Just like a Champagne tower at a Pier One wedding, Sydney’s food scene is overflowing with possibilities. Whether your evening calls for oysters under the Sydney Opera House sails or playful snacks at a Japanese izakaya, there’s a venue for every dining occasion in our special city. To help you decide what’s for dinner, here’s a list of our favourites, organised by whatever mood happens to strike. Happy dining!
When You’re Feeling a Little Bit Fancy:
Hubert: The smell of sizzling beurre blanc, a dining room adorned with a grand piano and plush ruby booths mark this gorgeous Parisian bistro in the heart of Sydney CBD. Expect renewed French classics; duck terrine, clams Normande and a 300g Rangers Valley bavette steak.
Sokyo: One of Sydney’s best Japanese restaurants, Sokyo transcends the traditional with its imaginative take on sashimi, tempura and melt-in-the-mouth meats cooked over a robata grill. Don’t miss the wagyu flank steak served with shio koji marinade, fresh Tasmanian wasabi and garlic ponzu.
Fred’s: Led by Chez Panisse-alumnus Danielle Alvarez, Fred’s exudes warmth, charm and old-school hospitality. Dishes are seasonal, thoughtful and celebrate hyper-local produce with a wood-fired hearth doing much of the hot work.
Firedoor: Good Food’s Chef of the Year for 2019, Lennox Hastie harnesses fire to intensify his produce’s flavour and texture at Firedoor, using a variety of different woods to enhance each dish. Choose from the inventive á la carte menu or the hand-picked chef’s menu, featuring bite-sized smoked burrata and a wicked woodfired rum baba.
Bennelong: Oysters and Champagne under the Sydney Opera House sails? Count us in. Enjoy panoramic views of Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge accompanied by a modern Australian three-course menu, designed by executive chef Peter Gilmore and head chef Rob Cockerill.
When You’re After Something a Little More Casual:
10 William St: This hole-in-the-wall Sydney institution serves Italian food with a contemporary Australian twist. Famous for their soft seeded pretzel and whipped bottarga (an umami-rich salted cod dip) and seasonal menu that changes weekly, it’s the perfect spot to pull up bar stool and settle in for the night.
The Apollo: Modern Greek food served with maximum flavour and minimum fuss on Macleay Street in Potts Point. Start with sizzling saganaki (a stretchy fried cheese serve table-side with honey and oregano) and slow-cooked Riverina lamb then top it off with zingy, flame-licked meringue in their avgolemono pie. Opa!
Boon Café: Thai café and grocer by day, north-Eastern Thai cuisine by night, Boon Café serves curries, soups and warm salads for dinner in its buzzing Haymarket space. Don’t miss an entire menu dedicated to som dtum (green papaya salad) and buns filled with banana gelato for dessert.
Lankan Filling Station: Heat-packing Sri Lankan curries are the name of the game at Lankan Filling Station. Arrive early to score a seat at the bar and watch chefs fire up fish, goat and potato curries to be served in hoppers (a fermented rice pancake) with sambols, the traditional Sri Lankan accompaniment.
When You’re Planning A Fun Night Out:
Cho Cho San: A bright and playful space in the heart of Potts Point, Cho Cho San offers contemporary Japanese izakaya food and a spirited drinks list. Come for the crisp pork katsu served in steamed buns with spicy mayo, stay for the black sesame and matcha mochi ice-cream.
Don Peppino’s: A winning combination of contemporary Italian food, party vibes and spot-on service. Don’t miss their garlic bread, served warm piped with thick garlic butter, marjoram and clove.
The Dolphin: Choose your own adventure at The Dolphin and pick between the Wine Room, a cosy space offering drops by the glass, the Dining Room, a more formal dinner set-up with a seasonal menu or the Public Bar, with pizzas and a chicken ‘Cotsu’ burger worth travelling town for.
Alberto’s Lounge: Sydney’s buzzing Italian darling, Alberto’s Lounge is tucked away in Surry Hills, quietly serving some of the best pasta in the city. Don’t miss the lemony polpo e ceci (octopus and chickpeas), house-churned gelato – and, if you’re game, the richly spiced trippa alla romana.
When You’re Hungry But Want a Killer Drink:
Continental Bar & Bistro CBD: Newtown’s favourite bar has opened up in the CBD, offering a unique take on Australian cuisine and signature canned cocktails. Try the quintessential Mar-tinny with a Gilda, a skewered salty delight of olive, anchovy and guindilla peppers.
Little Felix: A French-style cocktail bar in the heart of the city with a moody interior, polished service and elevated wine offering. Order from a selection of charcuterie, cheese and tartines – a toasted open sandwich served with steak tartare, smoked salmon or truffled raclette.
Love, Tilly Devine: The small lane-way bar with a big reputation. And rightly so. Love, Tilly Devine serves some of the city’s best bar snacks. Order a glass from their extensive wine list, a pasta or cheese plate to share and watch the world go by from the window seat.
Poly: Expect inventive bar snacks and a wine list of organic and biodynamic drops from this Surry Hills establishment. The menu changes weekly and with the season. Winter might mean a slow-braised short-rib to share and with Spring, tangy radish crudité and whipped tahini.
Ragazzi: A hole-in-the-wall must-visit with a concise menu of five or six daily-changing dishes. Think Jerusalem artichoke and pecorino ravioli or tajarin (that yolk-enriched noodle of Piemonte) cacio e pepe, served with a glass from their 250-bottle strong wine list.
When You Want an Element of the Outdoors:
China Doll: Since 2004, China Doll has served regional Chinese cuisine from its waterside haven on Woolloomoolloo Wharf. The fine-diner is famed for its crisp pork belly with chilli caramel, Asian-inspired seasonal cocktails and stellar views of Sydney’s twinkling skyline.
The Gantry: A Hickson Road hero, The Gantry offers relaxed fine dining within Pier One walls. Request a table by the water and choose from a refined menu of modern Australian classics, say, Spencer Gulf kingfish with cucumber, wasabi and white soy or roasted beetroot with black rice, purple mustard and dill.
Smoke at Barangaroo House: The jewel in the Barangaroo House crown, Smoke has a brilliant view of Sydney’s impressive waterside development, while offering a range of cocktails featuring native ingredients and spirits from all corners of the globe.
Café Sydney: Sweeping views of Circular Quay are just one of the perks of a Café Sydney experience. Choose from an approachable menu favouring local seafood and watch the sunset over Sydney Harbour, saving room for their signature salted caramel and chocolate peanut tart.
Icebergs Dining Room and Bar: A sleek dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows showing off Bondi’s best asset. Dishes celebrate Italian regionality with a contemporary edge such as lightly dusted local gamberetti shrimp or hand-cut spaghetti with Moreton Bay bug, tomato and verbena butter.
When you want to stay near the Pier:
Ventuno: Would you like a side of marina with your pizza marinara? Set on Walsh Bay’s waterfront, Ventuno is part pizzeria, part Italian bistro. Pop in for dopo lavoro (meaning ‘after work’ in Italian) snacks or share a buffalo mozzarella margherita at one of our favourite neighbourhood eats.
The Harbourview: Our lively local pub with views of the Harbour Bridge, a rooftop cocktail bar and all-star pub menu. It’s our go-to for chicken parmigiana or a Sunday roast with all the trimmings.
The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel: Sydney’s oldest continually licensed hotel still knows how to put on a show. Located in the historic Rocks precinct just nearby, it serves its own brews behind the bar (we love the malty Victory’s Bitter) and a sharp pub menu with steaks accompanied by cafe dé Paris butter and kingfish served in a Himalayan-spiced curry.