Sydney boasts one of Australia’s most dynamic food scenes, with new venues – from plush fine diners to hole-in-the-wall cafés – popping up on an almost weekly basis. We’ve scoured the latest openings across Sydney in the past 12 months to give our pick of the top tables in town right now. Bon appetit!
Snack Kitchen, Potts Point1/36
The master restaurateur behind Bondi’s legendary Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Maurice Terzini, is proving stellar hospitality runs in the family with his latest venture. Opened in partnership with his son, Sylvester, Snack Kitchen is as bite-sized and accessible as its name suggests. Inspired by the Terzini family’s Italian heritage, this diminutive 40-seat bar-cucina-deli hybrid is a little slice of Europe in the heart of Potts Point. Simple, Mediterranean dishes – a hearty salad of sun-ripened tomatoes spiked with anchovy; a silken mingle of rich ricotta kissed with just enough heat by a dressing of chilli and mint; deep-fried whitebait, squid and sweet shrimp served with a chunky gribiche and a squeeze of lemon – have nothing to hide, heroing spectacular produce without the need for culinary bells and whistles. In fact, everything at Snack Kitchen is blissfully uncomplicated, from the fit-out – a crisp white room filled with white tables and chairs, decorated with just a few handpainted murals – to the reservations policy: walk-ins only.
Armorica Grande Brasserie, Surry Hills2/36
Andrew Becher, whose restaurants Parlar and Franca have already made a big impression on Sydney’s food scene, spared no expense on the multi-million-dollar fit-out of his opulent French brasserie in Surry Hills. It’s an investment worth every cent, as a table at this glitzy bistro has quickly become one of the most coveted bookings in town. The two vast dining spaces, with seating for 150 patrons, radiate luxury with their dark wood panelling, tufted red leather upholstery, rose marble tabletops and brushed copper sconces. This old-world glamour is a fitting stage for a menu that champions familiar classics, executed flawlessly. Oysters, grilled lobster, caviar and foie gras set a lavish tone, but it’s the humble steak frites – heroing decadently marbled Stone Axe full-blood Wagyu, Jack’s Creek Black Angus and grain-finished cuts from the Riverine – that steal the show.
Kurumba, Surry Hills3/36
It’s taken generations to perfect the flavours of the dishes you’ll sample at this family-run Sri Lankan diner on Crown Street. However, this is more than just your average mom-and-pop outfit, although you’ll likely meet both mum – Dilki De Hoedt – and dad – head chef Augi – as well as their sons and daughter-in-law, Jason, Travin and Saaya. Between them, they list stints in the kitchens of top Sydney venues including Parlar, Sixpenny, Sokyo and Bennelong on their résumés. The menu summons all the spice and colour of familiar Sri Lankan favourites elevated by up-market ingredients, such as the WA lobster kottu curry served with house-made roti, or the silken beef short-rib, sweetened with treacle and rich coconut cream.
Maybe you didn’t know you wanted to dip hot chips into butter chicken gravy but a visit to this colour-soaked, fun-forward Anglo-Indian diner in Sydney’s Camperdown will convince you of its culinary merit. Derrel’s is the handiwork of ex-Baba’s Place chef Brendan King, who has transplanted some of the electric energy of that cult Marrickville warehouse restaurant. Pull up a metal chair, try the mashup samosa chaat with tamarind chutney and don’t worry about how messy you leave the formica.
Raja, Potts Point5/36
Purists may be left scandalised by Kolkata-born head chef Ahana Dutt’s irreverent riffs on Indian cuisine, but they’d be missing out on some of the most exciting flavours in the city right now. Instead of the standard curries or biryanis, you’ll taste spatchcock makhani, marinated overnight in buttermilk and spices before facing the flames of the tandoor. Rather than bhajis or samosas, appetites are whetted by garlicky pucks of roasted bone marrow, served oozy and ready to spread on ghee-toasted dosas. It’s a menu that’s as extroverted and uncowed as the restaurant’s decor – an eye-popping maximalist mash-up of patterned tiles, brightly stained wooden screens and animal prints.
Poetica, North Sydney6/36
Limewashed floorboards, pastel décor and tropical accents aren’t what most people imagine in a woodfired, meat-focused restaurant. Nor do you generally expect the desserts, seafood and salads to make such a strong showing (the radicchio and gouda is a grand time). These are just some of the surprises at Poetica in North Sydney, a welcome whisper of fresh air compared to the moody steakhouses that have sprung up in the city in the last 12 months. But it’s not all playful and pretty; huge Jack’s Creek sirloin steaks, Queensland’s King River Wagyu and Duroc pork chops do their time in the dry-ageing cabinets before making their way to the plate via the fire.
