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.

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, look for the roasted scallops served with charred cucumber, tapioca and beurre noisette. The delicious main-course lamb is served two ways, as a roasted chop and as a flavorful ragu with curly kale. The international wine list, not surprisingly, is strong on Australian bottlings.

1 Macquarie Street East Circular Quay
Sydney 2000
Australia
Two-course menu, US$75; three courses, US$90; four courses, US$110
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 bucatini with sardines, anchovies, fennel, raisins, bread crumbs and pine nuts, as well as wonderful main courses like rack of lamb with crushed artichokes, pink fir apple potatoes and whole wheat tarragon salsa. The excellent wine list is particularly good on Italian selections. If you can’t secure a reservation, consider sitting at the bar, ordering from the light menu and soaking up the glorious view. Closed Mondays.

1 Notts Avenue Bondi Beach
Sydney 2026
Australia
US$125
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 try the multicourse tasting menu. It changes often, but may include dishes such as blue swimmer crab with almond gazpacho, almond jelly, sweet corn and Avruga; free-range chicken with a leek and liver parfait; and New Zealand bass groper with green tomatoes, verjus, thin-sliced potatoes and fish roe. There is a fine assortment of wines by the glass. Closed Sundays.

4/5 355 Crown Street Surry Hills
Sydney 2010
Australia
Tasting menu, US$115
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; smoked pork cheek with cuttlefish, kombu seaweed, shiitake mushrooms and sesame; roasted grass-fed Angus beef with a cultured fermentation of black barley and rye, and smoked and raw mushrooms; and a dessert of Jersey cream, salted caramel, prunes, milk and sugar crystals. 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 Western Circular Quay, The Rocks
Sydney 2000
Australia
Four-course menu, US$120
Rockpool

Chef Neil Perry opened Rockpool more than 20 years ago to showcase his innovative cuisine, which employs the best Australian products with influences from Asia. White tablecloths, crystal and professional service help to provide a memorable experience. Perry is always experimenting and changing his menu, but look for dishes such as chirashi sushi of kingfish, tuna and squid; blue swimmer crab congee; pork shoulder with clams, guanciale and chicken; and roasted Australian lamb with shiitakes, a chili condiment and black tea. The wine list is a joy, with wide selections by the glass, half-bottle and magnum, plus many reasonably priced options. Closed Sundays.

11 Bridge Street
Sydney 2000
Australia
Eight-course menu, US$120; nine courses, US$135; 10 courses, US$155
Sepia

After a stint with Marco Pierre White in London, Australian chef Martin Benn worked for 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 combining elements of an old-fashioned men’s club and a Parisian brasserie, it is popular 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 yellowfin tuna sashimi with Iberico ham, poached quail egg, white soy jelly and puffed buckwheat; and butter-poached spanner crab, house-made tofu, fried garlic and garlic shoots. Main courses might be charcoal-grilled wagyu beef with Japanese pickles and miso mustard; and shiso-glazed chicken with charcoal-grilled scampi, braised leeks, fried nori and potatoes. Closed Sundays.

201 Sussex Street
Sydney 2000
Australia
Four-course menu, US$115; tasting menu, US$125