Sydney’s bars, cafes and restaurants are bouncing back after a tumultuous 2020. Covid-19 saw unprecedented hardship across the hospitality sector, but many venues are now taking advantage of newly relaxed regulations – and the city’s temperate climate – to expand their outdoor dining options. Here are some of the best spots to dine al fresco in the inner city.
Mrs Palmer Sandwich and La Farmacia, Darlinghurst
Simplicity rules at Mrs Palmer, an irreverent sanga-slash-Margarita joint. The menu consists of six hefty sandwiches – chicken; pork belly; spicy barbeque beef brisket; the Palmerjana; falafel; and The Cure (a formidable construction with three types of cured meat) – a couple of salads, and a handful of sides. Those in the know keep an eye out for the enticing specials regularly broadcast on Instagram – previous examples include Argentinian steak with chimichurri, or a deep-fried sanga filled with bacon, cheese, fried chicken, hot sauce and chipotle mayo. Keep walking through the sandwich shop to find La Farmacia, a secret Margarita bar that serves up tacos and ceviche until late.
Vini Divini Wine Lab
Although Vini Divini Wine Lab has the cosy feel of a family-run venue, the sleek fit-out and vast wall of wine means the Mediterranean-inspired food and wine bar doesn’t feel out of place in the CBD. A large bar is central to the space, and co-owner Philippe Gilbert can be found there daily, chatting with regulars and sharing his excitement over the latest drops from often overlooked wine regions such as Greece, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey. The eatery/ bar also includes a large outdoor seating area, fantastic for people watching.
The Dolphin Hotel
Crown Street institution The Dolphin Hotel offers all-day dining over three spacious floors. The menu – which includes pizza; “not pizza” (small and large plates of Italian fare, ranging from burrata to rib eye); burgers; and sides – is now available venue-wide. A mix of local and European wines make up the wine list, while the cocktail menu features fun spins on the classics, including a peach-and=lychee Bellini and a blood-orange-and-hibiscus Mimosa.
In November 2020, Surry Hills restaurant Nomad reopened for business at its Foster Street premises. It was a triumph for chef Jacqui Challinor and the Nomad team, who endured a kitchen fire in 2019 (leading to a temporary relocation), then Covid-19. Now Nomad is back, serving up a new menu in its refurbished digs. From the woodfired oven and charcoal grill come dishes such as wood-roasted baby beetroot with almonds and sweet-and-sour currants; smoked free-range chicken with green-chilli zhoug and yoghurt; and wood-roasted lamb shoulder with a golden raisin and caper salsa, and soft herbs.
Once an all-day Italian diner, Bartolo has now switched its focus to evening trade. During the summer, owner Jared Merlino (Kittyhawk, The Lobo, Big Poppa’s) swapped flat whites for a 180-bottle-strong wine list, tap beer and alcoholic slushies. The new menu includes small dishes to snack on while you’re enjoying your wine (such as Piedmontese beef tartare; kingfish crostino with sobrasada; and gnocco fritto with anchovy butter), and larger meals (such as flathead with chive-and-garlic butter and charred napa cabbage, and the 350-gram pork cutlet Milanese with chipotle butter, kohlrabi and green apple).
Just a couple doors down from Mrs Palmer is Brick Lane, a diner named after the famous street in London (which is well-known for its South Asian cuisine). The menu includes Indian tacos; snacks (momos, chickpea fries); larger dishes such as the Mad Cow (boneless slow-cooked beef in cumin, coriander and masala spices with zesty cabbage slaw) and the Bangin’ Pork Masala (masala-spiced pork belly, ginger, cumin, clove and star anise); and a chai crème brûlée to finish.
Is there a better al fresco dining experience than one overlooking the harbour? Chef Matt Moran teams up with Opera Bar operators Solotel for a bar with an unrivalled location. There is a range of fresh Australian seafood, used in dishes such as a Ling fish burger and a hot-and-cold seafood platter, and lots of different specials. The menu is relaxed and accessible with Hawkesbury River oysters with ponzu, whole roast chickens, slow-roast lamb shoulders, a range of sophisticated bar snacks, pizza and beer-battered flathead.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Destination NSW and City of Sydney. For further Sydney city centre inspiration visit whatson.sydney/rediscover, and for further Sydney CBD inspiration visit https://www.sydney.com.