Sydney’s gastronomic scene is as diverse as Australia’s famous landscape. On one hand, you have the fine dining institutions that have taken waterside residence for years, and on the other, there is a diverse range of cuisines spread throughout the CBD, Western Sydney, East Sydney and beyond. Despite the efforts of the “shall not be named year”, the city’s dining scene is thriving, with new openings bringing a new spin on Lebanese cuisine and American-style diner food. Some of our favourite pioneers’ upgraded menus, and dining rooms during last year’s coma. Others rebranded and redirected their focus, some offering takeaway for the first time.
So if you’re looking for the best degustation in the city, at every price point, under every flavour umbrella and in the best suburbs read on.
Potts Point The gist: It’s no easy feat opening a restaurant in the midst of a pandemic, but this new eatery in Potts Point is buzzing with locals and visitors lining up to get a taste of Tel Aviv’s cosmopolitan dining scene. After falling in love with Eastern European food, co-owners Nick and Kirk Mathews Bowden decided to open up the 90-seat bar and restaurant on a charming tree-lined street in a narrow heritage building. The food: The food reflects the Diaspora of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish favourites, including meze and flatbread, delicious dips from hummus to charred eggplant. Dishes are meant to be shared, but you might want to order two of the beef kibbeh with almond cream and sumac–one each. Other shareable plates include the whole roast cauliflower smothered in halloumi, Zaatar and honey. The lamb shoulder tagine is a crowd favourite as is the ice cream baklava sandwich. The cost: The set menu is $65 per person and a great way to sample most of the a la carte menu. Dips and other small starters are $14-22, mains are $32-42 and dessert is $7-13. How to order: Reservations are recommended and available via Resy.
Newtown The gist: Enmore Road is a melting pot when it comes to cuisines and restaurants, so it was only right for popular pop-up Little Lagos to find a permanent home here. After noticing a gap in the African cuisine market, owner Ade Adeniyi made the decision to open a brick and mortar flagship, last July. The food: Here, expect to find traditional Western African cuisine in a warm and friendly atmosphere. This includes Jollof Rice, Fried Plantains, Egusi Stew served with a dough made from boiled and pounded starchy ground provisions like semolina and cassava. There’s also an amazing assortment of other meat and meat-free stews from Nigerian head chef Kemi Fajemisin. Pair your experience with a cocktail menu of West African themed drinks, which has been a crowd-pleaser thus far. Although Little Lagos is more than just an eatery, it’s a cultural hub supporting art and music, predominately by people of colour. The cost: Mains are $15-30, stews are $30, and the snacks are $10-28. How to order: Reservations, delivery and pick up are available via the website.
CBD The gist: Restaurant Leo is the latest restaurant to grace the upscale dining team. Hailing from Lumi Dining owner and chef, Federico Zanellato and ex-Oscillate Wildly restaurateur, Karl Firla, Leo is a slice of Italy, right down to its hidden alley location on a cobblestone street. The food: Expect white tablecloths but without being ostentatious, hearty Mediterranean classics and housemade everything: pastry, pasta, bread, and more. Think Maccheroncini Lobster swimming in a bisque-like sauce, veal saltimbocca, borlotti bean soup, and beetroot carpaccio. Enjoy your meal outside in the laneway under the infamous birdcages of Angel Place or inside, surrounded by dark bentwood chairs, Armani greys, and creams. The cost: Oysters are $4.50 each, starters are from $17-22, and mains range from $26-59. How to order: Reservations are available via the website.
The gist: RaRa Ramen graced us with its presence in 2018, serving delicious umami bowls of ramen. The secret, their traditional tonkotsu broth, and housemade noodles. Every day the tiny kitchen churned out bowls to hungry Sydneysiders and now it’s catering to the vegan community with Lonely Mouth by RaRa in Newtown. This big step was not made lightly, given some noodle purists shun new variations of a favourite, although people are loving it and praising the RaRa team for shining a light on vegetarian and vegan options. The food. Choose from a range of ramens, including the Sunflower and Hempseed Shoyu Ramen, Plant-based Tantanmen Ramen, and Vegan Soy Miso. The izakaya-sides rotate every few weeks, but some of them include Cauliflower Karaage, Japanese Pickles, Kimchi, and Corn Tempura. The cost: A bowl of ramen ranges from $18.80-21, and snacks are $6-10. How to order: They take walk-ins or you can order delivery via Ubereats.
