They’ll tell you to go for the Peking duck. They’ll tell you it’s a juicy bird with crisp skin and sweet meat. And they’d be right. It is. This is just one of the many roast delights at Mr Wong – a two-level Canto-extravaganza offering everything from fancy dim sum to green beans stir-fried with pork mince and house-made XO sauce. Chefs Dan Hong and Jowett Yu have left the day-to-day running of Potts Point pop-Asian diner Ms G’s to take the reins here, alongside head dim sum chef Eric Koh, fresh from London’s Hakkasan – luxurious dumpling den to the stars. If you’ve been waiting for a no-holds-barred-spend-big-with-service-and-wine–to-match Canto-palace, congratulations – you’ve found it.
When it comes to lunch in the city you’ve got excellent, swift Asian fare in spades. But getting a café lunch that doesn’t involve pre-made wraps or banana bread in cling wrap is a surprisingly tall order. Luckily now there’s the Cross Eatery. Set up in the cavernous foyer of the new development at 155 Clarence Street (up the Officeworks end) and they are bringing brunch vibes to your midday meal. Imagine Kitchen by Mike with a corporate edge. The chilly marble floors and bank of elevators up the back make it clear you are in the heart of the business district, but the timber-lined cooking area, clean white counters and communal wooden tables with native posies feels more like a sleek country kitchen. You can book a table, or there's usually enough room for walk-ins too.
Best for: A five-star set-menu that doesn't cut corners
David Thompson has brought his Long Chim empire to Sydney to stoke the flames of our South East Asian eats. Order up the $45 set menu – it’s an affordable treat with all the good bits in reasonable portions. You'll kick off with a serve of the famous marinated pork skewers, which come charred and tender with little ribbons of fat, followed by an aromatic curry, or perhaps deep fried squid with crisp fried peppercorns. Cap it off with pistachio young coconut ice cream and you've got a lunch that certainly means business.
Rockpool Bar & Grill has to be the most stylish dining room in town with incredibly high ceilings, Manhattan-style Art Deco architecture, private dining rooms including a dress circle upstairs. It's like something out of Mad Men. And it's a throwback to a time when money was no object. People said chef and owner Neil Perry was taking a huge gamble opening two multi-million-dollar restaurants in the same building in the middle of a global financial crisis, but he can now give all those naysayers the two-fingered salute.
You might not expect a seriously schmick wine bar and restaurant housed in the original Fairfax building in the heart of the CBD to be all about inclusivity, but the Bentley Restaurant and Bar by sommelier Nick Hildebrandt and chef Brent Savage wants everyone to have a good time. If you’re not here for the full sit-down dining experience that’s A-OK. Grab a table down on the bar level, vanish some exceptional wines by the glass and let the view into the buzzy, open kitchen tempt you to order up some bar snacks. Don’t really dig on eating things with faces? Vegans get their very own tasting menu here – eight courses of the fanciest veg within the city limits (yes, Melbourne, we know you’re vegan friendly. This isn’t about you right now).
As soon as you walk through the big wooden doors of Hubert you feel instantly detached from the outside. This is because they have excellent attention to noise control (acoustic ceilings and carpeted floors), which also means you can actually hold a conversation over lunch. As you climb down two flights of stairs into the city’s depths, it feels like you’re walking back in time (Belle Époque? Post war Paris?). Your destination: a music-filled, candle-lit restaurant buzzing with people. Order up the chicken to share, or the steak frites.
Cirrus is the new restaurant from the superstars behind Yellow, Bentley and Monopole: chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt. It's situated in the soon to be hottest-restaurant-strip-in-Sydney, Barangaroo, which means it's a good go-to for a CBD lunch. The restaurant itself is positioned at the base of Barangaroo's cloud-like Andara building (the word ‘cirrus’ defines a wispy sort of cloud), in the space that once housed Noma Australia. It's a completely different look though – they've spliced the space into two venues (Lotus is next door), and Pascale Gomes-McNabb – who also designed Bentley's striking interior – has designed the room with sculptural wooden batons and concrete features. Overlooking the water and Pyrmont peninsular beyond, it’s certainly the most spectacular of all the group’s restaurants. The menu boasts classic dishes reimagined like smoked trout mousse with trout roe, fennel pollen and pickled onions, with little buttered toasts so you can make fancy sandwiches.
A lot of fuss gets made over the Glenmore’s unbelievable harbour views, taking in the majesty of the Harbour Bridge and hooking around past the Opera House sails to the glittering CBD. It’s an easy sell, especially because it proves you don’t need to fork out for a top-tier restaurant for the kind of Sydney vista that belongs on a postcard. While the rooftop maybe packed out, the lower levels will do a good counter meal and you can reserve tables.
Best for: Fast but big on flavour
This authentic and popular Malaysian food court stall has been pumping out laksa, roti and nasi lemak in the Galeries for years. It can do so with a pace that'll ensure you'll be back in the office within the hour, all without sacrificing on taste. Add to it the fact that it won't blow the budget and you've got a super quick business lunch in the middle of the CBD sorted. If the Galeries isn't a central enough location, you'll also find another Jimmy's Recipe down at the Gateway in Circular Quay.
Best for: Relaxed Italian in beautiful surrounds
The seasonal menu here changes virtually every day – one day you may be having trout served with popping roe and a pared-back fennel and radish salad dressed, the next casarecce (short lengths of slightly curled pasta) with duck ragu and eggplant. Whatever you end up having at Berta it's guaranteed to be fuss-free, homely and excellent. Add to it an excellent wine list and you've got a lunch spot that impress without making a scene.
Need a private dining room?
There’s a heap of restaurants in Sydney with private dining rooms, and we’ve put together a list of the best for you. From the moody, underground vibes of Spice Temple in the CBD, to waterfront views at Freshwater’s Pilu, outsourcing is the smart way to entertain. So gather your people together, choose your spot, and worry only about the serious business of eating and merriment. And the best part? You don’t have to do the dishes.