Where to Eat and Drink in Sydney
While a dinner out in Sydney can often induce sticker shock, you get what you pay for—meaning some of the best regional meat, seafood, and produce around mixed with diverse cooking traditions and a playful Australian spirit.
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.
210 Australia Street
Continental’s downstairs bar—with a marble countertop and chilies, garlic, and aged ham hanging overhead—transports diners to Spain or Portugal. Despite the old-world ambience, however, the menu and staff are young and playful. Pop in for a meatball sub and vermouth at lunch, or enjoy king-crab-stuffed zucchini flowers before moving on to slow-roasted lamb in the upstairs bistro. In either case, complement your meal with something canned—the deli’s specialty— whether it’s the seafood plate of the day or a “Cosmopoli-tin” cocktail. A whole wall of canned and jarred concoctions are also available to take home. In 2018, a second, and larger, outpost of Continental Deli was opened in the CBD.
277 Australia St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia
This Newtown patisserie has gained a cult following, and three additional locations, since opening in 2008. Owner Christopher Thé makes all his pastries by hand, forgoing additives and dyes for purely seasonal ingredients. There are savory options on offer, including a popular meat pie stuffed with slow-cooked lamb shank and red wine, but people really queue up for the iconic desserts, which are as beautiful as they are delicious. The strawberry-watermelon slice—two layers of almond dacquoise, rose-scented cream, watermelon, and strawberries topped with pistachio and rose petals—is an obvious best-seller, but the frangipane tart, filled with frangipane, seasonal plums, and apricots or pears, is a close second. There are even exquisite vegan cakes and cupcakes so everyone can get a taste.
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.
7a/2 Huntley St, Alexandria NSW 2015, Australia
The Grounds café—run out of a former pie factory in the warehouse district of Alexandria—makes coffee, juices, smoothies, baked goods, and rustic breakfast and lunch dishes with equal care. Order a flat white (a cross between a cappuccino and a latte) or a piccolo (a mini latte)—there’s also a coffee tasting board and a deconstructed iced coffee—to pair with your seasonal porridge or Big Brekkie (spicy chorizo and serrano ham with braised white beans, smoked peppers, halloumi, avocado, poached eggs, and thick slabs of house-baked toast). After brekkie, peek into the roastery and Potting Shed restaurant next door, and admire the enchanting garden and event space, complete with a coffee cart, barbecue joint, plant stall, and petting zoo.
169 Dolphin St, Coogee NSW 2034, Australia
A quick bus ride from the city (or a refreshing end to the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk), Coogee Pavilion is one of the most happening beach bars in Sydney. The downstairs area is home to a wood-fired pizza oven, oyster bar, juice stall, and kids’ zone with giant Scrabble, pétanque, ping pong, and nautical books, while the breezy rooftop features four different bars, outfitted with love seats and wire-frame stools for taking in the breathtaking bay views. Aussie wines and beers plus fruity cocktails shaken with house-made juice pair with Mediterranean-themed tapas like chargrilled lamb chops and blistered Padrón peppers.
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.
4/256 Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Speakeasies and secret bars are an ongoing trend in Australian cities, namely Melbourne and Sydney. Down an unassuming alley off Crown Street, behind an equally unassuming doorway, lies Shady Pines Saloon—if it weren’t for the alcohol license on the door and the bouncer outside, you would never know it was there. Inside, the décor is reminiscent of an old hunting lodge or saloon in the American West, with mounted animal heads, vintage beer trays, dim lighting, Johnny Cash on the stereo, and peanut shells coating the floor. Mustachioed bartenders mix craft cocktails and can advise you on their selection of bourbons and whiskeys. The fresh-pressed apple juice and whiskey is always tasty, while the mystery moonshine in the “leg bottle” makes for an adventurous choice.
6 Mary St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia
Like many of the hippest bars in town, Mary’s is intentionally hard to find. As you make your way down King Street, hang a right on Mary Street and look for a bar on the left with no sign and a rocker crowd. Inside the two-story tavern, a chalkboard menu lists enough craft beers (including the house-brewed Slayer Juice), wines, spirits, and cocktails to require a second chalkboard for fried chicken and burgers (known as the best in town). Get your birds by the half, whole, or “Larry style”—two whole birds deep fried with mash and gravy—and your burger with “trashcan bacon.” Mary’s also does a bacon Bloody Mary with American cheese melted over the rim of the glass that’s more than worth a try.
241 Victoria St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
A scoop of Italy in Sydney, this gelato mecca has foodies and bloggers queuing up all week. Go for the salted-caramel-and-white-chocolate gelato, one of the store’s best sellers, or try the “Poached Figs in Marsala” flavor, which is beautifully sweet and infused with a real fig taste. Also not to be missed is the ice cream cake cabinet, which features a dazzling display of colorful, futuristic-looking creations. Gelato Messina’s original location is in Darlinghurst, but outposts can be found in Surry Hills, Pyrmont, and Bondi Beach, among many other neighborhoods.
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.
29/43-45 E Esplanade, Manly NSW 2095, Australia
One of the pioneers of the Sydney craft beer scene, 4 Pines opened in 2008 in a space that overlooks the shores and famous Norfolk pine trees of Manly Beach—one of the city’s dreamiest locations for a brewery. The upstairs brewpub serves the whole 4 Pines range of natural beers, which includes a hefeweizen, Kölsch, pale, amber, bitter, stout, IPA, and the Keller Door (a small-batch seasonal release that intends to challenge the beer industry). Order a tasting flight to determine your favorite. The brewery also offers a full menu of not-so-typical pub grub and operates a downstairs bunker for more innovative food and drink pairings. Live music, DJs, and comedians regularly lighten the mood, if the salty sea breezes aen’t enough.
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.
1C Whateley St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia
Following the lead of mixed-use space Deus ex Machina in Camperdown, Rising Sun is a motorcycle workshop cum café and restaurant built for the Newtown community. That means garage space with tools and repair bays for members as well as regular workshops (one just for women), art events, and a public night ride on the last Tuesday of the month. Then there’s the rustic-chic café that whips up Asian-fusion cuisine that’s as rootsy and beautiful as the bikes. Come in the morning for breakfast ramen—bacon, roasted tomatoes, and a fried egg floating in bone broth—and a Japanese twist on a bloody mary. Then return for creative tapas and share plates in the evening complemented by a stellar list of Australian beers and wines.