Paddington The gist: This Sydney restaurant takes fish seriously, both the sourcing and cooking of it. Chef and co-owner, Josh Niland is passionate about his pioneering fin-to-scale philosophy, often showcasing his fish butchery skills to diners. During Covid lockdowns, Saint Peter was busy tinkering behind closed doors, transforming a table-and-chair room into a long 12-metre Carrara marble-topped bar offering front-row views of Josh cooking who can also explain techniques and parts of the fish during the service. Savour every good-looking dish presented in front of you, while washing it down with one of the many, many wines on the list. If you have any questions about the menu, simply ask the chef in front of you to explain and they will ensure you get the best out of the experience. The food: Some favourites include the Hot Smoked Yellowfin Tuna Belly, Charcoal Flounder, and the Marmande Tomato and White Peach side. Although the menu changes often, you can expect to see Chef Niland’s take on fish and chips, a garfish tart and charcuterie selection to start. The cost: Lunch service is a la carte and ranges from $16-120. For dinner service, the set menu is $155 per person and a beverage match option for $85 per person. How to order: Reservations for dinner are strongly recommended and can be made via Resy. Lunch reservations can also be made via Resy. You can order take away from Fish Butchery, which offers different items at a different price point.
Surry Hills The gist: This relatively new restaurant in Sydney is fire. Literally, everything on the menu passes through a flame in one form or another. There are two wood-fired ovens, three grills, and a wood-burning hearth, all visible to diners through the open kitchen. They source ingredients from local producers including aged meat such as lamb, pork, and beef. Shellfish is killed (for lack of a better word) to order from the fish tank on site. The focus is on food in its purest form which is why the menu is simple but executed so well. The food: Expect a five-course chef’s menu showcasing Cowra lamb rump with fermented onions, John Dory, with burnt tomato, and Kangaroo with radish, red currants, and pepper berry. The menu is always changing so don’t hold us to these exact dishes. The cost: The five-course chef’s menu is $140 per person. How to order: Reservations are necessary and can be made via the website.
Chippendale The gist: Chippendales shining star, Automata is a provocative game-changer in the fine-dining world. Inside, the room is pared back revealing exposed polished concrete and wooden tones, but with a warm and cosy vibe from the pendant lights. The food: The five-course set menu is fun, inventive, but has the finesse of a Michelin-starred restaurant without being stuffy. Although it’s always changing, you can expect artfully plated food crafted by chef Clayton Wells. Think grilled octopus with bean paste, barbecued quail, with cherry and charred eggplant, rangers valley rib eye, and caramelised pineapple and liquorice cheesecake. The cost: The tasting menu is $165 per person, and the extended menu is $195 per person. How to order: Reservations are necessary and can be made via The Fork. The extended menu must be pre-selected online when making a booking.
Darlinghurst The gist: This Sri Lankan restaurant has a big personality and offers one of the best, most unique brunches on the weekend. The casual diner has become a favourite with locals and visitors, indulging in a Sri-Lankan style dinner. The food: Expect fish curries, mixed sambol plates, spicy deep-fried crab balls, and little fried lentil cakes. The star of the menu is definitely the hopper. Tear, fold, or dip it curries and sambols for a burst of flavour. On the weekend, head to Lankan Filling Station for a different kind of brunch. Expect crispy fried egg rolls, curry toastie, milk buns filled with seeni sambol and a sweet hopper served with caramelised jaggery and whipped coconut. The cost: The banquet without drinks is $70 per person, and the mud crab banquet is $140-200 depending on the market price for crabs. A la carte menu items range from $4-22. How to order: Orders for pick up are available via Bopple. Reservations for dining in can be made via the website.
