This is the definitive, ranked list of where to eat in Sydney right now. These are the venues we send our friends and family to when they ask for recommendations. They’re the places that are more than just exciting food and exceptional drinks – they’re also a guaranteed good time. We’ve thrown in a mix of price points because sometimes you want to drop cash like a tourist and eat inside the Opera House, and sometimes you want a mini-treat, like some next level Bangladeshi food.
If you want a better idea of how we price things there’s this helpful guide, and remember those dollar signs don’t include drinks.
There’s some old faithfuls on this list that we keep coming back to, but we prioritised innovation, excitement and fun so that you can start at the top and work your way through the best restaurants Sydney has to offer. Bon appétit!
The top 50 restaurants in Sydney
Bridging the gap between cheap Thai and a bazillion-course molecular journey at Oscillate Wildly, Bloodwood has been a very welcome addition to the Inner West. If it's a warm night, bags a seat on to the massive open balcony. Don't expect a fine diner - it's not that kind of place. Instead, you'll find a neighbourhood restaurant bashing out share plates like salty, savoury Provencal-style pancakes covered thickly in Persian fetta and toasted pumpkin seeds. There's plenty of veggo gear here, including lightly pickled mushrooms with broad beans and golden, super crunchy polenta chips with a gutsy gorgonzola dipping sauce - a mainstay on the menu since they swung open in 2010.
It’s all sticks all the time, here at this tiny Japanese yakitori restaurant built on the old Jazz City Diner site. You want heart pipes? Liver? Gizzards? Gristle? They’ve got 'em, along with plenty more protein that isn’t quite so gutsy. The meats are grilled over white charcoal and served over piles of roughly chopped raw white cabbage. By the time you’re done with your juicy, salty chicken thigh or crisp folds of strangely sweet chicken skin, that cabbage will have turned into a well-seasoned side of its own. Enoki mushrooms aren’t so much meat for vegetarians as meat for meat eaters after they’ve been wrapped in thin slices of pork, while lamb shoulder spiced with cumin has a sort of Northern Chinese twang to it.
A decade and a half since its arrival transformed Sydney's understanding of high-end Thai cuisine, Longrain remains a buzzing destination stalwart on the local dining scene. It isn’t hard to see why. The interior is fun but fancy enough, the service warm and accommodating. And the food? Well, after a long-overdue return visit, we can tell you Longrain is still kicking ass in that department, too. Longrain was originally the brainchild of chef Martin Boetz and restaurateur Sam Christie, who has since gone on to open Cho Cho San, the Apollo and Subcontinental (plus Longrain in Melbourne). These days, the chef on the pass is Victor Chung.
The seasonally focussed menu here changes virtually every day; on our visit, the black brook trout has just taken up residence on the blackboard. What a way to start. Served with popping roe and a pared-back fennel and radish salad dressed with the tiniest hint of pickled ginger, the fish is super soft and pleasingly meaty against the other, more delicate elements. Skip the pâté in favour of something more adventurous, like three little herb-crusted sardines topped with salsa verde. Sardines needs to be served at a near-impossible level of freshness, which can be hard to achieve in warmer climates like ours. Here they are clean tasting and fragrant with the smell of the sea, and the herbs complement rather than conceal that oceanic tinge.
Icebergs can be everything you love about Sydney, or it can be everything you hate. Those with even a slight case of reverse snobbery might accuse this top-shelf Bondi restaurant of being a little private beach club at times. Admittedly, fellow diners do have a tendency to give off a ‘comfortable on any size yacht’ vibe. But letting that get in the way of what could potentially be an epic lunch would be a mistake. Because when it’s good, it’s very, very good. At the height of its excellence, it gives you the feeling every restaurant should leave you with: utter refreshment.
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 and portraits of owner and host Lucio Galletto. Galletto has his own seat by the door, directing waiters to fill glasses, take plates and bring dessert while making his way from one table to the next, bringing each an individual flourish. He pours a glass of fresh, crisp Friulano pinot grigio to go with thin green strands of pasta interlaced with blue swimmer crab, bound with tomato. Roast duck with pickled cherries, chicory and poached fennel brings out the musk and stone fruit in a glass of Chianti.
