One of Sydney’s most happening neighbourhoods, Barangaroo is home to fine-dining restaurants, achingly cool cafés, boutique shopping and public artworks. Located in the heart of the city, with uninterrupted water views, the precinct also boasts Watermans Cove (a striking crescent-shaped waterfront boardwalk) and Barangaroo Reserve (a foreshore park with sweeping views – all the way from Anzac Bridge to Harbour Bridge). Here’s our pick of some of Barangaroo’s most happening haunts.
Located on the first floor of Barangaroo House – Matt Moran’s three-storey hive of eating and drinking establishments – Bea is a fine-dining restaurant with a relaxed approach: food is unfussy and service is well-informed but friendly. The menu is super-seasonal, which means it changes constantly, so you can expect anything from grilled tiger prawns with lemon and dill to roast duck with charred fig and pear sauce. The water views out the window are just as impressive and so is the ever-evolving wine list with an equal emphasis on local and international drops. Make a night of it by dropping in at the top-floor Smoke Bar for a pre-dinner drink and a nightcap afterwards. It does a great line in cocktails – our pick is the Sultry Spritz: a heady concoction of gin, Amaretto, passionfruit, citrus, vanilla and prosecco.
It is not easy to get a table at Zushi. A weekend booking needs to be made at least a fortnight in advance. When you arrive, you’ll notice the restaurant is probably one of the busiest on Barangaroo’s waterfront strip. And as you sit down, you’ll be told – if you’re a table of two – you have one hour 45 minutes to eat and leave. Yes, Zushi gets super busy and there’s only one reason: damn good food. One of the best ways to enjoy it is the $65 tasting menu, which features eight dishes over six courses. Kick off with impossibly well-prepared scallop carpaccio, then enjoy the crunchy honey-and-mayo-glazed prawns, before tucking into cloud-soft snapper tempura. A decadent pear and apple sauce elevates an already-exceptional wagyu steak. The service leaves a bit to be desired. But it’s a small glitch and totally forgivable, particularly, in light of that scallop carpaccio.
The Meat & Wine Co
Handsome interiors – think luxurious leather banquets, high ceilings and striking glass fixtures – set the scene for sophisticated steakhouse dining at The Meat & Wine Co’s Barangaroo outpost. The menu is replete with classics – from grain-fed rib-eye to liberally marbled Wagyu rump – but there are a few surprises, too. The Sichuan-spiced calamari – served with a delicious nam jim sauce – makes a great entrée, while the rum-laced banoffee pie provides a fitting finale. But what really brings it all together is the chivalrous service, supported by an exhaustive wine list with drops from both Old and New World wine regions.
Lotus earnt its stripes as a tiny dumpling bar in Walsh Bay, before expanding into a spate of large-scale restaurants – from the 270-seater in the CBD to its latest outpost located on the ground floor of the InterContinental hotel in Double Bay. But it is the restaurant’s Barangaroo branch that seems to tick all the boxes – central location, water views and an expansive menu of Chinese delicacies. Go for the dumplings (our favourites are the chicken and corn siu mai) and stay for the peculiarly named “strange flavour eggplant” – thin slices of battered, deep-fried and liberally spiced aubergine that’ll leave you wanting more.
What’s not to love about Love Fish, which specialises in seafood that’s not only supremely fresh and impossibly well cooked but sustainable, too? Located in the heart of Barangaroo’s Wulugul Walk (read prime real estate), the restaurant is an ideal spot for a variety of dining experiences. Hunker down with a grilled salmon burger and a bowl of twice-cooked hand-cut chips in the outdoor section. Or – if you’re after something more intimate – ask for a table in the restaurant proper and choose from fine-dining options like albacore crudo, chargrilled octopus with tahini and squid ink linguini with spanner crab.
Spiced by Billu’s
Billu’s made its name (and fortune!) in Sydney’s Harris Park, where – for a quarter of a century – the restaurant has been serving North Indian cuisine to a largely South-Asian demographic, who swear by its butter chickens and biryanis. Its first CBD outpost, Spiced by Billu’s, offers all the classics you would expect from an Indian restaurant (paneer tikkas, lamb korma, et al) but there are a few surprises, too. Delhi goat curry is slow-cooked for hours for that perfectly tender fall-of-the-bone meat. Okra – a popular dish in India but not often seen on menus in Australia – comes dressed in vibrant spices. And don’t even get us started on the glossy, butter-soft eggplant masala, which is off-the-charts flavoursome. The wine selection is not huge but there are a few good options (Clare Valley riesling, anyone?) that go well with the spices.
“Muum maam” means “little glutton” in Thai and that’s exactly how you’ll feel once you’ve had your fill of the slow-cooked beef curry with pickled mustard, crisp pork belly with chilli paste and flat rice noodles with sweet soy at this restaurant. Each dish is an explosion of flavours – sweet, salty, spicy, sour… sometimes all at once. What’s more? The mains are a good size, so they’re great for sharing. All of it is ably supported by a great waterfront location, courteous staff and a solid drinks menu that includes wines from all over the world, lip-smacking cocktails (Caramel Lychee Caipirissima, anyone?) and a good list of beers – from Japanese Asahi to Thai Singha. Just what you need to tame those spices.
