Sydney

Overview

From Andrew Harper

Sydney’s iconic Opera House, with its gleaming white sail-shaped roofs, is a fair emblem of this city’s appeal: clean; modern; cultured; and thrown into pristine relief by the blue waters of the surrounding harbor. Australia’s most populous urban center is among the world’s great cities. Situated on the country’s southeast coast in the state of New South Wales, Sydney was the original European colony on the continent; it is still the gateway to Australia and an economic and cultural hub -- a diverse and sophisticated metropolis with a virtually inexhaustible array of attractions.

The warm South Pacific beaches take center stage in Sydney -- Bondi Beach, a haven for surfers, is also a great stretch for coastal walks and people-watching, and Tamarama Beach is strewn with sunbathers. The historic Rocks district is packed with shopping opportunities and upscale hotels, and is a good vantage point for viewing the monumental steel-arch Harbour Bridge. Darling Harbour is a heavily touristed but lively and interesting precinct with museums, restaurants and a stellar aquarium. The famous green-and-cream ferries that ply Sydney Harbour are a great way to experience the city’s waterfront grandeur.

 

Hotels

All recommended hotels in Sydney

Sydney, Australia
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Stylish 531-room hotel in a 34-story building overlooking Sydney Harbour/Opera House in the historic Rocks district.

Park Hyatt Sydney
Park Hyatt Sydney

Contemporary hotel at the edge of Sydney Harbour facing the Opera House, a short stroll from the city’s best shops and central business district.

New South Wales
The Observatory Hotel
The Langham Sydney

Refined, personalized 96-room hotel (formerly The Observatory), a short walk from the lively Rocks area. Currently closed for renovations until December 1, 2014.

New South Wales

Dining

All recommended restaurants in Sydney

Aria

Set on the eastern side of Circular Quay, ARIA has magnificent views of the Opera House. The interior is smart and subdued, accentuating the glittering lights of the harbor, and while there is certainly a complement of businesspeople here, there are also couples sharing romantic meals. The food is contemporary, with much of the produce, meat and fish locally obtained. Among the starters, the plump ravioli packed with succulent spanner crab and scampi are given the luxurious touch of black-truffle dressing, while the main course lamb is served two ways, as a roasted cutlet and a char-grilled neck cut, with garlic soubise, baby fennel and mint gel. The international wine list, not surprisingly, is strong on Australian bottlings.

1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay
Sydney 2000
Australia
US$115
Icebergs Dining Room and Bar

As lively and appealing as downtown Sydney is, you cannot fully appreciate life in this beautiful place until you visit one of the city’s spectacular beaches. Bondi, to the east, is a particular favorite for its stretch of inviting yellow sand and legendary surf. Ideally situated on the cliffs at Bondi’s south end, this bright, predominantly white restaurant offers not only a panoramic view through huge windows, but also some of the top food in the city. The menu has an Italian inflection, so you’ll find pastas such as gnocchi made with buffalo mozzarella in an amatriciana-basil sauce, as well as wonderful main courses such as the free-range Berkshire pork cutlet with pan-roasted yellow peppers, almonds and currants, or fresh whole fish with a wide range of condiments such as almond aioli or classic lemon butter. The excellent wine list is particularly good on Italian bottlings. If you can’t secure a reservation, consider sitting at the bar, ordering from the light menu and soaking up the glorious view.

1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach
Sydney 2026
Australia
US$120
Manly Pavilion

Set in a former 1930s beachside changing pavilion, this white split-level dining room draws discerning local food lovers with a Mediterranean-inspired menu of dishes such as scallops with pumpkin, pine mushrooms and Parmesan; lamb with turnips, radishes and marjoram; and several items to share, such as whole fresh salt-baked fish with lemon verbena. Delicious desserts include spiced pineapple with gingerbread and yogurt. The wine list is outstanding, too.

West Esplanade, Manly Cove
Sydney 2095
Australia
US$85
Marque Restaurant

Chef Mark Best cooked with the great chefs of France before coming home and hanging out his shingle in arty, upscale Surry Hills. The service here is a bit precious, but Best’s food is superb, so the multicourse tasting menu is recommended. It changes often, but may include dishes such as potatoes with bone marrow, sea urchin and coffee; cod with polenta and lemon; and a rich Sauternes custard. There is a fine assortment of wines by the glass.

4/5 355 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Sydney 2010
Australia
Tasting menu, US$150
Quay

It is hard to beat the view here, right on the water, facing Sydney’s two iconic structures, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Inside, Quay is a bit glitzy, but no matter. The food and the service are superb. The four-course prix-fixe menu is full of tantalizing choices. Among them: a rich congee (Chinese rice porridge) with a generous portion of mud crab meat; roasted partridge breast with steamed truffle brioche; poached wagyu beef with black pudding and morels; and a chocolate cake that incorporates its main ingredient in eight textures. The wine list offers an extensive by-the-glass selection, including sakes and sherries, and an appealing array of half-bottles and magnums.

Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, West Circular Quay
Sydney 2000
Australia
Four-course menu, US$170
Rockpool

Chef Neil Perry opened Rockpool more than 20 years ago to showcase his innovative cuisine using the best Australian products with influences from Asia. Always in the forefront, Perry restyled the restaurant to “Rockpool classic,” which in practice means white tablecloths and crisp, professional service. What has not changed is Perry’s imaginative cooking. Look for wonderful dishes such as blue swimmer crab congee; lobster congee with star anise-scented peanuts; John Dory and scampi with paprika, macadamia nuts and a basil pistou; tender lamb with borlotti beans, tea-smoked mussels and preserved mustard greens; and the rich date tart, a Rockpool classic. The wine list is a joy, with wide selections by the glass, half-bottle and magnum, plus many reasonably priced options.

107 George Street, The Rocks
Sydney 2000
Australia
Four-course menu, US$155
Sepia

After a stint with Marco Pierre White in London, Australian chef Martin Benn worked for many years as head chef at the famous Sydney restaurant Tetsuya’s before launching his own place in the central business district. With a low-lit décor that combines elements of an old-fashioned men’s club with those of a Parisian brasserie, it is a popular spot for corporate dining at noon, but draws serious gourmets in the evening. Benn’s menus follow the seasons, but often include superb starters such as seared swordfish belly with ponzu and dashi, and pan-roasted quail breast with peas and sunflower seeds; and main courses such as char-grilled miso beef filet with roasted buckwheat cream, or roasted scampi tails with shellfish custard.

201 Sussex Street
Sydney 2000
Australia
US$120