Jonathan Barthelmess has long been one of Time Out’s favourite chefs, but don’t expect him to be wearing pom pom slippers or playing violently enthusiastic bouzouki – he doesn't wear his Greek on their sleeve like that. But do expect family-style dining with big plates of food and whole fish aimed to share around the table. Now, we’ve eaten the whole menu. And here are the things we can tell you: don’t order everything, as much as you’ll want to. You will leave Apollo uncomfortably full. Instead, do the Full Greek for just $55 a person – it’s all the stuff you’ll want to order off the menu and exactly the right amount to eat.
There’s only one place you need to be right now, and that’s face-first in a focaccia con porchetta. The outrageous sandwich is a hot, fatty, rich and juicy pile of chopped-up roast pork straight from the rotisserie, laid with crisp cos lettuce leaves and grilled eggplant, all smooshed between pieces of pizza bread in a happy delicious mess. This is a menu you’ll want to eat all of, either in one sitting with ten friends or ten sittings with one. There might be a little FOMO when you see a list of pizze, each better looking than the last. And they really are excellent, the bases are that magic mix of soft yet charred and blackened, beautifully seasoned and smoky.
The line between restaurant and bar has gone from a little fuzzy to indistinct, and nowhere is this more so than at Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt’s Potts Point wine bar and restaurant, Monopole. You could pop in for a cheeky drink and end up eating the full tasting menu. You could opt for a quick supper that turns into rolling home heavy with biodynamic wines and light on cash. It all depends on what you’re in the mood for. The best place to start is by hitting happy hour from 5-6.30pm. A $12 Americano or Bermuda Sour will get you off to a rolling start, especially if you’re backing it up with two little crispbreads topped with fluffy goats curd, a gently grilled skewer of pillowy soft pastrami and the refreshing crunch of lightly pickled cucumber on top.
No matter how many winning new enoteche chef-owner Andrew Cibej opens (see 121 BC and Berta) the demand for seats here never dwindles. The original recipe remains unchanged: a daily menu of imaginative, contemporary Italian fare scrawled on the walls, packing them in for lunch and overflowing on to waitlists in the evening. One day may focus on a region such as Campania; the next may simply be titled Giovedì (Thursday). The only guarantee is al dente pasta, disturbingly fresh seafood and a couple of superb slow-cooked secondi every day. You’ll need to be prepared to wait a few minutes for a seat and it’s not unusual to be jostling for one with a three-hat chef or hospitality stalwart: this is where they come to unwind.
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. 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. Get a crab. The big tanks hold sweet, fleshy mud crabs waiting for a dousing in the deep fryer with salt and pepper and to be served on a bed of salted chilli and green onion. Or go the Singaporean-style black pepper crab, cooked in butter and fragrant with a mountain of fresh black pepper. It’s a three napkin, two hot towels and a bowl of water job.
The first thing that hits you when you visit Pilu is the view. This Sardinian restaurant is built in a huge old weatherboard house looking out over the beach at Freshwater. In winter, catch the whales migrating. In summer, watch as locals take to the sea. Chef Giovanni Pilu is all about celebrating classic Sardinian fare. Make sure to order ahead for the incredible platter of golden, crisp-skinned suckling pig and rosemary potatoes. And there’s the zuppa gallurese – a monumental dish of Sardinian crispbread soaked in lamb broth then coated in a layer of melted cheese like a big, fluffy bread-lasagne-soufflé thing. Damn tasty, at any rate. For our money we bypass the mod-stuff and just go straight for the Sardinian-only degustation.
This restaurant of classic white surrounds, neck-strainingly high ceilings, Grecian-style columns and crystal chandeliers that tinkle and sparkle overhead is elegant proof that there's still a place for fine dining in Sydney. Est is the sort of place you might find on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where twin set-clad matriarchs would pick at a few leaves and swill Champagne while well-fed hedge-funders congratulated themselves over a bottle of Bordeaux. But this is Sydney, and it’s a restaurant that isn’t hidden behind closed doors. You don’t need a letter of invitation to eat here, either, and the crowd is as diverse as chef Peter Doyle’s technique-driven, ultra-refined modern Australian menu.
It’s nice when a restaurant surprises you. Say, when it looks like your run-of-the-mill neighbourhood joint, the sort of place you go for a solid feed on a Tuesday after work... and it turns out to be bloody fantastic. Such is the case with Kepos & Co, newly opened on Waterloo’s Danks Street. On second thought, it's hard to see how this place wouldn't have been good. Around the corner, sister restaurant Kepos Street Kitchen boasts serious breakfast cred – and the queues to back it up. Owner and head chef is Michael Rantissi is Israeli born, so you can expect lots of tahini, lamb, flatbreads and eggplant on the menu.