Potts Point The gist: Get your Japanese fix at Cho Cho San, a casual eatery in Potts Point serving modern Izakaya in a nordic dining room. The focus here is fun, good times surrounded by a lot of drinks and finely plated food. Expect to see a rowdy crowd (sometimes), engaging in conversation, nibbling on inventive Japanese cuisine, including snacks, to shared plates and raw bar options. The snacks are what you would expect, but with a twist. The food: Think edamame dip, pork katsu in a steam bun, and chicken karaage. To share, opt-in for the crab fried rice, okonomiyaki and spicy sesame noodles. The raw bar has raw scallops with ponzu, Kingfish, and Sydney rock oysters with wasabi vinegar. The next best thing about this eatery is the drinks. Expect yuzu spritz, peach tea sour, kombu old fashioned and Suika Gimlet, with gin. The cost: The Cho Cho San Feast is $95 per person, and the izakaya set is $65 per person. Raw Bar items are $5-28, meat and seafood range from $26-36, and plates are $13-32. How to order: Reservations can be made via The Fork.
Surry Hills The gist: Henrietta is the new chick on the block. The 65-seat casual eatery welcomes guests to stay and drink, but you can also take it to go. If you do stay, head to the bar for Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails including a slushie martini, lychee cosmo-meets bubble tea, and more. The food: Henrietta delivers Lebanese-style charcoal chicken with all our favourite sides: homemade hummus, falafel, tahini, and pickles. As you can imagine, chicken is the hero here, drawing on Middle-Eastern influences through flavour and texture. You will find non-traditional dishes including chicken tawook spring rolls, lamb kibbeh san choy bow, and beef brisket shawarma tacos. The cost: Quarter chickens are $9, Half is $15 and a whole chicken is $28. Sides are $5-11 or the banquet with sides is $49 per person. Burgers and wraps are $15-16, and sauces are $2-3. How to order: Reservations are available via the website. Order for pickup and delivery can also be made via the website.
Newtown The gist: In 2013 Cafe Paci lived in Darlinghurst but later closed, until 2019, when the newly-improved Cafe Paci opened in Newtown, slinging modern Italian and French dishes, with a Finnish twist at a friendly price point. The food: The menu is a la carte, focusing on smaller, but tasty plates to share. Expect a beef tartare with smoked tomato, octopus served with potatoes and a generous sprinkle of paprika. There are also larger menu items like the steak Frites with sauce Diane, Murray cod, and stracciatella with pickled melon, chilli, and fennel. Dessert is just as good, with options including a pain perdue with cardamom caramel and vanilla, carrot sorbet, and the strawberry granita with coconut chantilly. The cost: Smaller plates are $4-10, while the larger plates range from $18-45. Desserts are $15. How to order: Bookings have a 2 hour time duration and can be made via the website.
Barangaroo The gist: The wait is over for Sydney. World-renowned chef, Nobu Matsuhisa opened Nobu in Crown Sydney at the end of 2020 and it’s already booked out. You can expect to find his signature dishes, including the famed black cod miso and yellowtail jalapeno. The food: As you can imagine, the food here is top-notch, beautifully presented in an elegant dining room. There are even private dining rooms for functions if you’re feeling extra fancy or are celebrating a milestone. The menu is extensive and separated into categories from cold dishes and sashimi to snack and hot dishes. The Nobu tacos are a delight, as is the seafood ceviche. If you can’t make up your mind, opt-in for the omakase seven-course experience. The cost: Lunch bento boxes are $40-70, cold dishes are $12-48, and hot dishes are $40-96. For dinner, the 7-course omakase is $175, and the a la carte options range from $5-60 for nigiri and sashimi, and $11-28 for sushi maki. The bar menu includes tacos for $8-20, the sushi bar is $44-60, and shared plates are $18-32. How to order: Bookings are necessary and can be made via the website.
