It’s Barangaroo versus Kensington Street. Two of Sydney’s most exciting precincts go head-to-head.

Best fine-diner

Cirrus, Barangaroo

Cirrus offers everything a beautiful night out in Sydney should: sparkling water views, delicious food, a thoughtfully curated wine list (with lots of naturals), a spectacular interior that envelops the diner and the sort of service that makes you feel special as well as relaxed.

Automata, Kensington Street

Featuring an interior decorated with engine parts, Automata assaults the senses as soon as you walk through its big glass door. The five-course set menu showcases the endless creativity of chef Clayton Wells; take his bug tail with white wine, tahini yoghurt and kombu, for example. (There’s also a brilliant $55 three-course lunch menu.)

Best casual

Banksii, Barangaroo

Vermouth is all the rage this year and Banksii has built a bar and bistro around it. Start with an apéritif from the extensive collection before diving into a menu featuring native ingredients and inspired by the herbaceous botanicals of vermouth – think braised lamb shoulder with saltbush and tangy preserved lemon or trifle with vermouth sponge, vanilla custard and rosella jelly.

Kensington Street Social, Kensington Street

English celebrity chef Jason Atherton runs buzzy Kensington Street Social – and you can tell, because the menu often has a distinctly British bent: eggs, black pudding and beans for breakfast and “tongue ’n’ cheek” croquettes with piccalilli relish for tea. The technique, however, is all French.

Best Asian

Lotus Dining, Barangaroo 

For an upmarket dumpling experience, look to Lotus Dining. There’s a seafood focus here, reflecting the waterfront location, but vegetarians and lovers of red meat have plenty of options, too. There’s a nod to Indigenous Australia, with native foods such as lemon myrtle and zesty finger lime on the menu.

Mekong, Kensington Street

No one country dictates the cuisine at Mekong. Rather, the Mekong River – which runs through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – inspires the menu. That means you might eat squid-ink dumplings with chicken pho for one course and barramundi curry for the next, finishing with taro custard and rose ice-cream.

Best dessert

12-Micron, Barangaroo 

Don’t be fooled by the humble names of the desserts here. Designed by Darren Purchese, of Melbourne’s Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, they are complex, multilayer treats. Take the Carrot Cake: the classic cake is paired with carrots that have been candied and transformed into ice-cream, served with blood-orange cream and freeze-dried licorice. 12-Micron is open late into the night and, like counterpart Koi Dessert Bar, offers a sweet multi-course dégustation.

Koi Dessert Bar, Kensington Street 

Headed by MasterChef sugar maestro Reynold Poernomo, Koi Dessert Bar serves beautiful cakes that you may think at first glance are ink-doused pebbles or ornate terrariums. Sit inside for a formal experience or find a spot in the patch of greenery out the front and dive in – the mango-and-yuzu cake is one of our favourites.

Best bar

Bórn by Tapavino, Barangaroo 

Taking inspiration from Barcelona’s hip El Born district, Bórn by Tapavino is an education in Spanish food and wine. Don’t miss the jamón Ibérico de bellota, a cured ham that tastes of acorn and is perfect with a rich, tannic rioja. 

The Clare, Kensington Street

The Clare is the main bar at Kensington Street’s recently renovated show stopper, The Old Clare Hotel. With nods to its previous life as a classic pub (note the original wall tiling), the new outfit also includes a vibrant central bar and a regularly changing cocktail list.

Top image: Nikki To/Automata

SEE ALSO: The Vegetarian and Vegan Dishes You Need to Order in Sydney

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