Rather than choosing some airy harbourside venue with Opera House views, Neil Perry's gone subterranean in the city for Spice Temple, a Chinese restaurant that does not serve any Cantonese dishes. Instead, you'll find a menu that roams China from Sichuan to Yunnan to Guangxi. But the question tingling on everyone's lips is the chilli factor. "The dishes [on the menu] that are in red, they're hot," explains Perry. "Chilli isn't just about blowing people's minds out. It really is about adding that flavour and mouth-feel and excitement." Go with a bunch of friends and try as many different dishes for the table as you can. You're guaranteed to taste something here that your mouth has never experienced before. In a very, very good way.
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. And the best news of all is it isn’t going to bankrupt you to get it. A mere $39 covers a whole bird, gravy, fries and a bowl of crisp cos leaves liberally salted and dressed in diced onion and chives for flavour you can see.
When Mike McEnearney closed Kitchen by Mike, we were sad. The restaurant pioneered canteen-style restaurant dining and we were going ot miss it. But with No. 1 Bent St Mr McEnearney has gone a bit fancy. This isn’t really all that surprising, seeing as he was once head chef of Rockpool (RIP) just down the road. Here at No. 1 Bent Street, he’s not just a headline; he’s on the pass. His ‘pass’ is a kitchen island backed by a flaming wood-burning oven. You may be in a restaurant but it feels like you’re also in McEnearney’s home. The rest of the space boasts long, uneven wooden share-tables among smaller, more intimate ones; a stripy, Paul Smith-style ceiling; bentwood chairs and a corner dedicated solely to bread and butter. Now we’re talking.
Sitting in Surry Hills’ latest too-hot-to-trot eatery, you really don’t feel like you’re in inner Sydney. Everything about the place screams Bondi Beach: the high ceilings strung with long, tassled lighting; the crystal-white tones everywhere you look; the mirrored pizza oven in the corner and most of all, the beautiful people sitting all around. It’s Bondi, in all its glamour and glitz. But it’s all happening in an old pub on Crown Street. It was always going to be this way. The Dolphin Hotel has been taken over by none other than Maurice Terzini, the man behind Icebergs and Da Orazio, and he’s brought everything but the sand with him. With Icebergs’ Monty Koludrovic overseeing the menu, the food is like a bigger, bolder, more restauranty version of Da Orazio.
Bang in Surry Hills is serving up food inspired by the streets of Dhaka, and injecting new life and flavour into one of Sydney’s most popular dining strips, Crown Street. One of the best things about this place is the dynamic atmosphere. Maybe it’s the jazzy neon lights, boldly monogrammed crockery, or friendly staff in their vibrant, tiger-themed T-shirts. Or perhaps it’s the thoughtful little cone of roasted, unshelled peanuts that lands on the table to see you over until the food comes. But it’s also the playlist – think Cyndi Lauper, Shaggy, the Backstreet Boys and the always-entertaining ‘Hungry Eyes’ from Dirty Dancing. These guys know their audience: 20- to 30-somethings who like a side of nostalgia with that brand new dish you've probably never heard of before.
Ramen is often fast food in Sydney, but at Salaryman that’s no longer the case. Here, ramen has been elevated to an art form. Take the cabbage and mushroom ramen bowl. It’s a symphony of veggies each cooked perfectly, including crunchy pickled turnips, charred broccolini and crushy disks of radish. This isn't a second-rate vegetarian version of a popular dish, it's a standout, even for meat-eaters, and if you asked for it without the egg, it'd be vegan. The Tantanmen ramen bowl is more in line with that hangover-cure, but so much more amazing than your usual tonkotsu. Here it’s hot with chilli, with a slick of pork-rich oil lining the top of the bowl, pork mince poking out amongst it and big wedges of tender, fatty chashu pork belly lurking around, just being delicious.
Exotic gloop, soft proteins, white gloves, polished cloches, hushed surrounds. This is not Sean’s Panaroma. Sean’s is freshness, simplicity and fun on a plate – it’s the antidote to every bad meal you’ve ever had. Chef and owner Sean Moran cooks his own food his own way. And has done since he opened the restaurant in 1993. The restaurant looks straight out over Bondi Beach – it’s some of the best real estate in the country. Choose to sit outside and they’ll bring you out a little blanket for your knees. Back in the sunny tiled dining room there are fresh roses on every table taken from Moran’s property up near the Blue Mountains. Wherever you’re sitting, you’ll be able to watch surfers battle the North Bondi breakers and the occasional dolphin competing for a wave.
