Sydney now ranks among the most exciting food cities in the world. Dynamic chefs reach across the waters to nearby Southeast Asia for new inspirations and ingredients. Here are our favorite restaurant picks in Sydney.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to its proximity to Asia, Sydney serves the world’s finest fusion cuisine. The Australians now take real national pride in their culinary sophistication and their chefs have conquered the world. Certainly the fish, produce and local wines are all superb. And then there is the incomparable backdrop of Sydney Harbour.
– Andrew Harper, EIC
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.
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.
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.