Ah, dinner with the rents. While a homecooked meal may be easier, sometimes it’s nice to take them for a night out. However, this isn’t always a simple task. The Sydney dining scene has a lot of quirks that can derail the best laid plans (‘You have to wait an hour for a table?!’, ‘Why is this wine orange?’), and dining with your elders brings with it a whole host of comfort and accessibility factors that mean the dark, hip communal-tabled joints are a no-go-zone. Or maybe your folks are just hard to please. That’s why we’ve come up with this handy dining guide for taking your parents out for dinner in Sydney.
Where to take your parents for dinner in Sydney
Best for: The parents who usually only eat meat-and-three-vege
They know what they like, and they like what they know, so taking them out anywhere can be a bit of a task. Skip challenging menus and go to LP’s Quality Meats for food that’s simple but still tasty AF. Order the smoked beef ribs and porchetta with a side of mash and grilled asparagus and everyone will roll away happy.
Best for: When you need to take the pain out of choosing
There’s no a la carte menu at Lumi, so skip the pain of squabbling over what to order and who pays for what and leave it with the chef. Lumi do an eight-course degustation for $120 (if you go for the five-course lunch it’s $85), and the waterfront location is a parental slam dunk.
Best for: Those who are hard of hearing
Restaurants can be loud and annoying even if your ears have never been subjected to years of face meltingly-loud rock’n’roll gigs. So when you’re looking to take your parents out and you don’t want to spend the evening competing with background noise, head to Hubert. The wooden panelled walls of this subterranean French venue absorb a good chunk of noise, so you can have a conversation without feeling like you’re in a nightclub. And order the fricassee chicken – it’s perfect for sharing.
Best for: When they need somewhere fully accessible
Let’s face it – while Sydney has some seriously great restaurants, a lot are pretty inaccessible, especially anything in a heritage building or crammed into small quarters. Luckily Da Mario in Rosebery is super accessible – there’s a ramp that’ll take you and the fam up to the wooden deck so that you can dine on some seriously good pizze, and the space is big enough to maneuver around easily.
Best for: When they insist on bringing their own wine
Even though there are some seriously good wine lists in Sydney, sometime it’s nice just to bring a bottle of your own. Emma’s Snack Bar charges just $5 for corkage, and the smoky babagonoush and garlic crusted arak prawns will go down a treat with that buttery chardonnay from your old man’s cellar.
Best for: When you’re doing a lunch
Dinners aren’t always the best option, so go for a lunch. And we all know lunches need a view so make it a spectacular one down at Freshwater. Pilu is in an old weatherboard house looking out and over Freshwater Beach. Chef Giovanni Pilu is all about celebrating classic Sardinian fare so make sure you 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.
Best for: When you need to channel some old school glamour
Lunch at Bert’s is as close as we can ever get to actually living the jazz age in all its glory. There’s not a dining room in the city that can hold a candle to the soft-focus beauty that Merivale have achieved in the final instalment of the Newport’s renewal, and though we can’t afford the $2 million price tag on a Newport residence, an afternoon of café society luxury can be yours, and it’s not as expensive as you might think to get it.
Best for: Vegan parents or those with dietary requirements
Whether they’re vegan, vegetarian, GF or just prefer to keep things simple and fresh, the menu at Alibi is wholly veggie based. You’ll find it inside the Ovolo Hotel – and it’s a brave move for a boutique hotel to make its food and beverage offering nut-and-plant-based (or perhaps an indication of how far we’ve come). Whether you’re totally animal-free, lactose intolerant, gluten sensitive or just down to try something different, this restaurant delivers plates that are fun, creative and moreish.
Brst for: When you’re paying and payday is far away
You’re a little low on funds at the moment, but you still want to take your folks out for a nice meal. Try the Dolphin Hotel and Dining Room. It’s still a pub – but Maurice Tenzini’s makeover means that it’s just fancy enough that’ll it feel a bit more special than your average pub feed. Plus pizzas are great sharing food and they go for between $18-$26 a pop here.
Best for: When they are paying and you wanna go all out
Go big on flavours and fun factor and take up a table in Kylie Kwong’s inspirational Potts Point restaurant. The food here is 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.
Best for: When they’re meeting your partner’s parents
Thai is pretty much Sydney’s favourite cuisine so keep it simple (but still a bit special) and head to Longrain. It’s a central location, the food is familiar but exciting and easy to share, and service is snappy, so the only thing you have to worry about is keeping the conversation flowing between the two camps of elders. And if it all goes pear-shaped just hunker down and order up a cocktail or three.
Best for: When extended family are coming along, too
10 William Street will reserve you a big long table upstairs if you book in advance. It’s Italian food done right, and thanks to Australia’s love affair with the food of Italy, most of it will be familiar enough that no one will baulk at anything on the menu.
Best for: When you need ultra comfortable chairs
With its enormous glass windows that open out onto Pyrmont Bay and the city, Balla is about as close as you can get to an outdoor terrace, all while remaining indoors. Stefano Manfredi’s Italian restaurant is a slick room with a '60s Italian movie vibes including booths, vintage spotlights, bleached wood floors and a long bar out the front. Said booths are very large and comfy, and the dining chairs have decent cushioning and a firm back, so anyone with back ailments will be able to sit back and relax in comfort.