SYDNEY DINING is what you make of it. Or at least, that’s how it used to go. Often shrugged off as second best to Melbourne’s thriving hospitality scene, today, the tables have (ever-so slightly) turned. For here in Sydney, things tend to be shiny, hatted, high-end; and rightly so. Home to many of Australia’s most prestigious fine dining institutions, Sydney’s hospitality scene is serving creative riffs on various cuisines that never, ever fail to impress.
Don’t mistake us: it’s not all rock oyster-shucking, magnum-pouring, white table-clothed dining — you’d be remiss to visit without having a caviar ‘bump’ at Mimi’s, or a very fancy burger at Restaurant Hubert, mind you. In the last couple of years especially, a number of smaller, independent venues with alternative and revolving menus have opened to serious fanfare, proving that if you build it, yes, they will come.
All in all, this list reflects what Sydney dining is all about: a little bit of fanciness, but with the substance to back it up.
30-36 Bay St, Double Bay
It’s no surprise that everything Neil Perry (ex-Rockpool) touches turns to gold. Yet the acclaimed chef’s latest venture, ‘Margaret’, has become one of the city’s most popular dining destinations in what feels like record time.
Described by Perry as a “neighbourhood restaurant” he says “at its core, [Margaret] is about comfort, generosity and cosiness.” Offering the most premium fresh produce from the best suppliers that Australia has to offer, Margaret is predominantly a seafood restaurant with an emphasis on sourcing direct from local fishermen. The result is an authentic dining experience where an accumulation of flavours and inspiration derived from Perry’s extensive 45+ year career as a chef shine.
Order the Flinders Island scallop crudo; Pav and Heidi’s (yes, that’s the names of two local fishermen) Bigeye Tuna with macadamia and wattleseed romesco and the half Eastern rock lobster tail. For the carnivores, there’s also some knockout meat options — the 300g David Blackmore Wagyu scotch fillet gets our vote.
15 Bligh St, Sydney
As soon as you walk down the stairwell at Restaurant Hubert, it distinctly feels less Sydney and more Paris – the way a good French restaurant should feel. Perhaps that’s why Huberts has been such a staple for so long.
It comprises three bars, a central dining room, private dining rooms and the ‘Theatre Royale’ — an art-house cinema for private events. Each space has its own decorative flair, but the restaurant is made unmistakable by its dimly-lit ambience, postwar flourishes, perfectly worn timber chairs and the best live jazz this side of the equator. The roasted snails in XO sauce are worth writing home about, as is the Wagyu tartare, or keep it classic with a plate of steak frites.
Pilu at Freshwater
Moore Rd, Freshwater
For almost 20 years, chef and restaurateur Giovanni Pilu has been serving a taste of traditional Sardinian cuisine overlooking the spectacular Freshwater beach. Changing seasonally, the menu highlights typical island fare; food which has been integral to Pilu’s life and career.
Local and Italian ingredients come together to create a sensorial symphony — expect delectable dishes like polpo (chargrilled octopus ‘sa schiscionera’); culurgiones (Sardinian ravioli filled with potato, Pecorino and mint); and spaghettoni (Saffron spaghettoni with cured scampi, friarielli, lime, & scampi caviar).
But Pilu’s regulars know the best way to experience the kitchen’s seasonal fair is to opt for the curated chef’s menu, and let the auteur give you his best.
2/4 Farrer Pl, Sydney
New to Sydney’s dining scene is Brasserie 1930, a French-inspired haunt located on the ground floor of the brand-new Capella Sydney. At the heart of Brasserie 1930 is an elevated dining experience that exudes grandeur and sophistication, underscored by its landmark architecture — it’s housed in a former 1912 sandstone Department of Education building.
Here, modern brasserie classics that celebrate the best in Australian produce are paired scrupulously with an extensive wine list. Brasserie 1930’s point of difference, however, comes from its interpretation of age-old cooking techniques, whether it’s to cure, preserve or ferment.
101 George St, The Rocks
We’re calling it: Le Foote might very well be one of the best new restaurant openings for 2023. Hype and momentum has slowly but surely been rising around Le Foote, the new Euro-inspired wine bar and restaurant from Swillhouse Group, the team behind Restaurant Hubert and Alberto’s Lounge.
Now, after a year of delays, Le Foote is finally making its royal debut. Described as “gnarly and beautiful, rough and sophisticated” by owner Anton Forte, on one hand, Le Foote feels like an elevated pub, but on the other, it’s so much more.
201/203 Clarence St, Sydney
From the team behind Sydney’s beloved pasta restaurant Ragazzi, this new 120-seat trattoria has the expertise of a fine dining restaurant with the buzz of a cool, contemporary venue. Inspired by New York’s Gramercy Tavern – along with the iconic trattorias of Rome – Palazzo Salato offers a slice of Italy in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. Come for all things pasta, with homemade offerings like Mafaldine with spanner crab; trottole amatriciana; and casarecce with boer goat ragu. Peddling one of the most extensive wine lists we’ve seen, you can book Palazzo Salato knowing every generation of wine drinkers will be satisfied with what they’re sipping on.
5/9 Roslyn St, Potts Point
Métisse, which means “mixed race” in French and is a term used to describe a fusion of cultures and flavours, is the fine-dining destination from culinary icon and renowned chef and restaurateur, Opel Khan (Acqua E Farina; Pizza Boccone). Métisse opened its doors in 2021 and very quickly established itself as one of Sydney’s finest epicurean hotspots.
Khan’s deep understanding of cultural flavours plays into a whimsical degustation menu full of surprise. He recently introduced a new degustation menu which is both luxurious and delectable, encompassing his French Avant-garde gastronomic techniques with his childhood memories of spices & salts — Khan is Bangladeshi-Australian — to create a truly memorable dining experience.
Khan’s signature dish, the Mosaïque, will be highlighted as one of eight courses served. All dishes are presented as edible art, with a specific highlight of local Australian produce, in particular the freshest seafood sourced from the NSW coast; an elevated version of the traditional ‘seafood platter’ called Fruits de Mer is the perfect example of this freshness. To complement the dining experience at Métisse, you can expect a sommelier to curate a premium selection of French wine to pair with each course.
75/79 Hall St, Bondi Beach
For some of the best pizza in Sydney, you’d be silly not to stop by Da Orazio in Bondi Beach. A true hangout for North Bondi locals, this Italian pizzeria and restaurant established a cult following thanks to its authentic pizza and mouth-watering porchetta – really, you only go to Da Orazio for these two staples.
All pizzas are Neapolitan-style, cooked in a wood-fired brick pizza oven using the “Biga” method; this relies on a pre-fermented starter that, when combined with good quality dough, produces what might be the best pizza crust you’ve ever tasted. The pizza Diavola with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte cheese and hot salami is part of our order every time. As is the slow roasted, deboned and rolled Taluka park free range Berkshire porchetta, which is served the traditional Italian way.
130a Beach St, Coogee
This Merivale haunt brings a touch of Mediterranean fine dining to the renowned Coogee Pavillion. As soon as you walk through the light-filled, pastel-hue Mimi’s restaurant, you’ll be whisked away to a coastal retreat that highlights some of the freshest produce found in Sydney.
If you know what’s up, you’ll start at the bar for a snack — let’s say homemade goat’s cheese whipped and served on a tart drizzled with fresh honey and topped with shaved truffle. The main menu is equally impressive. Executive Chef Jordan Toft recommends sharing (and who are we to argue); go for the duck leg pastilla with spiced salt bush, blue fin toro on a warm crumpet, BQ koji quail to start, and, for mains, the heritage wagyu ribeye is simply *chefs kiss.