You know what you need to accompany that fresh and fruity glass of Xavier fiano from Heathcote? A soft, hot block of haloumi and tapioca, fried a golden brown and topped with XO sauce to deliver a salty, spicy sucker punch, with a savoury double tap from a light snow of grated pecorino. At 10 William Street, these “dadinho” take the Brazilian peanut candy of the same name and reimagine it as a savoury bar snack with Chinese and Italian flavours. We have the inventiveness of Luke Burgess to thank for this freaky-delicious treat. After he closed his famed Hobart restaurant Garagistes earlier this year there were guest appearances and collaborations for the talented chef, but now he is settled behind the burners at this compact Paddington wine bar.
You’d be forgiven for missing this restaurant entirely as you drive among the charming buildings of Stanmore. Even in the daytime, its white net curtains are closed to the street, so that when you step in you enter another space entirely: a little piece of luxury in the suburbs. Luxury, that is, but with a contemporary, produce-driven bent. Much in the style of Biota Dining and Noma, the interior is pared back and simple, all the luxe lying in the food. Sixpenny has two cooks at the helm: James Parry (ex-Oscillate Wildly, Noma and Mugaritz) and Daniel Puskas, formerly of Oscillate Wildly and Sepia. Also like Noma, chefs rather than waiters bring the food to the table.
Often overshadowed by its sister venues Porteño, Gardel’s Bar and LP’s Quality Meats, Bodega sometimes feels like their shier, quieter sibling. But this eatery ain’t no shrinking violet. Sure, it’s framed as a tapas restaurant, but portions are generous, flavours are banging and the drinks list is killer. It’s got that upbeat vibe inside, too. It’s designed like a ’50s diner, with two rooms in which to dine, a wide-open kitchen and service that is quirky as much as it is attentive. It’s the neighbourhood restaurant you’ve always wanted, right in the centre of Surry Hills. These guys know their cold cuts so make sure to get whatever’s on offer when you eat at Bodega. On the day we’re in, it’s rolled then finely sliced cured pork belly with fennel and chilli oil.
Chefs Chase Kojima and offsider Takashi Sano now command the most impressive sushi counter in Sydney. The only challenge is landing a seat. The only way to guarantee a place at one of the counter’s eight spots (there are more actual seats, but they only serve eight guests at a time to keep the quality control tight) is to either email (StarSokyoRestaurant@echoent.com.au) or call the chefs, otherwise it’s a matter of first come, first served and highballs at the bar. It’s a battle royale every night at the sushi bar between the two chefs. Will you choose Sano-san, and his love of melting softness, or tuna-obsessed Kojima-san? Nothing’s against the rules.
The first thing that hits you when you enter the 1936 City Mutual Building – considered by many the finest Art Deco building in Australia – isn't the pristine stone and brass work. It's the smell. Push through the heavy brass doors and be greeted by a mingling of grilling meat, wood fire and leather. This is Sydney's best-smelling restaurant and it's enough to make your mouth water even before you sit down. Breathe it in as you look up at the grandeur of the room. 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. It's like something out of Mad Men. And it's a throwback to a time when money was no object.
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).
It turns out the best way to experience architect Jørn Utzon’s original vision for the Opera House is inside the restaurant. The menu is à la carte rather than degustation, and for $80, you can be in and out within the hour if you go the pre-theatre option. Order unusually rather than safely, because if there is one thing Gilmore and chef de cuisine Rob Cockerill know how to do, it’s make the most of a humble ingredient. Take the pumpkin starter. It's like nothing you’ve ever tasted: all that slow cooking has created something sweet, buttery and deeply grassy. You’ll be talking about the duck for many moons to come. It comes in two shimmering wedges, the skin caramelised with black miso paste that has a toffee-like consistency – it's sticky, tacky and totally amazing.
Opened by two of the greatest restaurateurs Sydney has seen in recent times, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Joe Valore of Porteño, Gardel’s Bar and Bodega (which they co-own with Ben Milgate), and LP’s Quality Meats (which they co-own with Luke Powell), this is more than just a restaurant. At Continental in Newtown a downstairs deli opens at 11am and becomes a casual bar/restaurant as the later hours creep in, while upstairs there's a bistro for those fancier nights out. Sambos and tapas are on offer in the deli, while the bistro-experience is all Old World elegance. Both have head chef Jesse Warkentin on the pans, and both, we think, are mind-blowingly good.
