Gone are the days when Sydney chefs had to leave the continent to refine their culinary style. Now, the world’s most lauded gourmands flock to Oz to soak up the city’s trendsetting tastes and top-notch ingredients. We tapped our own favorite chef/food stylist/Sydneyphile Hayley Christopher of Haystack Kitchen to school us on the magic of Down Under dining.
Flat Whites + First Things
“The Aussie food scene is so elevated and the products so fantastic across the board that it’s impossible to have a bad meal.”
359 Crown Street, Surry Hills | +61 2 9360 4762
Chef Bill Granger is a bonafide local legend credited with spawning Sydney’s café culture (and is even rumored to be the architect of our avocado toast obsession). His flair for the simply delicious has led to a worldwide restaurant empire, but the specialties he started with 23 years ago are still best experienced in his stomping ground breakfast spots.
Edition Coffee Roasters
265 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst | No Phone
This minimalist java temple manages to stand out in the crowded field of local coffee excellence, offering a fresh fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian flavors and techniques. The flat white is as perfect as you’d expect, but the cold brew, drip and artisan teas are equally outstanding as is the small, seasonal breakfast and lunch menu.
La Renaissance Café Pâtisserie
47 Argyle Street, The Rocks | +61 2 9241 4878
This French dessert dream in The Rocks district serves modern pastries, beautiful cakes and Sydney’s best macarons. Order up takeaway or sit al fresco at one of their charming sidewalk tables.
Bread & Circus
21 Fountain St, Alexandria | +61 418 214 425
The Roman tip of the hat behind Bread & Circus’ name gave us a hunch that we’d love this place. That hunch was confirmed once we arrived at the airy, industrial eatery and swooned over perfectly tangy sourdough toasts, porridges and bircher mueslis that burst with fruity flavor, and just to put an exclamation point on things, lemony banana pancakes that we still can’t get over.
Bourke Street Bakery
633 Bourke Street, Surry Hills | +61 2 9699 1011
A Sydney institution since its inception over a decade ago, this irresistible classic boulangerie practices the fine art of bread made by hand. Beautiful boules, dainty tarts and assorted loaves serve as window dressing, and specials like Wagyu corned beef sandwiches and beetroot stained Israeli couscous ensure lunch will be anything but ordinary.
101-103 Queen Street, Woollahra | +61 2 9327 6543
This storybook corner spot couldn’t be a better place to watch the world stroll on by. (The perfect poaches and fresh breakfast options don’t hurt either.)
“Coffee in Oz has a stronger effect, yet is lower in acidity [than in the U.S.], more mild in flavor and is rich without a hint of bitterness.”
32 Kings Lane, Darlinghurst | +61 2 9331 0071
We stumbled into Salvador in serious need of caffeine and fell in love with with the owner, whose Brazilian roots fuel his passion for single-origin beans and a top quality roasting process. Between the phenomenal coffee, the excellent host and the tasty toasts, we enjoyed every minute of our long, lingering morning here.
61 Albion Street, Surry Hills | +61 2 9211 5556
We were as surprised as the next person – Reuben Hills serves up some inexplicably delicious fried chicken. But as the cavernous, lab-like space suggests, this is also the place to sample some of Sydney’s finest coffeemaking. Owner Russell Beard scoured Central and South America for the finest specialty roasts (and came back with a bonus menu item: delectable, must-try Honduran baleadas).
123 Blues Point Road, McMahons Point | +61 2 9922 5601
This family-run locals favorite prides itself on European-inflected fare and an energetic sidewalk scene. Fresh and healthy Mediterranean specialties and our favorite Sydney flat white made this McMahons Point trip well worth our while.
THREE-CIDER (OR TAKEAWAY) LUNCH
“Even high-end Sydney restaurants are masters of ‘to go’. The takeaway process is so pleasant and well-executed.”
Icebergs Dining Room & Bar
1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach | +61 2 9365 9000
It’s hard to imagine a better spot in the world for a leisurely cliffside lunch than this sleek, over-water icon. With such stunning views, the Dining Room could theoretically rest on its tourist-ready laurels, but you’ll find none of that here. Spot-on cocktails, fresh seafood and tasty bites (like an uncannily good Harry’s Bar ham and cheese) are the real deal.
248 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst | +61 2 9332 3766
It doesn’t matter where in the world you are — sometimes a girl just needs a great pizza. In Sydney, the best pizza in the whole city is found at Lucio Pizzeria. Chef Lucio hails from Naples, and you only need one look at the embers smoldering in his wood-fired oven to know you’re in the right place. A Negroni or two, a Margherita and a Diavola had us singing the Neopolitan’s praises.
65 Ocean Street, Woollahra | +61 2 8388 8688
With its unfussy seasonal fare and garden party setting, we had a tough time moving on from our leisurely lunch. Plates are meant to be shared – a blessing at a place where you want to be sure you can sample every fresh produce-driven edible on the menu. Of all our Sydney meals, this was one of the standouts.
69 Macpherson St, Bronte | +61 2 9369 1110
This sweetly Deco daytime café is a beloved Bronte staple. The vintage decor (think antique mirrors, bistro chairs and marble tabletops) makes for an elegant yet comfortable vibe, and the fresh food is inventive without ever venturing into the overwrought. Best of all, Eugene’s is really a great value, especially given its priceless appeal.
“I dream of the heavenly laksa I had in Sydney almost daily. The best in the world is made by a woman at a corner stall in a food court off of Dixon Street called Eating World. FIND IT! You won’t regret it.”
