Get behind the wheel pronto: the benchmark for living your best life in Sydney involves joining the café society lunching at Bert’s at the Newport. Lunch here is as close as we can ever get to actually living in the jazz age in all its glory; there’s not a dining room in the city that can hold a candle to the soft-focus beauty. If you can swing it, aim for a seat that faces the vast arc of windows that look out over Pittwater and the striped umbrellas down in the beer garden below. More than one table is likely to be splashing out on the whole grilled lobster, but the price point for things off the grill also stretches down to under $50 for spatchcock, fish by the fillet and short rib.
A kookaburra sits on the deck at Cottage Point Inn, being hand fed by one of the waiters. He wrestles with it like it’s a large dog – holding back the meat, making the bird work for it. In return, the kookaburra makes a growling sound, snatches the food from the guy’s hands and flies off to a nearby gum tree. The kookaburra feeding is a regular ritual at this tiny restaurant, set right on the Hawkesbury River among the scrub and gums of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Here, head chef Kevin Solomon delivers a seasonal, French-accented menu that more than justifies the journey.
A restaurant with a real sense of place, Biota has been bringing visitors to the gorgeous Southern Highlands for over five years now. Chef James Viles sources hyper-locally and cooks with supreme sophistication. You're in for a five- or seven-course degustation; grillled fish 'wings' come with 'mandarins from a local orchard', and your duck is cooked over coals and served with lilly pilly sauce. Come for the Sunday long lunch, or come for dinner and stay over in luxury in one of 12 adjacent queen rooms – dinner and accommodation packages are available. You've earned it.
Money might not buy you a lifetime of happiness, but it will certainly achieve it in the short term if you use it to book a weekend escape at Jonah’s at Whale Beach. This luxurious boutique hotel is a famous romantic getaway for Sydneysiders who want to soak their troubles away in a spa bath that has sightlines out to the ocean. The restaurant has earned its lauded reputation – the wine list is exciting and wallet-emptying in equal measure and they have one of the best riesling lists in the country. Of course the menu changes seasonally but the skill and finesse of this kitchen is something you can depend on.
A restaurant attached to the decades-old Margan estate, this is one of the top dining drawcards of the Hunter Valley. Constructed with rammed earth, it features a tasting room flooded with natural light and fine Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Margan specialises in seasonal dishes based around its own kitchen garden. The menus are changed monthly and there's an added focus on simplicity and sharing. Each dish comes matched with a fresh glass of Margan's famous wine.
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