The Best Restaurants in Sydney

It wasn’t so long ago that Sydney offered either fine dining or chips and burgers, but not much in between for foodists. Culinarily speaking, the city was just a bit jealous of its cosmopolitan peer, Melbourne. But Sydney visitors can now rejoice. In recent years the harbour city has really upped the gastronomic ante, with a raft of new restaurant openings. While a dinner out in Sydney can often induce sticker shock, you get what you pay for—meaning fantastic meat, seafood, and produce prepared with a playful Australian spirit.

130 Argyle Street
After 30 years at the forefront of Sydney‘s fine-dining scene, Quay Restaurant underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation and reopened in 2018. The restaurant swapped white linens for Tasmanian spotted-gum wood tabletops and exchanged the previous purple-and-gold palette for blues, grays, and browns that better reflect Quay’s harborfront location facing the Sydney Opera House. Executive chef Peter Gilmore loosened up his menu, too, offering either six or 10 inventive courses such as the Oyster Intervention—a crumble of oyster cream, crushed fried dehydrated oysters, chicken skin, tapioca, and caviar served in a ceramic oyster shell—creating a dish that’s all bivalve flavor without the slippery texture. Fans of the old Snow Egg dessert will be won over by White Coral: a multitextured masterpiece of aerated ganache, coconut cream, and ice cream.
66 Hunter St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
The most stunning dining room in celebrity chef Neil Perry’s restaurant empire has got to be Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney. Seated amid soaring green marble columns and Art Deco windows in a space designed by Emil Sodersten, diners can choose between the finest steaks, seafood, cocktails, and wines—more than 3,000 of them—that Australia has to offer. Dry-aged beef and sustainable fish are simple yet succulent, cooked over an open flame or in the wood-fired rotisserie. Start with the signature Four Raw Tastes of the Sea before savoring the Wagyu or Cape Grim steak, or opt for classy appetizers and cocktails in the candlelit bar, adorned with 2,682 hanging Riedel riesling glasses.
270 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach NSW 2026, Australia
A North Bondi Beach institution since 1993, Sean’s Panaroma is known for unpretentious yet delicious fare, served in a homey dining room alongside fresh-cut flowers and views of Australia’s most famous beach. The simple chalkboard menu of entrées, mains, and desserts changes weekly—sometimes daily—based on what’s growing locally and at owner Sean Moran’s farm in the Blue Mountains (which also hosts stays). The waitstaff is tried and true, with a deep knowledge of Sean’s organic ingredients and wines. On your next visit, you might be treated to burrata-stuffed squash blossoms, a comforting arrangement of steaming mussels and perfectly seared tuna, Sean’s signature free-range herb “chook” (chicken), and a biodynamic red wine from New Zealand.
79 Hall St, Bondi Beach NSW 2026, Australia
Chef Bill Granger started his first restaurant in Darlinghurst at age 24. Since then, his sunny Aussie eatery (most famous for its creamy scrambled eggs, ricotta hotcakes, and crunchy corn fritters) has spread to Surry Hills as well as Honolulu, Seoul, London, and four locations in Japan. The newest Australian outpost of Bills in Bondi Beach is bright and communal, spilling out on to one of the area’s most lively streets. Arrive early to avoid the long queue for weekend brunch, and sample everything from house-cured gravlax to the fried rice bowl with kimchi. Dinner (at the Bondi and Surry Hills locations only) is a more intimate, candle-lit affair, with interesting Aussie-Asian plates like tea-smoked trout salad, fish curry, spicy pork belly, and Japanese-style steak.
50 Holt Street
The Argentine restaurant that took Sydney by storm in 2010—and even rose from the ashes of a fire that originated in its charcoal grill—finally outgrew its Cleveland Street Surry Hills digs and reopened on Holt Street in late 2016. The old parilla and asado fire pits were transplanted to the new location, this time positioned behind the counter of the open kitchen, and the rockabilly vibe lives on, albeit in a bright, plant-filled, parquet-floored space decorated with vintage sports and movie posters. Old menu favorites like the grilled Wagyu skirt steak and deep-fried Brussels sprouts can now be paired with a seafood cocktail, or wood-fired pumpkin tamales smothered in mole. End with the flan or melon ice cream served in the rind.
35 Oxford Street
Slide into a sexy booth or black-velvet armchair at this award-winning French restaurant on happening Oxford Street and admire the grand chandeliers, antique flower pots, oversized clock display, and fabulous French staff. Founded by the famous French drag queen and chef Claire de Lune, who also started Sydney’s acclaimed El’Circo drag show, Claire’s Kitchen is a gathering place for theatre stars, drag pioneers, politicians, and celebrities. The food is traditional-with-a-twist (tartare, confit, soufflé, parfait), the wines are all French, and the service is friendly and professional. The moody mezzanine is where the fun really happens, especially during Wednesday night cabaret dinner shows, so head there for a seat, and be sure to save room for the dessert trolley. The restaurant also holds special events and cooking classes throughout the year.
46-52 Meagher St, Chippendale NSW 2008, Australia
Since bursting on to the scene in 2013, this Chippendale hotspot has multiplied its loyal fans along with its awards—chef Mat Lindsay was even named Australian Gourmet Traveller’s 2018 Chef of the Year. Surrounded by stucco archways and strung with pendant lights, the dining room provides a subtle backdrop to dishes that are rustic yet refreshing. The wood-fired oven is put to good use, sometimes in surprising ways, like for charring cauliflower or lightly roasting rock oysters to warm, gooey perfection. There are also beautifully baked meats and breads, and a baby blood sausage “sanga” for those craving comfort food. For dessert, order the burnt pavlova, a classic meringue that takes a trip through the flames before being dusted in elderflowers.
393-399 Sussex St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
This two-level Cantonese palace—connected by an escalator—is lined with tanks of live fish, crustaceans, and bivalves, which the staff will stir-fry, steam, salt-and-pepper, and douse in XO sauce to your heart’s delight. There are many reasons the Chinatown establishment is beloved among in-the-know locals and hospitality veterans, and they extend from the warm, welcoming service all the way through the exquisite live abalone sashimi, mud crab hot pot, and private reserve range of wines. For a Chinese food adventure, arrive late (this place is open until 4 a.m.) and order straight from the live tanks. At least, that’s what the rock stars, politicians, and CBD chefs just getting off work do.
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