Our pick of the best restaurants, cafés and bars Sydney's CBD.
Eat and Drink
Bright canary-yellow chairs, large jarrah-wood panels and a long onyx-marble bar. There are many reasons to love Sydney’s hottest new Italian restaurant but perhaps the most memorable is the building itself, which dates back to 1849 and used to once house one of the country’s oldest banks. Nab a spot at the bar overlooking the open kitchen or grab a table in the centre of the high-ceilinged dining room and order from executive chef Giovanni Astolfoni’s menu, which is an ode to timeless Venetian techniques – from scampi risotto laced with vermouth to lamb cutlets with anchovies and a Mediterranean-style jus.
Lunch, Tuesday to Friday; dinner, Tuesday to Saturday; 11 Barrack Street, Sydney
Dean & Nancy on 22
From the team behind Sydney’s Maybe Sammy – currently ranked 11 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list – comes this slick watering hole, complete with black leather booths, gleaming brass bar and glittering CBD views. Settle down with Coffee Champagne (an aromatic concoction of cold-brew coffee liqueur, vodka, orange blossom and French bubbles). Or pick something from the non-alcoholic section – Rod Laver’s Martini with Dry London Spirit is sure to keep the teetotallers happy.
4.30pm-11.30pm, Wednesday to Saturday; Level 22, 2 Hunter Street, Sydney
Credit: Steve Woodburn
French-born Raphael Mulligan (Rockpool Dining Group’s former head sommelier) and Belgian-born Philippe Gilbert (former waiter at Sydney’s Rosetta) have joined forces to launch a Mediterranean-inspired wine bar near Wynyard Station. Housed in a former chemist store, the high-ceilinged space is dominated by sweeping murals, striking light fixtures and a long slender bar that dramatically breaks the vast warehouse-y space into two halves. The wine menu is just as memorable, dotted with rare Mediterranean wines. The fig and goat’s cheese salad spiked with curry leaves is a great match for a glass of assyrtiko – a white Greek varietal that originated on the island of Santorini; while the beautifully slow-cooked lamb shoulder is perfect with xinomavro – a light red from Northern Greece.
12pm-late, Monday to Friday; 60 Carrington Street, Sydney
Want to escape the hustle and bustle of the financial district? Perched on the fourth floor of the Republic Hotel, Taylor’s is a buzzy enclosed rooftop bar, home to a vertical garden and a stellar view of the sky, which helps patrons feel a world away from the business that may await them below. A chilled out space to take a breather during the day, the bar comes to life as the sun sets, with great music, guest sets from visiting DJs, and an eclectic cocktail calling to night owls from across the city. If you're looking for food, expect standout versions of the usual pub-grub suspects including the humble chicken parmigiana, but don’t miss washing down an adobo grilled chicken taco with a frozen coconut margarita.
10am-late; 69-73 Pitt Street, Sydney
Holding court on the corner of George Street and Regimental Square, Regiment CBD serves up everything from a pork belly and egg burger for brekkie to a wagyu beef-filled bagel at lunch. The stunning spot serves a calm sanctuary, blocking out the noise – but not the view – of the city with floor-to-ceiling windows. Thirsty? Grab a coffee featuring Veneziano-roasted beans or a strawberry and rose organic soda.
7am-4pm; 333 George Street, Sydney
The atmosphere at Sydney hotspot Mary’s Underground is electric, offering moody lighting and a menu of Euro-Aussie bites. Standouts include the duck-fat chips, and a devilishly good bombe Alaska with burnished meringue and a chocolate and mandarin core. Expect to have your spirits lifted with live music nights; jazz performances take centre stage as an ode to Mary’s predecessor and former CBD institution, the Basement.
5pm-12am; 29 Reiby Place, Circular Quay
Bulletin Place Bar
This small bar provides an intimate oasis and friendly service with a cracking Australian wine and beer list. Cocktails are made with strictly Aussie produce, the bar keeps two reds, two whites and a sparkling open to serve by the glass at a time, and three beers are rotated every few weeks. Frequent sipper? Don’t fear – the daily cocktail list never fails to deliver.
4pm-12am; level 1, 10-14 Bulletin Place, Sydney
Recently featured as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars and the top bar in Australasia, you cannot go wrong with a glass of something fun at this hip cocktail bar. Inventive creations are reflective of their Rat Pack or Vegas namesakes, including The Frank (Glenmorangie, Ardbeg 10, Campari and Cacao White) or the Caesar’s Palace (Barcardi Blanco, Branca Menta, tomato water and watermelon shrub). For any high rollers, grab a $120 Sinatra Serve – that’s Jack Daniels Sinatra Century Anniversary served over ice.
4:30pm-1am; 115 Harrington Street, The Rocks
As one of the reigning kings of the Sydney food scene, don’t rock up to Mr Wong expecting to walk straight in as there is often a lengthy queue. But the wait is worth the chance to sample the extensive, iconic menu from executive chef Dan Hong. Popular picks include the Chinese roasted duck, crisp eggplant and salt and pepper calamari. Feel like dropping in for lunch? Say yes to dim sum and fill up on delicious dumplings.
12pm-3pm; 5:30pm-12am; 3 Bridge Lane
Talk about a space with atmosphere - the American-style steakhouse's den-like dining room is lavishly dressed and puts an emphasis on phenomenal service. The menu is filled with USA staples like pumpkin pie, a slab of Riverine rib eye, mac and cheese and fries with ranch dressing. For something more opulent, take your pick from Black River Oscietra Russian or Iranian Beluga caviar, both served with potato blinis and sour cream.
Opens 5pm; Basement 161 King Street, Sydney
Palmer & Co.
For prohibition-era speakeasy vibes, look no further than Palmer and Co., hidden in the Establishment Precinct. Tucked down an alleyway and behind a normal looking door, the bar features cocktails from a bygone era such as the morning glory fizz; a muddle of absinthe, egg white and Scotch. Decked out with black-and-white photographs and exposed bricks, this hideout is so good, it’s almost a crime. (merivale.com)
3pm-3am; Abercrombie Lane, Sydney
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Get your art fix at one of Australia’s preeminent galleries at the MCA, home to works from artists from across the globe. The space has played host to exhibitions from artists including Cornelia Parker, John Mawurndjul and Guan Wei, and will welcome various works across the Biennale of Sydney from March until June 2020. Grab a bite at MCA Cafe, which offers sweeping views over Sydney Harbour.
10am-5pm; 140 George Street, The Rocks
The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour
This 90-minute walk around one of the CBD’s most historic and spectacular spots shines a light on the collective history of the local Indigenous heritage within Sydney Harbour. An Indigenous guide will take your group to different points around The Rocks precinct and share with you the stories that help shape the landscape. Your tour will begin with an acknowledgement of country outside of Cadman’s Cottage, before finishing at Tar-ra (Dawes Point) where your guide will talk about the intrinsic link between Aboriginal culture and the current living dreamtime, found in Sydney’s natural waterways, skies and landscape.
10:30am-12pm; 110 George Street, The Rocks
Venture off George Street down an alley that many commuters walk past, and look up. Above your head is an installation of birdcages called Forgotten Songs, a piece that addresses how the city’s fauna has had to adapt to urbanisation. After taking in the works of art, follow the promenade leading to The Establishment complex, home to plenty of spots to refuel before heading towards Circular Quay.
George Street to Pitt Street, Sydney
This piece was originally published in 2020 and has been updated.