Trunk Road does not feel like an Indian restaurant. Upon entering it feels remarkably like an Italian restaurant, in fact. There are candle-lit tables, dark-panelled walls, jazz on the stereo and even Negronis to kick off your night. Trunk Road is a subcontinental restaurant, Darlinghurst-ed. The restaurant comes by way of Nicholas Gurney and Tapos Singha of Surry Hills’ Bang restaurant (which we love). Gurney is front of house while Singha is out back, cooking up riffs on the village recipes of his native Bangladesh. Despite the gorgeous, small bar-esque surrounds, this place is cheap as chips, especially considering how fantastic the food is.
Sydney loves a bit of smoke, and so does LP’s, a big venue, full of canteen-like timber tables with a wide open kitchen where the Southern Pride smoker, imported from Alamo, Tennessee, sits in pride of place. And boy does it produce some tasty meat. Much of what you’ll eat here has had the Southern Pride treatment. The wagyu carpaccio has been lightly smoked, and is served topped with a loose, creamy sauce of whipped eel and pops of crisp, fried capers. There are sausages galore hanging up in the kitchen, including boudin noir, bierwurst and if it’s on special, nutmeggy, garlic-infused Toulouse sausage, which is definitely worth your time. But the one thing you have to order, above all else, is the smoked beef short rib.
You don’t come to Sagra to show off. It’s not about pomp or prestige, any more than fiddly garnishes or fancy plating. But taking someone there will impress them, because this is one of Sydney’s most beloved modern Italians. It’s the simplicity of things that is Sagra’s drawcard. The space reflects this – it feels like you’re stepping into someone’s home as you walk into the little terrace building. Tables are close together and service is warm and helpful – which is good, because much of the menu is in Italian, so you’ll need some steering.
The restaurant from ex-head chef of Ormeggio at the Spit, Federico Zanellato is situated on the wharf opposite the casino, and because of its positioning and extensive glass walls, it feels as if you’re almost floating on the harbour. The design of the space is mid-century-Italian-mod and the food is Italian-Japanese. At night it’s an eight-course degustation for $115. You’ll start with a few snacks to get the juices flowing. A little disk the waiter calls a ‘frozen mushroom biscuit’ has the texture of finely sliced cookie dough, but with the umami depth of mushroom. A chicken macaron is filled with chicken liver pâté, and crushes in the mouth with a delicate bite. And that's before the main act has even kicked off.
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). Let’s face it – the interior isn’t exactly up to date, with a purple carpet and bright red chairs, shimmering mirrored ceilings and white tablecloths. At night though, with the sparkling waters of Circular Quay beyond, it feels like it’s part of its setting, rather than competing against it. Like the interior, the service is formal, too, but also deeply considered and the food is anything but old hat.
Everyone knows the rock-star fine dining restaurants in Sydney: Quay, Sepia, Momofuku Seiōbo and Bennelong. But there are a couple of neighbourhood fine diners you need to pop on your bucket list, too. Sixpenny in Stanmore is one. And so is Oscillate Wildly, Newtown’s teeny-tiny restaurant on Australia Street. It feels like a friendly local haunt. And that’s what it is, except it’s actually a bit posh. The fit-out is pared-back: white walls, white tablecloths and smartly dressed waiters. Run by chef and owner, Karl Firla, it’s degustation-only and there are no menus offered (although dietary requirements are catered to). Many of the world’s best restaurants do things this way (including Copenhagen’s Noma and Relæ) and it keeps you surprised throughout.
What is it about Sepia? Is it the warm, comfortable service? Is it the chic, dark, Deco-like interior, or is it the food? Food that thrills your mouth with such educated intuition that you start to feel there must be dark magic at work. You can get the short degustation or the longer one, and with $20 between them, you may as well go all out. And in that vein, we suggest you go matching beverages as well. Sommelier Rodney Setter is pairing everything from wine to Madeira, sake to Muscadelle with the food, and every one is a surprise and a delight, not to mention delivered in an in-depth, enlightening and educational bent from the man himself.
