If the thought of cooking for the hungry hordes at Christmas sends you into a cold sweat, maybe it’s time to let the experts do the heavy lifting. Here’s a round up of the top restaurants in Sydney serving merry meals over the holidays. You know, just in case you’d prefer your Christmas feast for 24 cooked by someone else.
Swap the twinkling lights and sparkling tinsel of your Christmas tree for the panoramic view from Altitude, 36 storeys above Sydney Harbour. Dive headfirst into a seafood-scattered menu that includes scallop carpaccio with mussels and sea urchin and black cobia with caramelised apple, smoked eggplant and finger limes. Don’t overdo it, though, because you’ll want room for the Brandy Schnapps Christmas pudding dessert. Finished with a dollop of dark caramel gelato, it’s definitely a present from the Christmas future. Five courses: $185 per person with a glass of champagne, $90 per child.
Shangri-La Hotel, 176 Cumberland Street, Sydney; (02) 9250 6295
The Pantry Manly
Leave the eggnog and nibbled carrot for Santa and pull up a seat overlooking the ocean at The Pantry Manly for a flavour-packed evening meal, featuring prawns with chilli and garlic, and grilled tenderloin steak that's been given lashings of Christmas spirit with the addition of foie gras, toasted milk bread and truffled butter. There’s even a beloved Australian pav with kiwifruit, berries and fresh cream to finish the festivities. Your choice of three courses: $90 per person.
Ocean Promenade, North Steyne, Manly; (02) 9977 0566
Ripples Chowder Bay
Perched above the harbour on a former navy site, this Mosman restaurant serves up quite the view with your split prawns. The set menu leaves every last bit of decision-making in the hands of head chef Kristian Gamble, who keeps it classic with a focus on seafood for a celebratory summer lunch. Cured salmon with crème fraîche, beetroot and pearl barley makes a fresh, fuss-free start and pork tenderloin with potato purée, roast onions, sage and red wine jus echoes a home-cooked favourite. The dessert is also a refined version of a seasonal classic – a trifle of cherries, toasted almonds and amaretto gelato. Set menu of four courses: $195 per person, $95 per child.
Building 7, Deck C Chowder Bay Road, Mosman; (02) 9960 3000
Impress any out-of-towners with a trip to Pier One’s The Gantry, where the only rival to the stunning view of the Harbour Bridge is the locally sourced, delicately plated food. This five-course degustation meanders through dishes such as pan-roasted monkfish with squash, capers and tomato butter, pasture-raised Eugowra quail with carrot, date and spiced bread, and a vivid Cherry Ripe-esque creation for dessert. Five courses with matching wines: $299 per person.
11 Hickson Road, Sydney; (02) 8298 9910
If you’re tired of pretending the custard isn’t lumpy, opt for a more refined gathering at Q Dining. The playful hints in dishes such as confit duck leg with sugar plum and ricotta king prawn or roasted turkey breast with chestnut stuffing, carrots, brandy and currant jus give the meal a merry feel without collapsing completely into Christmas cliché. If ritual plays a big role in your lunch, however, don’t worry – there’s the customary Christmas pudding with brandy custard and cherry sorbet to finish off. Plus, the bottomless champagne is sure to help you shake off any residual stress from frantic last-minute gift shopping. Your choice of three courses with petit fours: $299 per person, $149.50 per child.
Pullman Quay Grand, 61 Macquarie Street, Sydney Harbour; (02) 9256 4000
Black Bar & Grill
Skip the ubiquitous prawn cocktail and enjoy gutsy summer seafood at Black Bar & Grill at The Star. An entrée of spanner crab with a salad of avocado, lettuce and the unexpected addition of salted peanut caramel is a standout, while the deliciously hearty toothfish is given a smoky edge in the charcoal oven. Christmas traditionalists may want to opt for turkey and heirloom carrots with rhubarb chutney. Dessert – a chocolate délice of cherry, amaretto custard and a suitably merry gingerbread crumble – is a delicious nod to the festive season. Five courses: $175 per person.
Harbourside, The Star, Level G, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont; (02) 9657 9109
The Bistro Moncur mood is French, stylish and classic – perfect for those after more traditional Christmas fare. Expect glazed ham with sausage stuffing, green beans and roasted chestnuts, as well as trusty sides such as cauliflower gratin and confit potatoes. Despite its European roots, there’s an Aussie twist to the Yule log dessert in the form of sweet, tropical mango and passionfruit. Three courses with amuse-bouche and petit fours: $290 per person.
116A Queen St, Woollahra; (02) 9327 9713
Pilu at Freshwater
Swap the chaos of excessive bonbon cracking for the relaxed, beachside atmosphere of Pilu at Freshwater. With the sand virtually crusting the doorstep, a menu focused on seafood is a given but, like everything on offer at this two-hatted restaurant, it’s been given a soft, subtle twist by head chef Jason Saxby. Case in point: there’s a starter of red claw yabbies, pasta with yellowfin tuna, tomato and basil, as well as a spatchcock with truffle mustard paired with the crunch of the Sardinian flatbread carasau. Even the dessert of tropical summer fruits, meringue and fresh coconut has a fresh, seasonal feel to it. $250 per person; $75 per child (under 12).
Moore Road, Freshwater; (02) 9938 3331
Gowings Bar & Grill
The modern rendition of a timeless Christmas feast at Gowings Bar & Grill opens with an elevated seafood platter starter that covers all bases (think caviar, ocean trout gravlax and beer-steamed prawns). Next is the comforting combination of wood-roasted suckling pig with cumquat, pine nut and currant-stuffed yellow peppers or a festive free-range turkey paired with black truffle gravy and a cranberry jelly. Sides such as creamy Paris mash and steamed garlic greens make the meal feel familiar – perfect for a relaxed family gathering without the tangle of post-feast washing up. Four courses: $190 per person.
1/49 Market Street, Sydney; (02) 8262 0062
Instead of a lounge room full of ripped wrapping paper and the incessant bleeping of new toys, guests at Centennial Homestead will be greeted with freshly shucked oysters and the calming sight of rolling greens. This buffet-style feast is the ultimate Australian Christmas lunch: there’s a seafood station with prawns and salmon sashimi; an array of charcuterie; roasted meats (yes, there’s turkey and ham); vegies, salads and greens; and, of course, dessert – pav, pud and petit fours, oh my! Full buffet: $150 per person.
1 Grand Drive, Centennial Park; (02) 9380 9350
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