New restaurants are often in the spotlight, ready for their Instagram close-up. But Sydney is also home to a host of long-running venues that are still at the top of people’s dining hit lists – hell, Time Out has been writing about them from our very first issue, back in 2007. These establishments have stuck to their mission statement, offering great food with polish and personality. They’re safety zones that don’t give in to fast-breaking fads, but they can be progressive, too – Billy Kwong was one of the earliest adopters of native ingredients. Meanwhile, places like Sean’s Panaroma, Golden Century and Fratelli Paradiso show that it’s possible to stay timeless without coming across like a dusty museum display. These are the restaurants that have stayed vital over the last ten years and belong on the Sydney dining honour roll.
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In 2013, when Bentley relocated from Surry Hills to its new Radisson Blu location in the CBD, the team transported $500,000 worth of wine by themselves – mostly in GoGet cars. It says a lot about the restaurant: it’s serious, but not too serious, and not above the DIY approach. Award-winning bartender Phil Gandevia tends a list of booze-free drinks that’s both ambitious (a beetroot ‘wine’) and fun (barbecued pineapple with spices). Sommelier Nick Hildebrandt’s 1000+ wine library is just as forward-thinking and inclusive, while Brent Savage’s menu showcases both technical wizardry and the relationships with small farmers that keep their fridges full.
Arguably Sydney’s most famous mod-Chinese restaurant ditched the famously uncomfortable stools and cramped Crown Street site three years ago – and the current location is a roomy upgrade. What hasn’t changed is Kylie Kwong’s commitment to cooking honest food that reflects her background and beliefs. Her Chinese menu is powered by native ingredients and sustainable produce: think red-braised caramel wallaby tail and crispy organic saltbush cakes with chilli and tamari.
This all-day Italian eatery is so charming, the owners had to export a branch to Tokyo. The Potts Point original presents a good case for world expansion: there’s an enticing chalkboard menu, constant soundtrack of Italian dialogue, trays of baked goods (custard-filled bombolini, anyone?), a wine list highlighting local champions (Tom Shobbrook, Lucy Margaux) and the best of the boot, plus – most importantly – cheery waiters delivering Bolognese lasagnetta, scampi spaghetti and other carby hits.
It’s been a beacon for shift workers and late-night revellers for 28 years – but in an era of lockout laws, there’s even more reason to be grateful for Golden Century’s 4am closing time. It’s not just a refuge for people up past curfew – this Chinatown establishment has over 200 dishes on the menu that covers all bases (and appetites), from steamed dim sum and seafood netted fresh from the tanks to pippies with XO sauce on fried vermicelli that Momofuku’s David Chang says is "the best dish in the world".
Renovated in 2011, this 40-seater may be small – but Karl Firla’s imagination is outsized. He took over in 2008 from Daniel Puskas (Sixpenny) and while some major chefs have spent time in Firla’s kitchen (Café Paci’s Pasi Petanen, Hubert’s Daniel Pepperell), this restaurant is keenly focused on elevating the food, rather than anyone’s name. Firla’s degustation currently includes a fine-dining take on fish and chips, served with a sauce of roasted potato and tater-skin stock.
This wharfside institution once tried to remove its barramundi, strozzapreti and carpaccio dish from the menu and a riot almost ensued. Another non-negotiable: Otto’s vegan menu (it’s been a welcome fixture for more than a decade) and the fact it has a dedicated BYO group share menu – just in case you need a good excuse to raid your cellar (or bottle shop).
Yes, the snow egg is ten years old. And its ever-changing versions range from strawberry and rhubarb to jackfruit and custard apple. What’s fixed is the star power of that dessert – and this harbourside establishment. Yes, you may need to book a weekend dinner six months ahead, but Quay is so determined to ensure everyone has a good time it has stand-alone menus for many diets (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, pregnancy-friendly and shellfish-free, to name a few). Bonus: the pumpkin, pear and pine nut drink uses ingredients from chef Peter Gilmore’s own garden.
How many Sydney restaurants have a sandwich created in their honour? At Brickfields in Chippendale, there’s a roasted broccoli number inspired by the pasta rags with shredded rocket, lemon and chilli that co-owner Simon Cancio first made at Sean’s Panaroma as an apprentice in 1995. This pasta still appears at the Bondi restaurant. But that’s Sean’s for you: its dishes earn steadfast loyalty – and longevity.