Sydney's resilient hospo scene wasn't sitting on its hands while the city was in lockdown. In the weeks since stay-at-home orders were lifted, a bunch of new arrivals have opened their doors, serving up great food, delicious drinks, and hell-yes-we're-open vibes. We've rounded up our favourite new venues to try this December. We hope you're hungry Sydney.
The best new restaurants and bars in Sydney right now
Add these box-fresh diners to the top of your post-lockdown to-do lists
Will one of these be your new fave go-to?
The second of four box-fresh establishments to open at restaurateur Brett Robinson's new CBD hospo hub Shell House, the Sky Bar is an Art Deco dream in earthy hues – a palette of burnt umbers, rich terracottas and creamy tones. From the second you cross the street-level threshold, tucked inconspicuously just off Margaret Street on Wynyard Lane (like us, you’ll likely end up asking for directions at the ground floor restaurant Menzies), you’re transported to the Roaring ‘20s, courtesy of a compact elevator lobby decorated with Bauhaus-esque murals. Exiting on the ninth floor, the Deco homage continues with bold wall mouldings and a sweeping staircase that takes you up to the Sky Bar’s perch on the tenth storey.
What's in a name? Well, if that name is Odd Culture Newtown, there's not much left to the imagination. King Street's newest natty joint is going hard on the ferments, wild yeasts and all things bubbly. Taking over the coveted Happy Chef space (vale), Odd Culture is a two-level craft beer, natural wine and ferment-happy diner from the group that brought us the Oxford Tav, the Old Fitz and the Duke of Enmore. With friends like that, you know it's going to be all killer, no filler.
If anywhere in the city called for a gin distillery, surely it's the Rocks, our colonial ground zero, where quite a lot of the juniper spirit would have been sloshing about in flagons during convict-era Sydney. And who better to be the Commodores of a new gin-venture than local experts Mikey Enright and Julian Train (Barbershop, the Duke of Clarence). Their third musketeer is distiller Tim Stones (ex-Manly Spirits), and together they are embarking on an ambitious project to open a distillery and bar inside a historic bonds warehouse on George Street.
Much-loved CBD Greek eatery Alpha looks a little different these days. At its helm is still head chef Peter Conistis, the man behind Greek hotspots of yore Omega and Civic Dining and often heralded as a pioneer in Sydney's Greek dining scene. But it has undergone a multimillion-dollar transformation and boasts a new look, new feel and an almost entirely new menu.
Taking inspiration from a classic family yard, Backyard at the Alex is a family and dog-friendly outdoor space, designed as a chill place for locals to catch up over great food and drinks and enjoy fun live music. Merivale acquired the heritage-listed Alexandria Hotel back in 2015, but rather than snuffing out its soul with an overly plush reno, the hospitality giant has channeled a more authentic spirit for the stalwart boozer as a way of bringing a sense of community back to Alexandria while reconnecting locals with a place they hold dear. Backyard at The Alex is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday–Sunday and shares similarities to Merivale's fan-favourite beer garden at the Vic on the Park, featuring long communal tables and grandstand seating, centred around a basketball court.
A New York style if-you-know-you-know wine bar by the team who brought us Corretto Dee Why has opened in a quiet laneway in Manly. Follow the neon wine bottle to Banco Manly, the intimate 32 seat venue by Kurtis Bosley (CBK Hospitality Group) specialises in modern British fare by executive chef Dan Webb (ex Annata, ex O Bar and Dining), low intervention wine, and creative, food-focused cocktails.
The unstoppable Merivale group has side-stepped into the Inner West more than a few times in recent years and their latest foray is set to raise the bar and then some. Set within the inimitable 3 Weeds Hotel, executive chef Mike Eggert’s famous flavours will come to the ‘burbs courtesy of Totti’s Rozelle.
Created by the team behind multi-award-winning cocktail bar Maybe Sammy, this lofty lounge isn’t just resting on the laurels of its penthouse perch, 22 storeys up atop the A by Adina hotel tower. George Livissianis’ interiors are a glossy timewarp of tiger-striped carpets, dusky-veined black marble, leather upholstery and brushed brass accents that mirror both the amber sunsets that dance off every polished surface in the afternoon and the golden illuminations that light up the double-height ceilings after dark. It’s Vegas. It’s Mafia-chic. It’s the Rat Pack and Mad Men and Frank Sinatra crooning to Monroe and Kennedy. But (somewhat astonishingly) it’s not a cliche. This is largely thanks to the tongue-in-cheek charisma that underpins the vision for this bar, reminding you that, for all its luxe finery, it doesn't take itself too seriously. And sticking to Maybe Sammy's pedigree of play, the cocktail menu is all fun and games.
