It's one of the first places you'll visit as a tourist, a pre-theatre go-to and has some of the most iconic views in the world – but being a tourist hotspot means Circular Quay not without its pitfalls. Skip the over-priced traveller's traps and check out these restaurants that'll ensure the food is as good as the view.
While you're here, give one of the city's best ferry trips a whirl.
After city restaurants? Check out our guide to the best restaurants in the CBD.
In need of a drink? Here is our guide to the best bars in the CBD.
The best restaurants in Circular Quay
“By God, this is a beautiful place to eat a meal.” The thought is almost certain to strike at some point as you dine under the dominating, post-Brutalist arches of executive chef Peter Gilmore's new restaurant inside the Opera House sails. And that’ll be before you even see the food. There are four ways to eat here: the restaurant downstairs; the cured and cultured section up a floor; the bar at the top, and if you’re in for a clean $650 per head, the chef’s table situated within the stunning, custom-designed kitchen.
Quay is the one of the best restaurants in Australia, right? For years, Peter Gilmore’s signature restaurant has upheld its position as one of the most incredible restaurants this city has ever seen. From the mud crab congee to the Snow Egg, everyone knows its name, but few have the luxury of actually going (perhaps because prices start at $150pp).
There are stories. Mysteries. Legends. And they’re all surrounding the window seats at this stunning Quayside locale. We’ve heard of people talking up terminal fatal illness to nab one. Others try the old ‘I’m a very important friend of owners Matt Moran and Pete Sullivan’. Some just happen to get very lucky when they book. So would you fake a serious (though presumably non-contagious) illness to get prime position here? Maybe if you’d seen the backdrop of Sydney Harbour, the Bridge and the Opera House.
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.
This neon-lit Bridge Lane bar is all about smashing together rock'n'roll aesthetics with Japanese food. Kid Kyoto – the third venue from Sam Prince, who is also behind the nearby Indu and Mejico – has taken inspiration from Nirvana lyrics and (there's a giant sign fluorescent sign bearing 'Come As You Are') and is dishing out an Izakaya-style menu.
Beauty and convenience don’t always go hand in hand, but Opera Bar is a glam exception to the rule. It manages to be both one of the most enviably located bars in the city as well as its most advantageous spot for a pre-show drink or snack. On the day you snag a seat facing the Harbour Bridge up on the raised promenade you should go buy a lottery ticket, because lady luck has smiled on you.
When was the last time you had lemon chicken? The entry-level Chinese dish might have had a starring role in your family nights out during the mid ’80s, but as awareness of regional Chinese cuisine grew, suburban classics took a back seat. But everything old is new again and Neil Perry has stepped up as the champion for old-school Chinese with the opening of Jade Temple. Perry shuttered his fine diner, Rockpool 1989, earlier this year and announced that in its place would be opening a snazzy Cantonese restaurant.
The mega food court is home to over 25 different cafés and takeaway joints. You'll find Neil Perry's Burger Project, cheap Thai maestroes Chat Thai, Indian street food by Bilu's, sweet treats from Zumbo, crumbed goodness from Schnitz, warming laska from Jimmy's Recipe and much more in the Circular Quay compound.
Upgrade your supermarket sushi and throw away that sloppy pad Thai. Lunchtime just took on a brand new meaning with the opening of Fratelli Fresh in the CBD. It’s just like the other venues in Walsh Bay, Waterloo and Potts Point, in that it’s one part fruit and vegetorium and part casual restaurant/trattoria. But that’s where the similarities end. Bridge Street has its own mozzarella bar where you can try the likes of fresh buffalo mozzarella with shavings of prosciutto or smoked mozzarella with fine shavings of pickled radish.
These are some of the best views in the city. The huge balcony juts straight over Circular Quay with a bird's-eye view of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Sydney ferries choofing their way across the sparkling blue water. If you're in full impress-your-mates mode, order a seafood platter with a selection of yabbies, bugs, crab, marron and prawns. Visit on a Sunday for live jazz and cocktails.