a pork katsu burger anchored by the sharp twang of miso and a bright yuzu coleslaw; business folk from nearby highrises whip through for a bento; but it’s those who have time to commit to the 20-minute wait for the soufflé pancakes who will triumph.