Downtown Sydney is a beautiful mix of quality restaurants, historic pubs and hidden gems – here are our favorites.
The dynamic, bustling and culturally rich city of Sydney has a not-so-secret love affair with food. From hatted restaurants to hipster cafes and cultural food precincts, whatever you’re craving, the city can surely satisfy.
Modern Australian is rife in the Central Business District and should be on your list of “must try” when visiting the city. For a touch of Asia, hone in on Haymarket and its neighboring streets. Encompassing China Town, Haymarket is the place for traditional and opulent China fare. Streets away, you’ll discover Thai Town (Campbell Street) and Koreatown (Pitt Street), where you can delight in other Asian fodder.
Leichhardt is renowned for being “little Italy” and boasts a street (Norton Street) of delectable Italian restaurants.
For trending outfits, fusion fare and hipster cafes, scour the streets of suburbs such as Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Glebe, Forest Lodge and Newtown.
Explore to your heart’s content – it’s what Sydney’s city slickers do, but for those looking for an iconic restaurant in the city, these are the hottest tables in town.
Sake Restaurant & Bar
As you might have guessed by the name, contemporary Japanese fare is on the menu at Sake.
The restaurant has a sommelier’s dedication to its namesake, so this is the place to go if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Japanese rice wine.
Other (equally valid) reasons include: its historic Rocks location, the popcorn shrimp and the bragging rights.
12 Argyle Street, The Rocks
Bentley Restaurant + Bar
There are plenty of reasons to visit Bentley’s new CBD venture: the 700-strong wine list, the two chef’s hats picked up during their Surry Hills run, the furnishing by an award-winning interior designer… but the biggest draw? Its address has changed, but its attitude hasn’t.
It’s still the casual-cool place that made it a Surry Hills standout with friendly service and no pretentions.
You’re welcome to pop in for a drink, or if the mood takes you, go all out with the tasting menu and matching wines. It’s setting a standard all CBD dining should aim to meet.
27 O’Connell Street, Sydney
The real star here is the eight-course tasting menu, where you’ll be tasting some of Matt Moran’s greatest creations – and his most famous.
Fans of Masterchef will be menu-spotting in the same way nature lovers go bird-spotting. It’s what we foodies do. No guide to Sydney’s best restaurants would be complete without an Aria mention, but with a Saturday night waitlist that’s measured in weeks – if not months – you’d be advised to plan well in advance.
1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay
Having been awarded two or more hats on more than one occasion, est. is a fundamental experience for any fine diner in Sydney.
Housed within a heritage building and helmed by renowned chef Peter Doyle, the Merivale outfit prides itself in serving contemporary Australian food that is uncomplicated by nature but full of flavor. As to be expected, dishes are seasonally driven and options are extensive, with two-, three-, four-course and tasting menus available for lunch and dinner.
And if your server asks you if you’d like any wine today, the answer is “yes”. With its extensive selection of celebrated vintages, boutique wines and biodynamic finds, simply open up your palette to a recommendation and the rest will take care of itself.
1 Establishment/252 George Street, Sydney
Gowings Bar and Grill
Gowings Bar & Grill is the sort of place that has a lively vibe on a Tuesday afternoon, let alone a Friday night.
Be prepared to have all your misconceptions about hotel dining thrown out the window, with its brasserie-style menu of locally sourced food ready to change your mind. Hidden upstairs at the QT Hotel, you’d almost miss it if you walked by… but it’s unforgettable once inside.
Corner of Market and George streets, Sydney
Image credit: Chelsea Jones
Since its move to Bridge Street, the fine dining establishment we all know and love has taken a relaxing turn without losing any of the Neil Perry flair.
Lunch is a speedy affair, as they know city professionals who can’t linger over their seared King Prawns in the daytime are likely to be back to linger over dinner.
The menu is designed for flexibility, allowing you to choose one, two or three courses, along with canapés and wine.
11 Bridge Street, Sydney
Another establishment with a famous name attached to it, Peter Conistis’ Alpha is the epitome of a career that has seen him crowned Sydney’s king of Greek cuisine.
Bustling and lively, friendly servers carry ceramic plates heaving with modern and traditional Greek dishes in one of Sydney’s most beautiful buildings.
This place is proof that fine dining does not equal stuffy dining.
238 Castlereagh Street, Sydney
Home to Peter Gilmore’s famous Snow Egg dessert and commanding pristine views of Sydney Harbour from its idyllic spot inside the Overseas Passenger Terminal, we think it’s fair to say that a meal at Quay is one of those experiences that deserves to mark an occasion. The menu is constantly evolving with flavors running seasonally, and seatings are available for lunch and dinner.
While both seatings offer four-course meals of your choice, diners who want a little bit of everything can further the experience with a tasting menu. It’s a nine-degustation with dishes each more enviable than the last. Naturally, that Snow Egg makes an appearance, capping your meal off perfectly.
Bookings are released on a six-month basis, opening on the first of the month. Mark it on your calendar to avoid disappointment.
Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks
The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf
You don’t need a trip to the theater as an excuse to visit The Bar at the End of the Wharf, but it can’t hurt.
Apart from winning all the awards for the most literal name ever, the bar – part of the Sydney Theatre Company – offers superb views with excellently priced dishes.
Our advice is to pop in for afternoon drinks over a Ploughman’s Platter, and unlike most of the other restaurants featured on this list, there’s no need to book.
Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Palings Kitchen & Bar
Since its revamp, diners have been raving about Merivale’s Palings Kitchen & Bar, located on level 1 of ivy. The place is oozing with quirky touches and a friendly atmosphere, and the extensive menu of salads, snacking and heartier dishes won’t leave you with an empty wallet.
Spend the change on cocktails, perhaps? Patisserie queen Lorraine Godsmark is in charge of desserts, so leaving room for one is not just advised but mandatory. So to speak.
Level 1, ivy, 330 George Street, Sydney
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