Flying interstate over the break? Broadsheet’s city cheat sheets cover everything from new players that live up to the hype to old favourites that continue to deliver. This is a hit list that’ll have you making the most of every minute in Sydney, no matter where you’re staying.
Need to bust a hangover? Or just love a little spice in your breakfast? Ricos Tacos is your guy – it does some truly great tacos and marks a high point of Sydney’s newfound appreciation for this handheld king of snacks. You’ll be in safe hands with an order of its chipotle-salt-dusted hash browns, too.
Valentina’s in Marrickville takes American-diner vibes and elevates them with a sleek design and top produce. The Southern-style savoury biscuits sandwich – steadying sausage, egg and cheese – is our pick, but the short-stack pancakes served with just maple syrup and butter comes a close second.
Over in Potts Point, laneway cafe Pina does an outstanding sausage-and-egg roll dripping with cheese that Broadsheets national editor Sarah Norris dreams about – and you’re always sure to spot a well-known chef or two.
Want a classic? You’ll never go wrong with a trip to Bills (Darlinghurst, Bondi, Double Bay or Surry Hills), Edition Coffee Roasters’ Japanese and Scandi-tinged dishes are forever favourites, and Rising Sun Workshop’s breakfast ramen is worth repeat visits.
Whether you want a casual sanga, a sleek fine dining experience or a vermouth-soaked Spanish fiesta, you’re sorted in Sydney. Newbie La Salut brings the buzz of Barcelona to the streets of inner Sydney. It’s all about shareable tapas (we love the octopus with spicy sobrassada and the mussels with potato crisps) paired with minimum-intervention wines from little-known Spanish producers. Book in for a long lunch in its pretty light-soaked room, then stumble to the adjoining pub to keep the party going.
Close by is sandwich joint Good Ways, which does classics, and not-so-classics under the deft hand and attention of a fine-dining chef. The kangaroo mortadella with “hot” butter (butter with white soy, onion and lemon juice) is a sleeper hit.
On the other end of the spectrum is A’Mare – a fine-diner with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the harbour in the slick Crown complex. Watch as pesto is pounded in a 30-kilogram marble mortar then tossed with fresh semolina pasta in front of your eyes, then follow it up with a scoop from a roving gelato cart.
For an old faithful you can’t go past Sean’s in Bondi. Across the road from the famous beach, it’s a notorious long-lunch staple that does the classics brilliantly.
Natural wine, pasta from an outstanding Italian chef and a party spirit infuse new bar and restaurant Paski Vineria Popolare. Settle in for the long haul – you won’t want to leave. And booking a table at beloved Italian wine bar 10 William St is a must; its pretzel with whipped bottarga is one of our ride-or-die Sydney dishes; drinking and dining in this Paddington nook is a quintessential Sydney experience.
Newly opened Ursula’s – from former Pt Leo Estate and Rockpool chef Phil Wood – is a beautiful experience from start to finish. The room is elegant, the service friendly and genuine and the food refined, thoughtful and clever. You’ll undoubtedly end up bragging about your visit when you return home.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Westwood in Newtown. It’s doing some of the best pizzas in town (my pick is the garlic-honey number). Order your pies, grab a bottle of natural wine from nearby bottle shop P&V, then head to nearby Camperdown Memorial Rest Park to soak up the atmosphere and pizza.
Usually (in non-La Niña times), Sydney’s weather is made for beer gardens – including classics like the Courthouse in Newtown or the Oaks in Neutral Bay. And if you visit The Alexandria’s sprawling al fresco drinking area, you’ll be getting a taste of more than one Sydney venue: its kitchen pumps out classics from hospitality giant Merivale’s most popular venues (it operates spots like Totti’s, El Loco, Fred’s and more), as well as a selection of eats from curated food trucks.
Thanks to Covid-19, George Street in The Rocks has become a stretch of al fresco drinking and dining venues. Prioritise 101 George Street, a pop-up wine bar from the makers of Sydney’s most fun venues (Restaurant Hubert, Shady Pines, Frankie’s – all worth a visit), and is doing classic cocktails and house-made charcuterie.
Sammy Jnr is a bar and cafe from the team behind Maybe Sammy, recently named the best bar in Australasia by the World’s 50 Best. Head there for an afternoon aperitivo and lap up the Italian atmosphere. P&V Paddington’s courtyard wine bar is also a stellar afternoon drinking spot, where the wine is chosen by some of the best drinkers in town.
If beer is more your poison, you’d be well placed to head for Marrickville’s breweries. Between Philter’s Palm Springs-inspired rooftop, the airiness of Grifter, the polished industrial decor of Stockade and the buzz of Batch, you’re set for a ripper hops-packed afternoon.
Three Sydney bars were recently named in the World’s 50 Best list – and they are all deserving. Cantina Ok! (number 23) makes the city’s greatest Margarita, Re– (46) is a bartending whiz’s groundbreaking ode to sustainability and Las Vegas-inspired Maybe Sammy (22) is all about hotel-level hospitality and playful drinks.
Pre-dinner, post-dinner (and dinner if need be):
Newly opened Shell House has a little bit of something for everyone: a ground-floor bistro, a slick dining room, a rooftop bar and another cocktail bar, within a 400-tonne clocktower. We recommend a pre-dinner drink on the outdoor terrace and a meal at the dining room, followed by a cocktail in the sexy clocktower bar.
Nearby, Dean & Nancy on 22 (also from the team behind Maybe Sammy), offers views across the city, as well as outstanding cocktails and a menu of bar snacks by ex-Rockpool chef Jane Strode. And keep the good times rolling at buzzy Cafe Freda’s, which does fun bar snacks alongside a menu of fun wines.
When we think late-night, we think basement boozing – and for a city with great weather, Sydney has an awful lot of subterranean spots for drinking. Sexy new Apollonia does an outstanding Negroni, while whisky haven Baxter Inn is a timeless favourite. Ramblin’ Rascal is one of the city’s most fun bars – and if you’re in it for the long haul you can’t go past its $6 “shit tinnies”.
Over in Newtown, the bartending veterans at friendly bar Fortunate Son construct a killer cocktail with great retro music to match the vintage decor.
The blockbuster Matisse exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW is a must-see – it brings together works from every era of his career, and marks the return of world-class exhibitions to Sydney. Similarly, contemporary artist Doug Aitken’s show at MCA is an immersion into one of the greatest artistic minds of our age – via photography, video and large-scale installation.
But if you’re in Sydney, you’ll likely want to spend some time in the great outdoors – and Sydney’s natural swimming-pool game is unbeatable. Whether it’s a harbour pool or one built into the rocks of its beaches, you’re in for a real treat. Check out our favourites here.
SHOP AND RELAX
For a few years now, Sydney’s Sorry Thanks I Love You has been curating fashion, jewellery, artisan spirits, books and more all in one website. And now, it has a physical space, so you can do some in real life shopping in the basement of Westfield Sydney.
In Paddington, shop candles and perfumes fragranced with Australian botanicals at The Embassy, and over in Darlinghurst Rainbow Studios collects handmade jewellery, clothing and beautiful objects – ceramics, art and more – in a gallery-like space. And beautiful glassware brand Maison Balzac’s Surry Hills store offers a serene shopping experience.