1. Dishes at Morena
    Photograph: Arianna Harry
  2. The outside of Morena
    Photograph: Arianna Harry
  3. Chef/owner Alejandro Saravia
    Photograph: Katje Ford
  4. A dish at Morena
    Photograph: Arianna Harry
  5. Diners enjoying Morena
    Photograph: Arianna Harry
  6. A pork dish at Morena
    Photograph: Arianna Harry
  7. Part of the dining room at Morena
    Photograph: Arianna Harry
  8. The arepas at Morena
    Photograph: Arianna Harry
  9. A chef cooking over fire at Morena
    Photograph: Arianna Harry
  10. A fish dish at Morena
    Photograph: Carla Grossetti for Time Out Sydney
  • Restaurants | Latin American
  • Sydney
  • Recommended



5 out of 5 stars

Found in Sydney’s Martin Place, Morena champions local produce while staying true to its Latin American roots


Time Out says

Morena means ‘brunette’ in Spanish and according to Peruvian-born chef Alejandro Saravia the term represents the style of warm, self-assured hospitality he likes to deliver. “Morena means brunette. But it also means self-confident, sexy and sassy in my culture,” Saravia said when the restaurant opened to much fanfare in Sydney in April 2024. And just like that, with one confident ponytail toss, Morena has sauntered into Martin Place like she owns it.

In some ways, Morena turns a mirror on the typical migrant story. Head chef Gianni Moretto is also from Latin America (Chile) and, like Saravia, has a natural gift in the kitchen and a willingness to work hard to make his dreams happen. It’s not just the Latin American menu that tells a story at Morena. Many of the staff at this bold new venture hail from Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. And the experience of dining here is all the richer because of those accents. Saravia’s aim to employ as many people as possible from Latin America creates a fantastic culture in the kitchen and dining room. For many of the staff, working at Morena is more than just a job; it’s a taste of home.

First impressions are that Morena feels more Milan than Martin Place. In the tradition of great brasseries, there are the double-height ceilings, wood panelling, polished parquetry, and big arched windows that punch through the heritage sandstone walls. The interior is softened by the timber tones of the tables and chairs, the coffee-and-caramel-hued leather banquettes and brass lamps. The results are dramatic. The room has style and energy. And it’s a place where people want to stay and play even on an inclement night.

Saravia’s aim to employ as many people as possible from Latin America creates a fantastic culture in the kitchen and dining room

The 220-seater luxe Latin American fine diner is housed within the historic GPO building that runs down one side of Martin Place. On a sunny day, the tables on the terrace on the edge of the square are the most coveted. But, on a night such as this, when the rain is falling in torrential sheets, the best place to be is at the bar or on one of the comfy leather banquettes. Tonight, there are two male colleagues loosening their ties while talking shop after a busy working week. The couple next to us are quaffing Martinis and dissecting the Sydney Film Festival flick they just saw at the State Theatre. And there are tables in the inner atrium filled with foodies who want bragging rights about being first to dine at Morena. The restaurant, like Saravia’s Farmer’s Daughters and Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters in Melbourne, champions Australian ingredients for their quality and sustainability.

Saravia has worked at high-end restaurants around the world, including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in the UK. But there’s no way to mention the menu without summoning Saravia’s heritage, with many different renditions of raw fish as the star dishes on the menu here. We take our taste buds on a tour of Mexico with the Spencer Gulf kingfish marinated in aguachile (citrus juice and herbs) and fermented tomatillo with a kick of serrano chilli. Next we get a taste of Peru in the form of yellowfin tuna, cut into cubes alongside pickled daikon in a moat of smoked soy dashi with the perfumed heat of aji rocoto (a type of chilli pepper) and spicy wasabi leaves. Both dishes are impossibly pretty. And the quality of the fish is evident. Fish marinated in citrus is as much a part of Latin American culture as dancing. While the Mexican dish is marinated for longer, the Peruvian version has a depth of flavour that sits at the juncture of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine.

Our waiter, Martina from Argentina, tells us what’s what and talks us through the mains, which also showcase Latin American cuisine. Martina also recommends a pinot gris (from Chile) and malbec (from Argentina). Being from Argentina, Martina steers us toward the swordfish Milanesa which is served golden and crisp in a creamy, lemony sauce that carries the earthy flavours of yerba-maté leaves. The oily softness of the Brazil nut dressing on the salad of radicchio, endives and radish is the perfect foil, cutting the richness of the jaunty fish dish.

We also follow Martina’s suggestion to order the stir-fry beef eye fillet as a main: this Peruvian specialty is served in an umami rich and earthy gravy with slices of red onion and tomato and sweet pops of flavour from the aji amarillo (Peruvian pepper). It’s a marriage of Asian and Latin flavours that explores the rich tapestry of Peruvian cuisine, hearty and flavourful and the perfect antidote to the chill of winter.

We travel back to Argentina for dessert of coconut sponge with coconut diplomat cream and dulce de leche capped off with the crunch of an Oblea wafer. It’s a symphony of textures and a testament to the chef’s lightness of touch.

Dinner at Morena offers more than just a sophisticated respite from the rain. Step through the grand doors of the dining room and receive an education on Latin American food and wine and an understanding of why Peruvian chefs are earning accolades. Who says blondes have more fun?

✍️ Time Out Sydney never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.

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1 Martin Place
Opening hours:
Mon-Sat 11.30am-late
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