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Outside at Watsons Bay Hotel
Photograph: Supplied

The best alfresco dining spots in Sydney

Here's where to dine and drink in the fresh air around our glorious city

Maxim Boon
Edited by
Maxim Boon
Written by
Divya Venkataraman
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With the kind of weather Sydney's ordinarily blessed with for about 11 months of the year, it's a wonder our restaurants had roofs to begin with. There's a certain quintessential Sydney-ness about sipping a drink in the breeze of a balmy evening or taking your first bite of dinner knowing you're free from the curse of unflattering overhead lighting. This city (and its gorgeous climate) is made for outdoor dining, and we've rounded up some of the best places around town that you can take full advantage of our local yen for alfresco living. 

Yearning for some blue in your view? These are the best waterfront bars in Sydney

Streetside dining

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Bondi
  • price 2 of 4

Out here in the sunny, white courtyard, beneath the skinny branches of olive trees, Bondi’s well-heeled gather for long lunches and Instgrams of that puffy flatbread – and you can join them. Pick out a bunch of small, share plates – ripe, sweet tomatoes, creamy, languid burrata, and the walnut panagratto should be enough to start you off (and keep you coming back for future visits). 

  • Bars
  • Coogee
  • price 2 of 4

Finally, Coogee Pavilion is a venue that takes full advantage of its multi-million dollar location right on the northern headland. Come for low-key wood-fired pizzas or order a dozen oysters with a bottle of Champagne and a selection of Mediterranean snacks dished out under blue skies on the rooftop. It’s the sort of place you can go as hard or easy as you like. 

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At this Palm Springs-inspired getaway on the lower North Shore, you can revel in summer holiday vibes while getting your fill of a true Australian classic – the humble schnitty. The Villa at the Longueville Hotel is dishing up a full-on schnitzel menu including cauliflower schnitzel, katsu fish schnitzel, and veal tonnato schnitzel. Sign us up. 

  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Surry Hills
  • price 2 of 4

Occupying a nebulous space between bar and restaurant, sleek Surry Hills spot Dead Ringer doesn't need to define itself. Sit outside on the polished timber tables and watch streetgoers walk by with the other locals – just make sure you've got a stiff drink in hand courtesy of the resident mixologists, and preferably a plethora of matching snacks to ease you off. 

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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Watsons Bay
  • price 2 of 4

Despite appearances, Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel isn't exclusively the domain of the high-flying Eastern Suburbs boomer generation – it's also a lovely spot to sit down for a casual lunch, drink in hand, brimmed hat at the ready.  Grab a crisp serve of fish and chips with a zingy tartare sauce, or settle in for a Bloody Mary if it's that kind of afternoon. 

 

  • Bars
  • Sydney
  • price 2 of 4

Beauty and convenience don’t always go hand in hand, but Opera Bar is a glam exception to the rule. With its menu highlighting local produce, and packed to the brim with sashimi, oysters and cocktails galore, it's perfect for a pre-show snack. You might be jostling for space with other harbourside punters, but it's worth it for when you nab that primo spot on the promenade. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Burgers
  • Chippendale
  • price 1 of 4

You don't need to spend oodles to eat out in the fresh air – just take a look at Mary's latest outpost above the Lansdowne. Those famously juicy cheeseburgers and their super savoury vegan counterparts can now be consumed in the bright light of a sunny afternoon on the roof of the Chippendale live music establishment. 

  • Restaurants
  • Chippendale
Tucked behind the Kensington Street laneway, Spice Alley rings together a whole bunch of hawker-style stalls from around the globe. Food is cheap, easy on the eye, and importantly – you can BYO wine (or something stronger, if you'd prefer). Try the seafood okonomiyaki at Kyo-to or the gorgeous dessert creations at Koi Dessert Bar.
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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Rose Bay
  • price 2 of 4

For views out over the glittering waters of Rose Bay (without the yikes price-tag of its wharf front neighbour Catalina), this glass-walled eatery jutting out over the water affords you fresh seafood and expansive views out to the water. Seafood of all kinds is naturally strongly represented on the menu – t just makes sense to slurp Appellation Oysters when you’re sitting so close to lapping water.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Mosman
  • price 2 of 4

After ten years of silver service at Ormeggio, chef Alessandro Pavoni decided to change the game. Ormeggio at the Spit is now a seafood restaurant. The new direction is inspired by Pavoni’s affection for the culinary style of the Southern Italian region of Puglia (the heel of the boot). While its outdoor areas are relatively small, the glass-box walls of the dining room fully retract so you can marvel at those jaw-dropping harbour views while you eat.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Barangaroo
  • price 3 of 4

You’d think going out for a little fancy fish with water views would be an simple request in a harbour-front city, but it typically yields only fish and chips by the beach – good, but low key – or a dire tourist trap that’s overpriced and over-boiled. But then Barangaroo came along and hot-housed a dining strip along Wululgul Walk and suddenly we had options for dinner in Darling Harbour. The entire precinct has undergone a game-changing redevelopment in recent years becoming one of Sydney's most up-and-coming dining destinations, and Cirrus, Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt's seafood fine diner, is at the heart of it.

  • Bars
  • Surry Hills
  • price 2 of 4

At this Crown Street laneway eatery, alfresco is more provincial Frecnh countryside than Mediterranean beachside. Think cute, fairy-lit benches, overhanging trees and cast-iron tables dotted around the garden. It's a Surry Hills establishment, but still manages to be romantic without being saccharine, and cosy without being claustrophic. Looking for a date night in the sun? Here's your spot. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Modern Australian
  • Dawes Point

Under the direction of rising star chef Thomas Gorringe, Pier One Hotel's restaurant the Gantry is way more than an in-house dining room. The food is precise and fine, but generous in flavour and in terms of accessibility: no finnicky, overwrought plates or tiny portions here. Grab a table on the huge, waterfront deck – it's the perfect spot to grab a bite before a show at the nearby Sydney Theatre Company. 

  • Restaurants
  • Alexandria

Back in the day, a visit to Sydney wasn't complete without a visit to the family-friendly nooks and picture-perfect crannies of the Grounds. You'd know it was a long wait to get in, but it was an honour you'd queue for. While the brand of prettily plated café fare popularised by places like the Grounds has filtered out to eateries around the city, it's still a lovely spot to wander around, pet the pigs and grab a fresh brewed takeaway coffee to sit in the sun with. 

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  • Things to do
  • Woolloomooloo

Woolloomooloo Wharf is a historic example of the timber finer wharfs that used to be found up and down Sydney Habour. It's now converted into Sydney's most stylish residential flats, but you'll also find some of Sydney's finest restaurants such as China Doll, Manta and Kingsleys, which all benefit from beautiful views of the water that are perfect for a long alfresco lunch during the warmer months. 

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