One of the best ways to experience Kylie Kwong’s epic restaurant is via the set menu. For $75 pp you get seven delicious courses, which must be one of the cheapest five-star eats in Sydney. Although which courses you get are determined by the chef, you can make a few special requests (the steamed mini pork buns, crispy salt bush cakes and wallaby tail really should be on that request list). Because it’s a banquet, everything is shared, so it makes for perfect communal dining: Miss Kwong knows how to make her guests feel welcome and interact. And nothing brings people together like delicious food.
The set menu at Ester is probably the best way to experience this utterly fantastic eatery, because it feels like you get a bit of everything. Even more so than at Billy Kwong, you can make quite a few requests if what you want isn’t on the set menu that night – but the way it’s been designed already means you probably won’t need to do that (squid ink dumplings! King prawns, swimming in butter! Black pudding sambos!). They’ll make sure you have one piece of everything to feed your group, so there need not be any fighting at the table to grab the last nibble.
There’s a big long table just waiting for a group to fill it up at Cho Cho San. The menus reflect this too, with two different banquet menus, one at $65 pp and one at $80, to suit differing budgets (but the $80 has the delicious pork katsu steamed buns, so you might be tempted by that alone). Add an extra $5 for a serve of choice sake at the beginning, but the cocktails here are also excellent – don’t miss the sake-spiked Negroni. It is, importantly, also just a bloody beautiful space to be in, all white and concrete and pale birch wood.
Is this Sydney’s most beautiful garden restaurant? Probably. Given its large tables and share plate menu, it is perfect for groups (in fact most of their bookings are groups). We dare you not to feel utterly charmed by the elegant interior and luxurious Woollahra surrounds. They offer a shared menu of $80 pp for groups of 10 to 20, and frankly we can’t think of a lovelier place to spend a long lunch on a sunny Sydney afternoon.
Did you know ACME has a downstairs? Well it does, complete with its own bar and long table. On busy nights it’s used for regular diners, but you can actually rent the entire floor out for a group booking. It might seem weird to share pasta at first, but as with all things at ACME, our Restaurant of the Year 2015, odd things start to feel very normal here after a bevvy or two. Don’t miss the pig’s head pasta and get on board with the cocktails; these guys know how to mix a drink.
Harbour views? Check. New wave Italian food that breaks all the rules? Check. Big, open tables perfect for groups? Check. And a lunch deal that seems way too cheap for what you get? Hell yeah, check! On Fridays and Saturdays, LuMi offers either a $55 three-course or $75 four-course lunch (both of which include patron-chef Federico Zanellato’s celebrated pasta course). Or go the whole hog and get the eight-course dego for $105; either way, you’re getting one of the best meals in Sydney right now.
This is definitely one of our favourite places for a group dinner. The vibe is laid-back and super-light, so it’s perfect for chilling out with friends or for eating out with colleagues you want to chill the hell out. But it’s the food that has us slain. For groups of four or more you can get the chef’s banquet at $65 pp, and it is a serious feast. Make sure you get the beef short rib on there, and plenty of mash and gravy, and all will be right in the world, we promise.
Greek dining never tasted so good. Not only is the food fantastic here, but the setting lends itself perfectly to groups, with communal tables and a pared-back, but still luxe interior. The group menu here is simply called ‘the Full Greek’, and they ain’t kidding. You’ll get their epic taramasalata, and their famous melted saganaki cheese drenched in honey, slow cooked lamb with salads and even their version of baklava for pud. Go even bigger with ‘Apollo’s Feast’ which includes all the rest plus pasta, octopus and extra dessert. Either way, though, accept the $5 pp surcharge for a glass of ouzo served at the beginning, because with Greek food, you just gotta.
Need a group booking north of the harbour? Look no further than Papi Chulo. It’s so damn hard to get a walk-in table here, you’re going to have to book anyway. The $50 set menu gets you all sorts of treats, including ceviche, guac, prawns and chicken. But we recommend upping the ante by $15 pp to include the barbecue meat platter, which means you'll get smoked lamb ribs, Wagyu brisket, pulled pork and porchetta – these are the things that Papi’s is best at, so you shouldn’t miss them. Feeling fresh with your coin? Get the smoked suckling pig; at $100 pp it’s exxy, but by god is it a feast.
Those queues are a killer, right? Book a group at Porteño and you too can be one of those lucky people who skip the queue and walk straight up to your seat (don’t you just hate those people?). These tables are available to groups of five or more, and if there are over eight of you, you have to be on the $80 set Chef’s Menu, so no choices here. But never fear, all the classics are on there: the pâté, the Brussels sprouts, and a selection of meats from the flames (make sure you request the eight-hour wood-fired pig).
We are blessed with unusually good weather in Sydney, which means all year round there are beer gardens to visit, rooftops to summit, and waterfront bars to kick back in. And that's before you start ticking off all the best al fresco dining experiences in the city. If you love nothing more than eats and drinks in the open air, these are the venues for you.