Surry Hills The gist: Porteño has long served Sydney, offering South American-inspired dishes in Surry Hills that has people coming back for more. Here, Parilla (Argentinian barbecue) takes centre stage featuring quality meats, vegetables, and fish cooked over a fire. The food: This includes slow charcoal grilled free-range pork belly, woodfired Cone Bay Barramundi, and seasonal vegetable cooked over charcoal with romesco. The sides are the perfect accompaniment to the mains, including fennel, apples and pickled daikon salad, homestyle fried potatoes, and heirloom tomato salad. Even dessert has woodfired elements such as wood-fired fruit, stuffed with rosemary syrup and yoghurt sorbet. The cost: Entrees are $26-32, mains are $34-90, and desserts are $12-19. How to order: Reservations can be made via OpenTable. Credit card information required when you book online.
CBD The gist: Chef Tetsuya Wakuda refurbished a heritage-listed site to create a serene dining experience in the CBD. Here, the degustation menu is based on the Japanese philosophy of using natural seasonal flavours, with French techniques. This classic institution has been open since 1989, which is a testament given it remains one of the best restaurants in Sydney. The food: The confit of Tasmanian Ocean Trout with a salad of apple and witlof is iconic and the centre of culinary praise. Choose from a five or eight-course menu, with dishes including wagyu sirloin with pickled shiitake, kingfish sashimi and a chocolate stone for dessert. The cost: The 5-course degustation is $180 per person with an optional $105 per person wine pairing. The 8-course degustation is $250 per person, and the optional wine pairing is $165 per person. How to order: Reservations are a must and are available via The Fork.
Pyrmont The gist: David Chang’s culinary delights can be seen as far as Vegas to Sydney, introducing diners to seriously good Caribbean cooking. In Sydney, we’re lucky to have Momofuku Seiobo, home to one of the city’s coolest dining rooms. Muted colours and mood lighting set the scene, but its narrow construction makes the place feel like a hole-in-the-wall. The food: Here, you will find dishes from Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Cuba, including Bajan black pudding, Trinidadian roti and jerk chicken. Each dish is packed with flavour, just as if you were travelling around the Caribbean. The cost: The 5:45 pm tasting menu seating is $215 per person and the 8:30 pm seating is $225 per person. How to order: Reservations can be made via the website.
CBD The gist: Hidden behind a grand wooden door is a set of old rickety wooden stairs that lead to Sydney’s most revered French dining haunts, Restaurant Hubert. Although there’s more to this place than meets the eye. Its speak-easy vibes are in perfect tune with its Jazz and live music scene, including a tattered grand piano and the deep leather red booths. You can’t help but feel scandalous here, especially when cheeky theatrics take place. As a rarity, the establishment doesn’t compromise on food quality. Instead, Hubert is known more for its dishes which are French, with upscale touch. The food: Think caviar service, cheddar souffle, wagyu tartare, and a range of charcuterie options. Champagne is always flowing here, as are the martini’s as you sit back to the soothing Jazz sounds. Even when there’s no live music, the buzz of diners is just as satisfying. The cost: Caviar service is $190-490, oysters are $36-72, and crustacean of the day is sold at market price. Entrees range from $24-32, charcuterie is $7-27, and grilled dishes range from $49-75. How to order: Reservations are available via OpenTable.
Barangaroo The gist: Sydney has no shortage of great seafood restaurants, but Cirrus is always a surefire bet. Situated in Barangaroo, Cirrus caters to the corporate world but welcomes anyone looking for good seafood, with a touch of finesse. Hailing from restaurant dream team chef Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt (Monopole, Bentley and Yellow), Cirrus lives up to expectations by serving seasonal produce, and most importantly, fresh seafood. The food: The seafood platter is a hit and comes in two tiers. There’s also the Cirrus fish and chips with malt vinegar mayonnaise. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds. Its waterside location also adds to the atmosphere, particularly at night. The cost: The raw seafood plate is $65, and mains range from $16-48. The tasting menu is $110 per person (whole table only). How to order: Reservations can be made via calling 0292200111.