Lobster tacos, baked feta and pork belly "lollipops" are not your usual lunch fare. But then Wild Sage is not your usual lunch destination either. Decked out with blonde-wood tables, it’s a versatile venue you can visit any time of the day (it’s open for breakfast and lunch seven days; and for dinner from Thursday-Sunday), but one of the best ways to experience it is rock up around 11ish on a weekend, enjoy a glass of Provence rosé or a Clare Valley riesling at the bar, before tucking into sensational dishes like Cape Grim beef burger or the prawn linguine.
The Butcher’s Block
Housed in a vast warehouse-y space with high ceilings and exposed-brick walls, The Butcher’s Block stands out for its excellent steakhouse fare and service in a cool, relaxed setting. Order a serve of slow-cooked lamb ribs marinated in a rich soy and ginger glaze or share the slow-cooked 1.2-kilo lamb shoulder, liberally spiced with turmeric and lemongrass. There’s plenty to love about the drinks list, too, that dabbles in everything – from refreshing cocktails like Peach Bellinis and Aperol Spritz to hearty reds like the Barossa Valley cab sav.
Bourke Street Bakery
Looking for breakfast or a light meal right by the water? Make a beeline for Bourke Street Bakery, where you can grab toasted ham and cheese croissants, delicious pies (go for the one with beef, beer and bacon) and flaky sausage rolls, then head to Watermans Cove (see entry below) with sweeping harbour views. Plus, there’s a stellar collection of sweet treats and freshly baked breads at the bakery that you can grab on your way back.
Sushi Hon Izakaya
Dominated by a vibrant mural and decked out with both bar and table seating, Sushi Hon Izakaya is a great spot for casual Japanese. Settle down with the restaurant’s à la carte menu which offers favourites like prawn tempura, karaage chicken and teriyaki salmon. Or make the most of the sushi menu if you’re in the mood for takeaway.
Old Town Hong Kong
If the bright red decorations and roast ducks hanging on the kitchen window at this Chinese eatery don’t transport you right in the middle of Hong Kong, the food will. Located on the backstreets of Barangaroo, the restaurant offers an exhaustive menu of Chinese classics – from delicately steamed siu mai and handmade baos filled with cumin-scented lamb to whole Peking duck and stir-fried chilli prawns. Ask for a table by the window for excellent people watching.
Blond timber furniture and splashes of sky blue set the scene for head chef Morris Baco’s all-day menu, which is brimming with buckwheat blinis and miso-seasoned king salmon. The café is bright, airy and high-ceilinged but may feel tiny on weekends, thanks to the crowds. Get in early and definitely book ahead.
Chef Hamish Ingham and sommelier Rebecca Lines (formerly Bar H) are behind this vermouth bar and bistro that features a glass-walled dining room spilling onto an outdoor terrace. There are 30 vermouths and 100 wines to choose from, while dishes range from grilled prawns with lashings of curry-leaf butter to a blue swimmer crab risotto.
With a glass wall that mimics the shape of the Barangaroo headland, Cirrus is the jewel in the precinct’s dining crown. If the staggering ceiling installation – complete with a vintage speedboat suspended above the diners – doesn’t impress you, the sparkling water views, sommelier Nick Hildebrandt’s 500-strong wine list and Brent Savage’s fine-dining fare will.
Still hungry? And in a hurry? Look no further than The Canteen – a sort of food court, but way chicer – where fast, quality fare is the order of the day. Choose from eight different options – including Adanos Grill for delicious Middle Eastern, Pasta Pantry for a taste of Italy and Ipoh Town for Malaysian street food – then grab a table in the light, bright, high-ceilinged space and enjoy.
Born by Tapavino
With more than 50 sherries and 300 Spanish wines, this offshoot of CBD bolthole Tapavino is an ode to all drinks Spanish – from refreshing cavas to full-bodied syrahs. Nab a table or a stool at the bar in the long dining room with its golden glow or opt for twilight in the outdoor area.
Sazerac cocktails are the order of the day at this New Orleans-inspired smokehouse and bar with Colonial-style interiors – think shutter windows and cane furniture. Also on offer are more than 600 American whiskies and other colourful cocktails ranging from the Rue Royal to the Hurricane.
Home to the chic Henry Deane rooftop bar with panoramic harbour views, this svelte six-storey brick hotel also boasts eight guestrooms with Hamptons-like elegance. There is no air conditioning or room service – just lots of character provided by ceiling fans, handpainted murals, tiled Federation-style ensuites and sea-blue curtains and cushions.
Explore the waterfront
While there’s no shortage of water views in Barangaroo – almost all the establishments on the Wulugul Walk waterfront walkway offer shimmering harbour views – for the ultimate front-row seat, you’ll have to make your way to Watermans Cove: a vast boardwalk that curves like a half-moon on the edge of the harbour. At 11,000 square metres, it’s the size of 22 basketball courts, which means there’s plenty of space for everyone. Head here for a morning stroll or an afternoon picnic. Or – better still – find a spot around dusk when the setting sun drenches everything in the vicinity (the water, the glass-and-steel skyscrapers) in an ethereal golden glow.
Sign up for a tour
Join an Aboriginal tour Barangaroo takes its name from a Cammeraygal woman who lived in the area when the British first arrived. Explore the precinct’s history on its Aboriginal Cultural Tours.
Shop David Jones’ first concept store – a fine edit of local and international brands – is just the ticket. There’s also Peter’s of Kensington, Belancé for bespoke tailoring and The Waiting Room for labels such as Céline.
But first, caffeine…
Top image: Banksii
This piece was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.