The best restaurants in Paddington
Behind the little linen curtains and dark timber façade of this new addition to Oxford Street you’ll find a dining experience so warm and inviting it feels like you’ve gone back in time to Julia Child’s kitchen. Perched up at one of the two marble-topped counters in Fred’s open kitchen, you could almost be at a friend’s house for dinner, except your friend is insanely wealthy and possesses two commercial stoves, a domed wood-fired oven and a double-wide hearth with twin fires burning merrily in its grates.
Do you know your blood clams from your flame cockles? Or what the hell a stargazer is? Josh Niland does. This young gun chef wants to personally introduce you to the treasures of the high seas, and surprisingly he isn’t planning on charging you your weight in dubloons for the privilege. After clocking time in Peter Doyle’s kitchen and under the wing of Steve Hodges of Fish Face (vale), Niland accrued the skills to usher in a new era of fancy fish dining in Sydney and opened his own venue in a former sushi train at the tender age of 28.
You probably just popped your head in for a cheeky glass of vino on your way home. But, once the aroma of shellfish, garlic, and chilli in the tangled thicket of spaghettini hits you, you may as well relinquish your evening plans – and your budget for that matter. The only way out of a night of incredible wines and Italianish food at 10 William Street is through it. The ultimate First World Problem.
You know what they say when it comes to art: wretched excess is never enough. The luscious, dizzying art collection on the walls at this Paddington stayer is only second to eating in gallerist and socialite Ray Hughes’ house. Get lost among Olsens, Smarts and Storriers, portraits of owner and host Lucio Galletto, oils of dinner parties showing people breaking bread over classic Italian dishes of salad Caprese, roast duck and salt baked fish.
There's no room for cultural cringe, because at the Unicorn they have a deep and enduring love for Australiana. Please help yourself to some Jatz crackers and French onion dip. Run out of biscuits? They’ll pour out as many serves as you need to scrape your dip bowl clean. While everyone else is trying to be a European wine bar, a fine diner or a Montauk holiday home, here they’ve got a huge map of Australia across one wall and a prawn cocktail en route to your table, with little coral-coloured tails hooked over a cocktail glass filled with Marie Rose sauce and shredded lettuce.
There’s a reason people love best-of albums. They condense all the bangers and filter out the weird experimental B sides. It’s the parts you already know and love. This is also the reason we love a classic bar and grill. The menu is short sharp and to the point, and every last thing on it has earned its spot by way of a gastronomic popularity contest. The Paddo Inn Bar and Grill is the latest rework of this mainstreet pub, which was renovated in late 2016 with a high end dining room up the back, and then relaunched in mid 2017 to give the people what they wanted, which turned out to be good steaks (five kinds, to be exact), classic sides, nice wine, and your choice of mustards.
If you want to pinpoint the exact moment that Oxford Street in Paddington got its groove back, it was when ex-Momofuku chef Ben Greeno threaded the first lot of Bannockburn free-range chickens onto the newly installed rotisserie at the Paddington. Those brined chooks are the major reason there’s a waiting list at this schmicked-up pub opposite the Paddington United Church – all the foams, foraged treats and fusion in Sydney seemingly can’t beat a juicy piece of chicken with sticky, golden-brown skin for crowd appeal.
So what if we told you that an orange wine made from no less than eight grape varieties was actually one of the most delicious things in town. Forget the horrors of a king’s cup mixed drink – we’re talking about a wine from Paddington’s booziest learning institution – and they know their shit. The Channing Daughters Meditazione is a blend of muscat ottonel, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, Tocai Friulano, semillon, aligoté and viognier that spends 20 months on skins and ends up an alluring blush colour.
Oxford Street’s latest looker has made a bunch of changes – some sensible and others mostly aesthetic. The back dining room has been rearranged a little and is now a more formal dining space that’s been brightened and lightened and decorated with a whole lot of black continuous line drawings on white paper. But if you’re not feeling the pull of the $86 rib eye or a whole roasted flathead and just want to chill out and watch the world go by, stick to the front half of the building. You can still sit by the big open windows on a balmy evening with a bone dry rosé.
This watering hole on the backstreets of Paddington is not as fancy as you might expect a pub adjoining a fine dining restaurant to be, but that’s a large part of it’s appeal. It’s a proper pub in all the ways that count. Jellied ham hock terrine and Jerusalem artichoke soup share the menu with shepherd’s pie and corned beef with colcannon that is a very good reason to change up your steak order.