For the team at the Blue Door, it’s all about giving back more than what they’ve taken. Chef Dylan Cashman’s entire ethos is about grass-roots operations, literally. The ambitious and innovative 24-seat restaurant on Waterloo Street places sustainability on the same rung as deliciousness, and Cashman is as exacting in his ethics as he is in his execution.
In the basement of a heritage warehouse in Sydney’s CBD you’ll find a moody, Sicilian inspired cocktail bar named for the ill-fated wife of Michael Corleone in Martin Scorsese’s 1972 mobster masterpiece, The Godfather. But don’t let that put you off. For those of us who have been lying about having seen The Godfather their whole lives, good news – every page of the drinks menu will run you through the storyline (spoilers lay within, but it’s literally been 50 years) so you can impress your date with cinematic knowledge while sipping on a Letter Never Sent, a standout concoction of wheat vodka, honey liquor, pineapple, clove, house-made almond syrup and fresh nutmeg, shaken and served over ice.
The interior of Lola’s Level 1, while still bright and airy and of course, taking full advantage of the ocean views, is just a bit sexier than you might expect of another modern Bondi eatery. Highly textural, with suede effect navy walls and accents of brushed stone throughout, this is a dining room for every season and though the space is large, it manages to maintain an intimate mood. While the execution by head chef Paola Pantano is masterful across all his dishes, the beauty of the bites at Lola’s is in their elegant simplicity. Take, for example, the pan tumaca. Just three ingredients are showcased – grated tomato, 20-year aged balsamic vinegar and Hojiblanca olive oil, served on a whopping slice of charred sourdough. The sophisticated restraint Pantano exhibits conveys a confidence that only comes from someone who truly knows what they’re doing and has nothing to prove.
Just another Surry Hills wine bar, this ain’t. Sure, Bar Suze - the Scandinavian-inspired, late-night snack bar on Foveaux Street - serves up plenty of wines by the glass with plenty of small plate options. But what sets it apart from what you might think of as a wine bar is that it’s fun. Don’t get us wrong, settling into an intimate corner, whispering to a jazz soundtrack while quaffing an obscure Burgundy can be great. In fact, it can be wonderful. But it can also turn into a rather ostentatious, and dare we say, pretentious affair from time to time. The fact the Suze can deliver the goods while also bringing the fun is what makes this venue such a hit. Where there are sleek granite top bars, there’s a bop by Bruce Springsteen in the air. While you’re sitting in a plush, black, high-backed booth, you’ve got a view of the mirror ball being hand spun by an excited chef between orders.
The folks that brought us Love, Tilly Devine, Ragazzi and Dear Sainte Èloise have set the bar pretty darn high in terms of Sydney wine bars (and the snacks aren't bad either). Their latest addition is a Catalan-inspired watering hole that isn't taking itself too seriously. La Salut is a joint venture between the Love Tilly Group and newly launched hospitality and accommodation group the people_ (helmed by Paul Schulte and Andrew Taylor).
Neil Perry’s new Double Digs restaurant, Margaret, had been due to open on June 25, just one day before Sydney was plunged into lockdown. Now the lights are growing brighter at the end of the tunnel, as Sydney makes a decent bid to be the most vaccinated city in the world, Margaret is finally welcoming guests. Fully vaccinated diners can expect Perry’s classic modern Australian fare featuring dishes like David Blackmore wagyu sirloin with chimichurri, Rustichella spaghetti with ragu bolognese and of course, the famous Neil Perry caesar salad.
Sydney can't get enough of rooftop bars. And we can't get enough of breweries. So it was only a matter of time before one of Marrickville's most beloved craft beer purveyors bit the bullet and brought this love affair full circle. Enter: Marrickville Springs, the '80s tropicana resort-style bar atop Philter Brewing in Sydney's inner west. Opening on Friday October 22, the airy sky-high bar is pretty in pink, with warm wooden bench seating and tropical plants galore.