Ito, Surry Hills7/36
The former Cuckoo Callay space on Crown Street in Surry Hills is now a spirited, Japanese-style izakaya with hints of Euro flavours, thanks to the heritage of Italian head chef Erik Ortolani, who spent time in the kitchens of Nobu. Stick to the sashimi, chawanmushi and tempura to keep things strictly Japanese. Or lean into the Euro fusion and order duck ravioli with brown butter and ponzu or green miso mafaldine. The cocktails are also worth a look – the refreshing take on a Gimlet includes lemongrass and rockmelon.
Martinez, Circular Quay8/36
Martinez, in Sydney’s buzzing Circular Quay, is an ambitious undertaking, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in a sort-of southern French style, six days a week across a restaurant and terrace. The tagliatelle with red mullet and fennel pollen is possibly the least French thing on the menu but it’s top of the must-order list.
Clam Bar, CBD9/36
If you’re a fan of Australia’s gazillion New York-style steakhouses, make sure you try this one. Like all of Dan Pepperell and team’s venues (Pellegrino 2000 and Bistrot 916), there’s a wink and a nudge everywhere you look at Clam Bar, from the huge tin marlin on the wall to the upmarket diner desserts. Steaks come with every trimming imaginable, the prawn cocktail is one of the best in the city and you’ll dream of the Tex-Mex-style creamed corn for weeks.
Le Foote, The Rocks10/36
When you think about The Rocks district, renowned for its rich convict history, it’s unlikely the idea of “Mediterranean seaside” springs to mind. Yet when you step off George Street and into labyrinthine Le Foote, the latest opening from the team behind Restaurant Hubert and Alberto’s Lounge, it starts to make sense: narrow passages and tucked-away courtyards, retro Euro posters and a monochrome Grecian-style mural. “The Rocks has so much heritage and history with its old cobblestones and it’s also quite close to the ocean,” says co-owner Anton Forte of the venue’s sun-and-salt concept. “There’s a symbiosis.” And then there’s the food. Simply dressed but perfectly cooked proteins such as swordfish and steak; a tangle of citrusy octopus tentacles exactingly charred. A lemon leaf ice-cream that beams with Sicilian sunshine and a wine list that draws on the ancient terroir of the Old World. Order an amaro soda aperitif to sip with your honey-glazed cheese pie, jump to pork and pistachio rillettes and then, perhaps, the crisp lamb belly with a party of endive leaves. Colonial Sydney-meets-Crete? Le Foote fulfils – and exceeds – the brief.
Image credit: Jason Loucas
Pellegrino 2000, Surry Hills11/36
Can Sydney handle any more Italian restaurants, when the ones it already has are so excellent? Yes, said Dan Pepperell and his team (who took a similar punt with the louche French Bistrot 916 in Potts Point) as they brought Pellegrino 2000 to Surry Hills. The twist? Here, the spaghetti, saltimbocca and fritto misto are served with a little side of good times vibes.
Image credit: Toko Restaurant; Phu Tang
Toko, the modern Japanese restaurant-slash-Sydney dining institution, is back. The slick new George Street digs have kept the izakaya ambience and taken the heat up a notch with a menu celebrating the flare of the robata grill and the knife skills of its sushi masters. And with a menu celebrating the past decade’s worth of favourites, be assured old friends like the tempura Moreton Bay bug and hiramasa kingfish will be found here.
Sydney’s First Family of Fish, Josh and Julie Niland, are making their debut in the lower North Shore with the launch of Petermen. Taking its name from a traditional word for ‘fishermen’, the venue will serve responsibly caught seafood and champion sustainable growers. A typical dish might be a dry-aged coral trout, sliced and fanned into a plated artwork, with a tumble of herbs and the trout’s offal as its centre. Another could be saltbush curry puffs or a head of whole roasted garlic that you squeeze yourself as DIY garlic bread.
Image credit: Angus Bell Young
Doom Juice Cellar Door, St Peters14/36
Natural winemaker Doom Juice’s summer cellar door (161 Princes Highway, St Peters) pours its organic, vegan Gewürztraminer, rosé and lively rouge in a neon-lit garage. Its inner-west edge (follow the demon graffiti mural to find the door) is married to snacks that are all class: a rotation of chefs from restaurants such Cafe Paci and Sagra can be found cooking on Sundays.