Cho Cho San has what is quite possibly the most beautiful restaurant interior in Sydney. The work of restaurant designer du jour George Livissianis, it’s all about Nordic cool versus Japanese refinement: think polished concrete, whitewashed bricks and pale birch plywood furnishings. The ceiling is made up of a giant light box that can be brightened and faded at the touch of a button, and hidden acoustic foam means you can actually hear the conversation with your dining partner, despite the place being invariably packed. Behind the scenes is pretty much Sydney’s dining dream team. Ex-Billy Kwong, Bodega and Rockpool chef Nic Wong heads up the kitchen with help from Jonathan Barthelmess, who co-owns the joint with Sam Christie.
How could you not have a good time in here? You can't. It’s too much fun. You can sit upstairs in the dining room-proper, but we’re all about the casual vibes of the black and white-toned downstairs bar, where you can sit next to your partner and watch all the action of the bar unfold (for larger groups, you’re better at a table upstairs). Stanbuli is situated in the beautiful pink and purple, curved glass façade of the Marie-Louise Salon on Enmore Road, just down from Hartsyard, Gretz and the Stinking Bishops (what a strip). The name is taken from the Turkish slang for Istanbul, and that’s what the food here is all about: real Turkish food, by way of head chef Kasif.
This beautifully designed restaurant is all about the share plates, so ask your waiter how much to order between you, as every plate is sized differently. The baloney sandwich has built up somewhat of a rep since this place opened in 2014. The milk bun is soft and supple, the tomato sauce is sour and refreshing and the baloney, smooth and light. It’s a simple dish and a killer beer snack. But if you wanna see what chef Mitch Orr can do, better to order the parsnip. It's been cooked to buttery tenderness before being battered and fried until crisp. Dip it into the spicy jalapeño cream on the side, and with a plummy, minimal intervention 2014 grenache in your other hand, you’ll be offering to buy another round, it’s that good.
Porteño is awesome. Always has been, since the day it opened those cast iron gates to hungry customers in 2010. Back then, queues crowded the courtyard and snaked down Cleveland Street. People wrestled to get in for a fix of Argentinean-style, eight-hour wood-fired pig and those Brussels sprouts. And six years on some old favourites remain, and the pâté is still the best way to start. It's undercharged at $3 per person, and testament to how much these guys want you to have a good time. Your bread roll arrives with a little dish of punchy, house-made pâté and a bowl of olive oil and chimichurri to freshen things up. Now that your appetite is whetted, order some wine. Co-owner and sommelier Joe Valore has curated the South American-centric list, one of the finest in town.
There are many things to love about this bunker-like fine diner. The fact that it is really affordable at $45 for five courses at lunch and $98 for 11 courses at dinner (including snacks) is one thing. That the food is beautiful to look at, and even better to eat, is another. And there’s also that feeling you get when you’re scaling the stairs to below street level, chic Nordic wooden furnishings all around, Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo, staff only too keen to make you comfortable. It’s just a lovely place to be. Whatever time you’re dining, go the matched wines, which are $40 for three glasses at lunch or $80 for eight at dinner.
We’re torn about this joint. Is it a bar, or is it a restaurant? The food's so good, you wouldn't come in and not eat. But the drinks list is so strong and the vibe so chill that it feels like a bar. Bar Brosé is both. The kitchen has been taken over by co-owner, ex-ACME chef, and the winner of Best Hot Talent at our 2015 Food Awards, Analiese Gregory. And man, can this woman cook. Having previously worked as executive sous-chef at Quay (that’s one rank below Peter Gilmore), she’s also done stints at Mugaritz and Bras in Europe. She is the most exciting chef in Sydney right now. As you walk in, you might smell cheese – that will be the gougères. They are little comté-imbued choux pastry orbs that melt on your tongue like cheesy clouds, and they’re as good a place as any to start your gastronomic journey.
It’s hard not to fall totally in love with Ester the moment you walk through the door. Its arched concrete features, open kitchen and laid-back but chic vibes are intoxicating. All of this is lovely, but it’s the food that’s going to get you, one way or the other. That’s because behind the pass is Mat Lindsay – a man who knows how to prepare a meal that feels as accessible as it is delicious, but still, in the undercurrent, is sophisticated cooking. The squid ink dumplings are a great example of this. Rejecting our usual wont for thin casings and delicate fillings, here everything is thrown on its head, with its outwardly crisp, inwardly thick, sticky and chewy casing enclosing nubbly little pieces of squid drenched in its own ink, humming with ginger and beautifully seasoned.
