If you love food and live in Sydney, your 'must-try' list of new restaurants, cafés and bars probably takes up your iPhone's entire storage capacity by now. Still, we must persevere. For a tightly curated guide to dining in Sydney, we suggest you visit our restaurant hit list.
When Josh Niland opens a new restaurant, you have our attention. Formerly of Café Nice and Fish Face, Niland knows the fruits of the sea like few other chefs in this town, and his new restaurant, which just opened in September 2016, is once again focussing in on what he knows best: seafood. It’s called Saint Peter. It's a tiny restaurant seating only 34 guests at a time. All fish is processed and dry filleted onsite, and the menu incorporates the whole fish, including – perhaps controversially – its offal. The serving concept is simple but extremely hard to get right: each fish is paired with a vegetable that brings out and complements its flavour. Dinner is served Tuesday through Sunday with a special brunch menu – sea urchin crumpets, spanner crab omelettes and sardines on toast – available on weekends.
Destination dining is set to take on a whole new meaning when the Tramsheds opens for business on Thursday September 22. The heritage-listed Tramsheds on the Annadale/Glebe border have been gutted and renovated to a high sheen, filled with an all-star roster of restaurants and services, and the result is all the fun of the David Jones’ Food Hall in a space not unlike Carriageworks. Don’t know what you want for dinner? No problem. Set your Google Maps for the Tramsheds (or jump on the Light Rail to Jubilee Park) and enter a dining emporium that has all the answers in one place.
Trunk Road does not feel like an Indian restaurant. Upon entering it feels remarkably like an Italian restaurant, in fact. There are candle-lit tables, dark-panelled walls, jazz on the stereo and even Negronis to kick off your night. The thing about that cocktail is, it’s not strictly a Negroni. Its caramel tones come by way of sweet, spiced rum and sherry, along with the requisite Campari. Sure, it’s sweet, but so is the Indian palate – Trunk Road is a subcontinental restaurant, Darlinghurst-ed. The restaurant comes by way of Nicholas Gurney and Tapos Singha of Surry Hills’ Bang restaurant (which we love). Gurney is front of house while Singha is out back, cooking up riffs on the village recipes of his native Bangladesh.
What is it about the Porteño team? They have yet to open up a restaurant that isn’t just a delightful experience to be in. Maybe it’s because refining your cooking under Elvis Abrahanowicz always elicits excellent results. Or perhaps it’s because wine selected by Joe Valore, for whom the grapey drops have brought about a dynastical career, is consistently delicious. Or it could be Sarah Doyle’s lovingly curated interiors – be it the vintage furnishings or the cinnamon-scented loos. But who is responsible for the epic tunes at the latest restaurant they own with Porteño’s former head of meat, Ibrahim Kasif, Stanbuli? From Grease to '90s George Michael to Blue Swede’s 'Hooked on a Feeling', how could you not have a good time in here? You can't. It’s too much fun.
Most of the time, cafés get bacon and egg rolls wrong: the bread is too dry, the bacon portioning too stingy, and atrocity of atrocities: the egg yolk is overcooked. Not at Rolling Penny, Newtown's hottest new café. Here, the breakfast roll sees a big white roll stuffed with two perfectly poached eggs, a heap of crispy bacon, a thicket of fragrant coriander and parsley, fresh spinach leaves and a slick of mayo and spicy house-made, sour tomato relish. Add a splash or two of Diemens hot sauce for extra punch, but really this is just a beautiful plate of food as is. Rolling Penny is a new venture from brother and sister duo Martin and Penny Morgan. Martin’s on when we visit, and his relaxed, super smiley service demonstrates straight away what this place is all about: a place to chill out and take it easy.
It's a rare thing indeed where you go to a café where they are truly thinking about every single aspect of their produce. Ora do, in Manly, as do Cornersmith in Marrickville. Now there's a brand new bakery-cum-café that's taking produce seriously. Berkelo is situated in the up-and-coming, warehouse-bedecked Brookvale – what we like to call the Alexandria of the north, already home to the excellent Brookvale Brewery Truckbar. It's set amongst the houses and warehouses and is across the road from Warringah Mall, but you feel miles away from the hustle and bustle in this elegant, cute, artisanal little café. It's run by a couple of chefs, Tom Eadie and Matt Durrant. They want to make bread that’s good for you, and so the sourdough is fermented anywhere from a day to a week to get it where it needs to be, using a rye starter milled onsite.