Image credit: Courtesy of Alice Bar
Alice Bar, The Rocks15/36
A cocktail bar hidden in the basement depths of a heritage-listed former bond store, Alice is the new glam spot in The Rocks. From the team behind Rockpool, Saké and Spice Temple, the velvet-draped bar seats just 65 and offers a premium caviar service, while a Tickled Pink cocktail mixing strawberry-infused gin with finger lime is the perfect kickstarter to any evening.
Image credit: Steven Woodburn
Rafi, North Sydney16/36
With a vast outdoor terrace channelling the Amalfi coast, private gazebos and a glasshouse, North Sydney newcomer Rafi was literally built for summer dining. The contemporary menu riffs on local seafood, either from the raw bar or cooked over charcoal (fear not carnivores, there’s also a choice of two steaks). A sustainably minded drinks program includes a DIY cocktail of seasonal blood orange and lemon myrtle shrub mixed with your choice of wine.
Image credit: Steven Woodburn
Porter House Hotel, CBD17/36
Sydney’s latest five-star hotel has the drinking and dining venues to match its heritage opulence. Spread over five levels of Porter House Hotel there’s Euro-styled deli and wine bar Henry’s Bread & Wine on the ground floor, where coffee and bagels segue easily to Champagne and rillettes. The first floor, occupied by Asian-inspired brasserie Dixson & Sons, is just the place for roast lamb with eggplant and miso puree, while top-floor bar Spice Trader embraces a cast of exotic cocktails beneath a panelled-glass roof.
Bar Conte, Surry Hills18/36
A dedicated Negroni bar serving up to 20 variations on the bitter, blush-hued Florentine spirit? Resounding si. Named after the aperitivo’s inventor, Conte Camillo Negroni, Bar Conte (340 Riley Street, Surry Hills, (02) 7254 1170, @barconte_surryhills) sticks to the brief with a menu of small Italian plates, including Negroni-infused salami.
Image credit: Courtesy of S’more
This hotly awaited opening from ex-Merivale duo ‘Big’ Sam Young and Grace Chen is Sydney hedonism of the most delicious order. Dishing up conspicuous indulgence in a low-lit, minimalist neighbourhood bistro setting, the menu at S’more leans all the way into luxe with lobster, beluga caviar, sea urchin and other culinary extravagance. Kick off the evening the way nature intended with a glass of Dom Pérignon paired with a caviar bump and hold the course with wagyu tartare with sea urchin and XO pippi linguini.
Image credit: Courtesy of Blackwood
The new Bondi outpost of Cronulla brunch favourite Blackwood Pantry is an all-day affair. Swinging easily from breakfasts of prawn poké bowls and lunches of chicken schnitzel sandwiches, the menu stretches to spritz o’clock and beyond. You’ll sit pretty inside the chic pistachio-accented fit-out or on the sunshine trap of a terrace as the day slips away.
Ace Hotel, Surry Hills21/36
Hotel dining is having a moment in Sydney, and the Ace Hotel helping the cause with two notable dining destinations. At the lobby level you’ll find Loam, the vibrant plant-focused but not-plant-only restaurant, with a hyperlocal menu curated by the hotel’s executive chef Heidi Flanagan. Much hyped (and rightly so) rooftop restaurant Kiln opened in October. Headed by acclaimed chef Mitch Orr (ex-ACME), this 18th-floor hotpot delivers the chef’s trademark genre-splicing inventiveness in plates of dishes of grilled coral trout punched up with pistachio sauce and the beloved Jatz classic crackers loaded with smoked butter and anchovy. P&V’s Mike Bennie has created the wine lists for both venues.
Image credit: Cole Bennets
With Brendan Fong (ex-Mr Wong) on the pans and an A-list position on shiny new Parramatta Square, Lilymu does modern Asian with personality. The flashy indoor-outdoor space softens a semi-industrial vibe with murals and greenery, setting a good scene for a drink that turns into dinner. Come for the Singapore Sling Spritz, stay for the tom yum prawn dumplings, duck katsu sando and massaman curry.
Image credit: Courtesy of Tea Spot Reserve
Tea Spot Reserve, Cabramatta23/36
A textbook explanation of how bubble tea has taken Sydney by storm, Tea Spot Reserve eschews artificial flavourings for all-natural ingredients. Choose your tea base, fruit flavour (make it a lemon kumquat and you won’t go wrong) and the all-important pearls. You can go for herbal, coffee or coconut jelly or experiment with super-fun popping pearls. Voilà. The summer drink everyone is talking about – but better.
Image credit: Christopher Pearce
Goodbye MLC Centre, hello 25 Martin Place, and an even heartier welcome to the exceptional Aalia, a modern Middle Eastern restaurant from Paul Farag, who previously made his mark in Sydney at the delightful Nour. Signature dish? The food set can’t stop raving about the lamb neck shawarma served with tahini and tart, crisp pickles.