The food here, a fusion of Chinese and native Australian cuisine, and it is sensational. Get the saltbush cakes to start things rolling. Four little crescents of crisp, flaky, buttery pastry will arrive, stuffed with native saltbush leaves and a dip each of soy and hot, fermenty chilli sauce on the side. Do not miss the steamed mini pork buns. They are served with more of that chilli sauce and filled with meat marinated in local honey from the Wayside Chapel’s rooftop beehives. The intensely floral notes from the honey permeate the buns in a way that might have seemed unimaginable when there are such strong flavours about. (Hot tip: if you don’t fancy a full meal, you can come and sit at the bar and just have a snack of these – or anything else for that matter – with a drink.)
Sydney has long prided itself on its Thai food but it had all gotten a bit predictable until David Thompson brought his Long Chim empire to Sydney to stoke the flames of our South East Asian eats – and we’re not just talking a larb that’s so hot it’ll get you high. Thompson was part of the early wave of incredible Thai eateries in Sydney with Darley Street Thai and Sailors Thai, but then he headed to London and Bangkok to open Nahm, and Singapore and Perth for the original two Long Chims. In that time Longrain and Spice I Am kept high-end Thai on a steady roll, but now Thompson has come full circle to bring fresh fire to Sydney CBD dining, especially at lunch.
“Yellow has gone vegetarian”. It was the headline that festooned a thousand Facebook feeds when co-owner and chef Brent Savage made the announcement in early 2016. This was one of Sydney’s most beloved restaurants, and now, suddenly no meat or fish? But actually, Savage’s wife is vegetarian, and much of the menu at his other restaurants, Bentley and Monopole, deify the vegetable. And to be fair, Yellow isn’t 100% veggo. Their famed weekend brekkies are still serving meat. The rest of the time though, you can order off the share plate-led à la carte menu, however the five or seven-course tasting menu (choose from veggo or vegan) is a brilliant way to try lots of things.
We had high hopes for a restaurant from Lennox Hastie, the British-born chef whose pedigree is littered with Michelin stars and a five-year stint in the Basque Country at Asador Etxebarri, and they weren't disappointed. What sets Asador Etxebarri apart is its focus on fire – everything is prepared over an open flame, and head chef Victor Arguinzoniz selects specific woods with which to cook each ingredient. Hastie brought the same approach to Firedoor. Shellfish is cooked over applewood to imbue the meat with a gentle level of sweetness. Burning mallee root, in contrast, heightens the earthiness of mushrooms. And the aromatic smoke of orange wood balances the richness of salmon.
When chef Ben Greeno left Momofuku Seiōbo to go and start up a rotisserie chicken joint with Merivale, we were scared – he had defined what this restaurant was going to be. But then the big boss man, David Chang, sent over one of his most senior chefs from New York, Paul Carmichael, to take over the post and he has brought about a new age for this restaurant. Carmichael was born in Barbados, and his Caribbean upbringing shines in his food, matched with the most interesting beverage list we’ve seen in ages by sommelier Ambrose Chiang. It’s dego only, and with 14 courses including snacks, it's a big'un, but not one dish we eat the night we visit is a flop.
Automata at the Old Clare Hotel in Chippendale is a place where the menu is equal parts challenging and utterly delicious, and the drinks list is much of the same. It’s a thrilling, wonderful place to eat a meal, and you’ll leave feeling inspired and excited. Here’s why. It’s all down to the man behind the pass, Clayton Wells. As co-owner and head chef of Automata (he owns the joint with the Old Clare’s big boss, Loh Lik Peng) the once-Momofuku Seiōbo sous chef (who also did stints at Viajante in London as well as Quay and Tetsuya’s) knows a thing or two about cooking. But he’s come into his own at Automata, and he’s become one of the most unique culinary voices in Sydney.
It took out our top gong at this year's Time Out Sydney Food Awards with very good reason. Here at Hubert, the Frenchified first restaurant from Sydney’s favourite bar boys, the Swillhouse group (owners of the Baxter Inn, Shady Pines and Frankie’s) they've brought the fun their venues are famous for to a restaurant helmed by one of Sydney’s most exciting chefs, Daniel Pepperell (formerly of 10 William Street). Like Alice down the rabbit hole, as soon as you walk through the big wooden doors, you feel instantly detached from the outside world and what lies before you is the promise of incredible eats and show-stopping wine in a music-filled, candle-lit Belle Epoche-style bunker.