Artificer is not about cake. It's not about sandwiches or even a nice cup of tea. Artificer is about one thing: coffee. That's all they sell. Co-owners Shoji Sasa and Dan Yee are sourcing the beans themselves and roasting them onsite, and what they don't know about beans isn't worth knowing. When you go in they'll ask you "What do you feel like?". Turn that shit around and ask them what's good – you might be surprised. We try a Bolivian iced coffee cherry brew. The cherries are the fruit that sits around the bean usually roasted, and here they're stored in the fridge to keep them fresh (they are fruit after all). They're steeped "like tea" and the result is totally delicious. It comes in elegant glassware, amber-hued with a spherical ice cube bobbing about. It smells like honeyed lemonade but tastes fruity and slightly tannic, with a gentle sweetness that lingers on the palate.
We need to talk about breakfast ramen. Open for brekky, lunch and dinner, Rising Sun Workshop – half motorcycle workshop and half café – has just opened in Newtown, and it’s serving food with a Japanese bent. The breakfast ramen, in particular, is such a good idea that our heads hurt a little from the excitement. It’s a beautiful big bowl of rich, fatty broth made from an infusion of buttered toast, topped with stretchy, firm noodles made exclusively for Rising Sun Workshop to their own recipe. The whole lot is topped with a just-set onsen egg, shards of crisp bacon and a charred tomato – the savoury, umami depth of which is a strike of pure genius.
It's amazing how a bit of funk, jazz and old school rock and roll can create such a ludicrously fun vibe in venues. And so it is at Kansas City Shuffle, the new café from the fella behind Melbourne's beloved Proud Mary and Dr Morse cafés, Kayne Mordini, and Sydney's own Ben Sweeten of Surry Hills' Joe Black. We're in here at the end of the lunch hour, Amy Winehouse is on the stereo, and although the place is pretty dead (which is perfectly acceptable at 2.30pm on a Monday), the tunes make the place seem full, and actually really welcoming. The coffee, as you might expect from such coffee enthusiasts as these, is solid. They're using Single Origin Roasters beans and our flat white is a light roast with a nice hint of fire at the end. After something stronger? They've got Aperol Spritzes, Espresso Martinis, a range of beers and a list of wines on offer too for upwards of $8.
Sometimes you just get a good feeling when you walk into a café. You elicit a dramatic exhale as you sit down, and feel instantly at ease in your surroundings. So it is at Meet Gerard, Alexandria’s newest café. When you walk into the white walled, pale wood’n’brass, open kitchened space, windows wide open to the street, with chefs mingling around whipping up hot chocolate chip cookies and ornate plates of food, it feels like the sort of place you want to stick around in for a few hours just to soak up the vibe. No wonder the weekend queues are already legendary. The café is a joint venture by friends Mariella Traina, former owner of the Counter and Sarah McWilliam, the old head chef at West Juliett. Try the ‘Milk and Honey: A breakfast story by Meet Gerard’. Not only is the name poetic, but the dish is too – a creamy, dense yoghurt panna cotta crowns a plateful of caramelised, clustered granola, while strawberries, blueberries and (fresh!) raspberries mingle about on top.
It's not every day you find yourself spending a delightful afternoon on the edge of a highway. But seated outside new café and flower shop Petal Met Sugar in Woolloomooloo, we find ourselves doing exactly that. Run by ex-Zumbo pâtissier Elsa Li and florist Angela Wong, most of the shop is dedicated to baking, with a kitchen in a glass-lined side room off to the side, and a small display of beautiful flowers greeting you as you enter. There's a distinctively Japanese feel about it. Maybe it's the clean, white interior, the pale plywood furnishings, perhaps it's the formal, polite service or the glass teapots scattered with tea leaves. Whatever It is, it works. A warning is required before we start talking about the food: you're going to want to eat every cake in here, they're that pretty.
There was a time when hotel bars set the standard for high class drinking – the Savoy Hotel in London’s 1930’s cocktail book remains one of today’s bartending bibles – but these days they can often be overlooked when you’re planning a night on the tiles, which is a mistake. When it comes to luxe boozing, Sydney’s upmarket hotels know how to do it right. Right now there is no buzzier spot than the new-look Cuban-inspired cocktail lounge at the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour. The glassed in box jutting out over the concourse was always a bar, but a beautifully executed refurb has made this a destination for Sydney high flyers.