Image credit: Kitti Gould
Besuto, Circular Quay25/36
With more courses (18) than seats (only 12), Besuto (it translates to “the best” in Japanese), a tiny omakase restaurant at Circular Quay, is the epitome of intimate decadence. Seafood is naturally the focus; the jewel-like nigiri courses are an exercise in both visual and palate perfection.
Topikos, Bondi Beach26/36
Topikos brings a little bit of Mykonos to Bondi Beach, thanks to the Point Group team who also gifted the city one of 2021’s best openings, the Shell House in the CBD. The kitchen is led by Bathers’ Pavilion alumni Charles Woodward and gives Greek classics an airy Sydney makeover: so far the well-dressed crowd have been giving big ticks to the saganaki split prawns and lamb souvlaki with house made pita.
Image credit: Steven Woodburn
Rekōdo Restaurant and Vinyl Bar, Barangaroo27/36
Matt Moran’s nod to the listening bars of post-war Tokyo, Rekōdo spins a playlist of Japanese dishes (try the delicious kingfish nori tartlet and miso dengaku) and ginger-sake gimlets while some of Australia’s best DJs work the decks.
Hinchcliff House, CBD28/36
Embrace Italian-style hospitality with a kiss on both cheeks across the four-level Hinchcliff House. On the ground floor of the heritage building, Grana perfects pesto parmesan-filled donuts and house-made pasta. Hit up laneway eatery Bar Mammoni early for spritzes and what might be Sydney’s best sandwich, a delicate rectangular croissant stuffed with fluffy ricotta, tomato, basil and salsa verde. You’ll have to choose between luscious beef flank and Murray cod at chic Lana restaurant, so go with someone who won’t mind sharing. Then descend into a ‘Sicilian bandits’ drinking den’ at underground Apollonia bar for gutsy amaro highballs and vino from the homeland.
Image credit: Alana Dimou
Lotus Dumpling, Summer Hill29/36
The pretty (and almost under-the-radar) inner west suburb of Summer Hill has just welcomed a new outpost of long-time Sydney favourite Lotus Group (which includes Lotus Dining at Barangaroo and Lotus Dumpling Bar Walsh Bay) – Lotus Dumpling Bar Summer Hill. And the locals were ready for it; it booked out weeks in advance before it even opened. Instant favourites include vegan five spice tofu and XO scallops with Chinese dipping donuts.
Parlar, Potts Point30/36
Classical European cuisine is definitely having a moment in Sydney right now, though always with a little bit of Australian lightness and levity. One of the best examples is Parlar, a Catalan-inspired fine diner in Potts Point, which is all about generous fire-grilled seafood platters, sexy tapas and vibrant Spanish wine.
The newest addition to the Queen Victoria Building is the opulent European brasserie Manon, brought to the city by Marco Ambrosino and Manny Spinola, the duo behind Bondi darling, Lola’s Level 1. You’ll find French favourites on the menu including steak frites and côte de bœuf, and in the morning, opt for the decadent croque madame or have your pick of pastries to go.
Whalebridge, Circular Quay32/36
If you want to show Sydney at her prettiest to guests, you couldn’t do it much better than with caviar, oysters, Champagne and an eyeful of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That’s the vibe at Whalebridge, headed by chef Will Elliott who’s also done time at Hubert and Melbourne’s Cumulus. If you’ve built up an appetite, throw in a decadent lobster thermidor or gorgeous roast chicken.
Civico 47, Paddington33/36
Housed in the former Sydney institution Lucio’s, Civico 47 has some well-polished loafers to fill. And fill them it does, with Italian food that goes the extra mile, such as luscious knots of fresh burrata topped with cumquat crunch and pesto, and lamb rump with the zing of desert limes.
Anything Sydney’s hospitality king Justin Hemmes launches sparkles. Throw in Dan Hong and you have solid gold. MuMu is the Merivale Group’s newest venue within the Ivy Precinct and it’s all about Southeast Asian street food inspired by the snacky deliciousness of Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Ploos, The Rocks35/36
Fresh and seafood-centric, Greek food begs for harbour views and that’s what Peter Conistis (the name behind Alpha, Omega and Eleni’s) presents at Ploos, in the newly vibrant Campbell’s Cove precinct. Specifically, the cuisine here is South Aegean – Crete, Cyprus, Middle East – and dishes like the carob-glazed chargrilled octopus blend tradition with inventiveness.