Stanmore The gist: Sixpenny is a little restaurant in Stanmore, serving Australian Modern fare in an elegant dining room. Sounds simple right? Wrong. Prior to booking a reservation, you will notice there is no menu, anywhere. So how do you know what to expect? Well, you don’t. It’s a matter of taking a gamble, showing up, and being wowed by the menu presented in front of you. The food: We’re not even sure what’s on the menu today, but in the past, they’ve served up Kangaroo tartare, meat and vegetable dishes, pumpkin scallops, and a play on steak and onions. The food is very Australian, but refined and executed to the point the flavours are there, but presented in a different way. The cost: The set menu is $195 with matched wines for $320. How to order: Reservations are necessary and can be made via Resy.
Circular Quay The gist: Quay set the bar for fine dining in Sydney and still remains one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants. Helmed by renowned chef, Peter Gilmore, the waterside restaurant sits in the Overseas Passenger Terminal, commanding views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. One of its most recognisable dishes is the Snow Egg, made famous by tv series, Masterchef Australia. Although no longer available on the menu, you will still find exceptional elevated dishes, worthy of a milestone or special celebration. The food: There is an eight-course menu available for lunch or dinner and includes highlights such as the poached marron, smoked eel cream, southern squid swimming in chicken broth and Maremma duck served with preserved Morello cherries. Desserts are works of art, just order the white coral to see why. The cost: The 8-course menu is $290 and the sommelier pairing is $230. The 6-course is $240 with an optional wine pairing at $190. How to order: Reservations can be made via the website.
Circular Quay The gist: Bennelong is another Peter Gilmore restaurant, taking up residence inside the Sydney Opera House. Here, he focuses on artful and imaginative Australian cuisine in a stunning dining room, surrounded by the bones of the Opera House and with views of the Harbour. The food: There are two dining options, one in the main dining room or at the chef’s counter for a degustation experience with the chefs. Expect steamed Murray cod, raw scallops with oyster cream, three milk curd ravioli and lobster gnocchi. During the Sunday lunch service, patrons will dine to the sounds of live music right into the afternoon. What’s more charming than that? The cost: The 3-course a la carte menu with sides is $160 per person with an optional cheese course for $30. The optional main supplement is $60 for the lobster. How to order: Reservations are available via the website.
Despite last year’s best efforts, Sydney’s hospitality scene continues to thrive—as do Sydneysiders. We mourned the casualties of lockdown and while we hoped for new beginnings this year, it hasn’t turned out quite as we expected. Nevertheless, we march on and this list of new restaurants and bars opening is the bright light we inch toward as we approach to exit this tunnel someday.
So, what’s on the horizon for Sydney’s dining scene? Kylie Kwong is set to launch her latest concept, everyone’s favourite 50’s bartenders will don a new suit at a new establishment, Neil Perry ventures to Double Bay for a restaurant that is all his own, and a zero-waste bar is to make its debut soon.
This is just the beginning. We hope to see many more exciting venues opening over the year. For now, here are the city’s most anticipated openings for 2021.
Kylie Kwong at South Eveleigh
Kylie Kwong is no stranger to Sydney with the better part of two decades on the dining scene. Her Potts Point establishment, Billy Kwong was a favourite but when it closed in 2019, people have been waiting for the powerhouse chefs next steps. We’re happy to tell you, she is coming back on the scene with her biggest project yet, South Eveleigh. Formerly known as Australian Technology Park, South Eveleigh is an emerging dining destination of which Kwong is the ambassador. Expect a relaxed daytime venue featuring local indigenous produce with her signature Cantonese culinary style. It’s a world away from Billy Kwong, but it is set to bring new meaning to the word ‘casual eatery’. She will also focus on sustainability, with the South Eveleigh Native Rooftop Garden and seafood from Josh Niland’s Fish Butchery.