They’ve taken the idea of 'humble pub as a blank canvas' very literally at the new look Dolphin on Crown Street. The old corner boozer has had an extreme makeover, and it’s fairy god-parents are an impressive rollcall of Sydney hospo identities. Maurice Terzini has enlisted his crack team from Icebergs Dining Room and Bar for the aspirational project, including Lenny Opai on cocktail duty and chef Monty Koludrovic overseeing things in the kitchen. Plus they’ve got famed Sydney sommelier James Hird (ex-Wine Library) taking care of wine procurement. Lucky too, because not only does the transformed Dolphin boast a buzzy public bar, dining room and open air terrace, it also has a wine room and salumeria. Generally we hate the phrase “something for everyone” but they’ve certainly given being a one-stop shop a red-hot go at this new venture.
When you want elegant Greek food in the city you go to Alpha. If you want fun and fancy drinks and a two-person moussaka, then you need to slip up the stairway off to one side of the restaurant and head up to Beta, the cocktail bar they’ve opened upstairs. It’s a slightly odd space, all soaring ceilings and chipped brick walls. It almost feels like you’re in a secret enclave, keeping your carousing hidden from the fun police, who might want to get between you and the boozy citrus wave of the Avra – a restrained mix of Canadian Club rye with blood orange, sweet vermouth and bitters that is as balanced as a seasoned tightrope walker.
You know how in TV shows the characters always have a favourite meeting spot, a bar that somehow manages to be right for all occasions? Whether they’re celebrating, commiserating, partying hard or just kicking back, their regular haunt was always the place to be. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had the Bronze, 90210 had the Peach Pit, How I Met Your Mother had McLaren’s and now Sydney has Tuxedo. By day, you might know it as Kansas City Shuffle, the boss inner city café that’s not afraid to serve brisket and waffles first thing in the morning. But now your AM coffee fix and hangover lunch provider has completed the trifecta by opening at night, specifically for Espresso Martinis. When the sun goes down it whips off its daytime costume to reveal the laidback bar hidden within, with a menu dedicated to coffee cocktails.
There are a lot of very good reasons to visit the Civic Hotel in the heart of the city. It’s still home to an underground nightclub hosting parties until the wee small hours, and upstairs Green Peppercorn is busting out some salty, spicy, funky Thai fare. But the addition of a Greek bistro is the latest drawcard for this long-serving after-hours haunt. Originally two former reality TV contestants were behind the new kitchen, but after a false start Greek chef David Tsirekas (ex-Xanthi and Perama) took over in July, lowering the price point and simplifying the offering, which is very good news for yeeros lovers. Nothing tastes as good with a freshly poured Asahi, Kozciusko pale ale, Heineken or Coopers as deep-fried lengths of tender pork belly with a mustard mayo and a herby salad all wrapped in a soft, chewy, freshly charred bread blanket.
Generally speaking, you used to go to gigs for great tunes and shitty drinks, and you went to a bar for great drinks and a Spotify playlist for atmosphere. But now Leadbelly has come along and broken all the rules by being a live music venue with really excellent cocktails in the same space that once housed the Vanguard. In fact, we suspect you didn’t outgrow regular gigs, you just outgrew RTDs and vodka Redbulls and warmish white wine that tastes like regret. Now that you can catch free live music Thursdays through Saturdays and pair it with a Mandarin Spritz, which mixes Aperol and prosecco with fresh mandarin juice, lemon and rhubarb, you really have no excuse for staying home. Maybe you need a firm shake not a gentle shimmy, in which case swap the Spritz for a Rye Me A River. It’s a big drink in disguise – the Cognac softens the burn from the rye and the rosemary maple and hickory weaves visions of Oregon forests through your brain.
In news that only spells trouble for our budgets and livers, Earl's Juke Joint owner Pasan Wijesena is going to open another bar just around the corner on Enmore Road. The team is taking over an old Thai restaurant to make a bar that is pretty heavily influenced by the works of David Lynch. Oh yeah '90s kids, time to don your blue velvet, it's a Twin Peaks tiki bar. In addition to a full list of classic '50s and '60s tropical cocktails including a Mai Tai, Singapore Sling and Zombie, there's going to be black coffee on offer, and maybe if you're very good, cherry pie.
Need something to do between meals?
Just because they’re popular doesn’t make them tacky... These tried-and-tested tourist attractions around Sydney range from thrill seeking adventures to scenic tours of our city's peaceful gardens and parks. We think there's something for everyone, but if you need more inspiration check out our list of the 50 best restaurants in Sydney or the best places to see Aboriginal art in the city.