Worldwide icon-chevron-right South Pacific icon-chevron-right Australia icon-chevron-right Sydney icon-chevron-right The best alfresco dining spots in Sydney
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

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 at all. There's a certain je ne sais quoi 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. Thankfully, there's a whole host of venues that have embraced the outdoor dining and drinking scene – and we've rounded up the best of them. 

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Streetside dining

Courtyard at Totti's Bondi
Courtyard at Totti's Bondi
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Totti's

Restaurants Italian Bondi

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). 

A couple sitting on the rooftop at Coogee Pavillion having a bee
A couple sitting on the rooftop at Coogee Pavillion having a bee
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Coogee Pavilion

Bars Coogee

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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Outdoor deck with tables and plants
Outdoor deck with tables and plants
Photograph: Supplied/The Longueville

Villa at the Longueville

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. 

An exterior shot of the entrance to Dead Ringer. A group are sit
An exterior shot of the entrance to Dead Ringer. A group are sit
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Dead Ringer

Bars Restaurants Surry Hills

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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Outside shot of Acre Eatery
Outside shot of Acre Eatery
Photo: Supplied

Acre Eatery

Restaurants Camperdown

Spots in the Inner West might not be first on your hit-list when you're looking for an outdoor dining locale, but Acre's sprawling urban farm set-up makes it well-deserving of a place on this list. With big, shady umbrellas to loll under and a colourful bounty of dishes – from baked fish to sour cherry cheesecake to the classic Acre salad – it's a popular, relaxed choice for the whole family.   

Overlooking Watson's Bay hotel
Overlooking Watson's Bay hotel
Photograph: Supplied/Watson's Bay Boutique Hotel

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel

Bars Pubs Watsons Bay

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. 

 

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Outdoor dining at Opera Bar
Outdoor dining at Opera Bar
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Opera Bar

Bars Sydney

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. 

Vegan burgers and fries at Mary's Circular Quay
Vegan burgers and fries at Mary's Circular Quay
Photograph: Supplied/Tom Wilkinson

Mary's On Top

Restaurants Burgers Chippendale

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. 

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Sitting area at Spice Alley
Sitting area at Spice Alley
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Spice Alley

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.
Building positioned over the water at dusk
Building positioned over the water at dusk
Photograph: Supplied/Empire Lounge

Empire Lounge

Bars Cocktail bars Rose Bay

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.

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People drinking sparkling wine.
People drinking sparkling wine.
Photograph: Supplied

The Winery

Bars Surry Hills

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. 

Long table with chairs outside on a deck at the Gantry
Long table with chairs outside on a deck at the Gantry
Photograph: Supplied/The Gantry

The Gantry Restaurant and Bar

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. 

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A shot of the outside courtyard at The Grounds of Alexandria. In
A shot of the outside courtyard at The Grounds of Alexandria. In
Photograph: Daniel Boud

The Grounds of Alexandria

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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