Core at Crown Sydney
English Chef, Clare Smyth, is the first and only female chef to run a restaurant with three Michelin stars, Core in Notting Hill. She even catered for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s private wedding reception. It seems fitting to bring her talent’s to Sydney’s new rising star, Crown Sydney. In February, Smyth plans to introduce another Core to the tower, which focuses on local produce, and sustainability. The wines will be local as are the ingredients. This isn’t Smyth’s first introduction to Australia. She’s travelled around the country, which inspired the menu, offering the best Australia has to offer.
It’s almost here, our favourite Ratpack bartenders are opening Sammy Junior, a suave cafe on the ground level of 66 King Street in the CBD. The espresso coffee bar will be the highlight of the morning trade, offering a bespoke Sammy coffee blend crafted by coffee connoisseur Martin Hudak (2017 World Coffee in Good Spirits Champion and Mr Black Ambassador) alongside a short selection of classic breakfast bites from consultant chef Rob Lechowicz (Blackwood Pantry).In the afternoon, the focus will be mini cocktails which will be on tap alongside a beer and a few wines. The cheeky small doses of cocktails will be best enjoyed alongside an afternoon business meeting or as an after-work tipple but don’t expect to settle in for the night. Sammy Junior will shut from about 6 pm so head down to Maybe Sammy in The Rocks to continue the evening. Architect George Livissianis (Chin Chin Sydney, The Apollo, Cho Cho San, The Dolphin Hotel) will bring to life the interiors. Expect some visual similarities to Maybe Sammy.
Neil Perry in Double Bay
A household name, Neil perry is opening is first solo project mid-year after a 40-year career. Don’t expect to draw similarities to Rock Pool, this restaurant in Double Bay is all his own. The 170-seat venue will focus on plant-based dishes and salads during the day, with a selection of grilled options. Expect an approachable restaurant, with interiors by ACME (Mimi’s, the Grounds) and designer David Caon. The unnamed restaurant is highly anticipated with locals and diners who have followed Perry throughout his career. The new venue is Perry’s way of breathing life back into Double Bay, an area he spent many years dining in.
Aria Wine Bar
Aria is a Sydney institution, serving fine dining to locals and visitors for several years. This year it’s transforming part of the restaurant into a relaxed wine bar. Yes, it will be serving food, so if you don’t want to splash out on the full menu, you can head to the bar for wine and snacks. The wine list will be the highlight, which includes over 80 wines by the glass and 1700 bottles. Anna Solomon (co-owner and Solotel’s creative director), Matt Moran, Joel Bickford (Aria head chef), and Alex Kirkwood (head sommelier) are the creative minds behind the fresh, laid back experience. The bar will celebrate the pillars of Aria’s 20-year success, at the same time offering locals a new side of Aria. One of which doesn’t require a reservation to enjoy cocktails, and snacks from Bickford.
Re is perhaps the most exciting addition to our diverse restaurant and bar landscape. The boundary-pushing bar will be the world’s first permanent no-waste bar opening up an entirely new category, one we can get behind. Matt Whiley of Scout and Maurice Terzini from Icebergs and CicciaBella are the masterminds behind this new concept swinging its doors open sometime in February. The bar puts sustainability at the forefront, which includes the interior. Set in a heritage list- 19th Century railway engineering workshop the fit-out is comprised of recycled and repurposed building materials. The bar and tabletops are designed from recycled plastic bottles and Tupperware containers. Food that would otherwise go to waste will be given new life in cocktails, with spirit-heavy options. There is to be a food menu from Chefs Alex Prichard (Icebergs) and Nic Wong (Cicciabella).
There’s a new Greek restaurant coming to town from Greek-Australian Chef, Peter Conistis. Ploos, will find it’s home in Campbell’s Stores, the dining precinct in Circular Quay. Conistis is known for his restaurants, Alpha, Omega, and Cosmos, so Ploos is rumoured to be a fresh venue. Expect South Mediterranian dishes you would find in Crete or Cypriot, an oversized eat-at-bar, and harbour views. Ploos is slated to open in March 2021.