Queens Court, 118 Queen Street, Woollahra | No Phone
In truth, anything atop warm, crusty, flavorful bread is going to win us over. So it would seem LUXE knows the way straight to our hearts (via our bellies). Pick any one of their marvelous tartines for a tasty afternoon snack, and be sure to save room for brownies, mini-cakes and pain au chocolats.
46/52 Meagher Street, Chippendale | +61 2 8068 8279
Tongues have been wagging (and salivating) about Ester, one of Sydney’s consensus best new restaurants. A study in globe-lit, minimalist design that lets the simply beautiful food take center stage, this seasonally-driven kitchen turns out utterly flawless cuts, seafood and a killer prix fixe.
358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills | +61 2 8399 1440
Sydney’s most emphatically loved restaurant is also its most quintessentially “Aussie”, despite its Argentine leanings. Like being invited to a friend’s rollicking cookout, this spot is all about Australia’s national treasure: its delectable, unparalleled meat. House-made sausages, slow cooked pork and lamb and steak cuts of the highest quality are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the familial atmosphere is both welcoming and refined.
“Asian flavors are a huge part of Australian cuisine, and I highly recommend finding a little place that has amazing Thai, Chinese or Vietnamese. The bánh mì is absolutely legit.”
10 Bligh Street, CBD | +61 2 8078 1888
Blame it on our ignorance, but neither of us was really expecting a Chinese cuisine revelation from our Sydney sojourn. And ‘revelation’ is exactly how we’d describe Neil Perry’s flavor-obsessed Spice Temple: the texture! The layers! The spicy goodness! We learned our Spice Temple lessons: 1. only good things can come of a Chinese Zodiac-inspired cocktail list and 2. When it comes to XO Sauce, just say yes.
348 Victoria St, Darlinghurst | +61 2 9331 7871
We can never seem to get enough of a handmade pasta; that round, subtle flavor and resilient bite just never fails to satisfy deeply. Judging by his handiwork, A Tavola’s chef Eugenio Maiale shares our sentiments. Silken bucatini and unctuous tagliatelle preceded by uncomplicated, satisfying antipasti at a warm communal table: our perfect dinner in a nutshell.
3 Bridge Lane, CBD | +61 2 9240 3000
Sydney’s Cantonese cuisine prowess is solidified at Mr. Wong, a sexy two-story dining pageant with a flair for the dramatic (as well as darn tasty dishes). Crispy-tender duck, sweet live crabs and spicy Balmain Bugs (not to mention upscale versions of familiar favorites like Kung Pao chicken or Mongolian beef) are served in a Shanghai supper club of a space which makes for both a fun and delicious evening.
“I was in awe at the grocery stores and at how different Sydney’s farmer’s markets were. Whether you’re a Michelin chef at a fine dining restaurant or selling your dishes out of a shop in a mini mall, you’re making crazy fresh and delicious food.”
11 Bridge Street, The Rocks | +61 2 9252 1888
We were impressed when we heard that this 27-year-old fine dining pioneer was still largely considered Sydney’s best restaurant, and our night at Neil Perry’s venerable flagship legitimately knocked our socks off. Firing on all cylinders, each course was layered and perfect, and the service impeccable and helpful. Spring for the degustation menu if you can – it’s a worthy gustatory splurge.
3, Overseas Passenger Terminal, George Street & Argyle Street, The Rocks | +61 2 9251 5600
It’s tough to dream up a better vision of ‘fine food with a view’ than Quay. Sweeping vistas starring both the Opera House and the Harbour, new takes on fresh catches and the kindest, most hospitable service made this a dream of a night. And the dishes – delicate, nuanced plates – were truly special.
201 Sussex Street, CBD | +61 2 9283 1990
Though there is something inherently glamorous in Sepia’s artistic ambiance, there is nothing ostentatious about it. It is the rare fine dining experience that manages to make you feel pampered, privileged and utterly comfortable all at once. There is a distinctly Japanese precision to the degustation menus, but they defy definition in their fusion creativity. Smoky grilled marron with flavors of maple and citrus, fresh crustaceans with tangy vinegar and crisp pear or cucumber, and a glass of champagne to kick things off – it’s all part of chef Benn’s flawless master plan.
PITSTOPS & NIGHTCAPS
“The Glenmore is my absolute favorite bar in Sydney. Sit and relax on their rooftop patio and stare at the Opera House while having a pitstop and a bite. Their wedges dipped in sour cream and hot chili sauce are yummy – the Aussie way.”
The Baxter Inn
Basement, 152-156 Clarence Street, CBD | No Phone
An uber-cool, below ground speakeasy with brick walls, romantic dripped candles and an old world feel, The Baxter Inn is a Sydney original. We fell hard for their famous Whisky Apple, a whole, hand-pressed Granny Smith in a pint glass shaken with Scotch and ice.
Lower Concourse, Sydney Opera House, Macquarie Street, CBD | +61 2 9247 1666
No matter how many times a day we glimpsed the Sydney Harbour and her majestic Opera House, it never failed to amaze and delight. The Opera Bar embraces her scenic good fortune by serving both an all-day and late night selection of bites, cocktails and wines; you can’t beat a crisp Hunter Valley white by day or a Spicy Affair beneath the stars.
The Lobo Plantation
Basement Lot 1, 209 Clarence Street, CBD | No Phone
The Lobo is the kind of Caribbean-flavored flight of fancy you’re giddy to visit, especially when the experience is as good as advertised. The escapist decor and rum-centric cocktail list put you in a relaxed and jovial mood, and The Shipwreck (an obvious order as far as we were concerned) with a rum floater cements the vacation state of mind. The Tom Hanks aficionado among us was mad about the Wilson!, while our tequila faithful stuck to the spicy Penicilina – which is to say – everyone left this castaway hideout very happy.