Braci Osteria & Pizzeria, North Willoughby
The whole operation at Braci Osteria & Pizzeria revolves around a pizza oven that pumps out pies on sourdough bases. Depending on the weather, the dough can ferment for up to five days, creating a chewy, flavoursome crust that forms the base of pizzas such as the double-smoked ham and mascarpone; ’nduja with anchovies; and wild mushrooms and fior di latte. The spuntini (snacks) section of the menu runs from cacio e pepe arancini to whipped ricotta with crispy brussels sprouts, and a range of salumi. The co-founders’ families are in the winery business, and the vino list includes Carlei Estate wines from Tasmania and Yarra Valley, plus a solid selection from Italy.
Harbourfront Seafood Restaurant, The Rocks
Harbourfront Seafood, within the beautiful heritage-listed Campbell’s Stores in The Rocks, has an exquisite view and access to some of the best seafood in the world – so chef Craig Knudsen says his focus lies in not overcomplicating an already winning formula. The kingfish carpaccio brings together diverse flavours and textures: hickory-smoked mayonnaise, fermented black beans and pickled onions with coriander oil. The hot and cold seafood platter features Balmain bugs and oysters, as well as whole banana eastern king prawns. Or play it casual with a plate of beer-battered fish‘n’chips with mushy peas and curry sauce. Coupled with a glass of wine and that view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, it’s an unbeatable combination.
Benzin Cafe, Dural
The founders of Benzin Cafe in Dural are self-confessed car and bike fanatics – and that dedication is reflected in their venue. While it has been inspired by London’s famous motor cafe, Ace Cafe, and the car enthusiast vibe is strong, it’s also for the community and anyone is welcome. A vintage Monte Carlo rally replica Porsche takes pride of place in the centre of the room, and on a busy day, the carpark resembles a car show. As for the menu, it puts Asian twists on cafe staples: brekky tacos are loaded with beef brisket and gochujang; the Benzin eggs are scrambled with chilli and garlic, and finished with sriracha mayonnaise; and nachos is topped with Wagyu rendang.
Newtown institution Rubyos opened in 2005, an impressive innings that gave owner Badrul Haider the confidence to open a second location despite uncertain times. Lockdown closed the new CBD venue a week after opening, but it’s since relaunched with a simplified version of Newtown’s fusion menu. Kingfish crudo has Thai and Japanese flavours with coconut, makrut lime and bright shiso; lentil rice comes with toasted turmeric cauliflower, sultanas and caramelised onions; and barramundi is served with roasted beetroot, sumac and harissa labne. There are also plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.
Lady Banks Rooftop Bar, Bankstown
Lady Banks Rooftop Bar is a boon for Sydney’s south-west, a refined bar with incredible views. From this Bankstown bar you can see to the Blue Mountains in one direction and the CBD in the other. Although there’s a large inside space, the terrace is the place to be. Sample cocktails made with native Australian botanicals, and share kingfish crudo, Sydney rock oysters or braised beef shin on toast. But it’s the dishes with Middle-Eastern influences that set Lady Banks apart from other Sydney rooftops. There’s a classic mezze board featuring baba ganoush, hummus and falafel, or a 1.3-kilogram tomahawk steak served with Moroccan chermoula.
Watson’s, Moore Park
Live entertainment and sport are usually why you’d find yourself at the Entertainment Quarter. PJ Gallagher’s was the only pub, and while the dark Irish tavern had an old-school charm, its new life as Watson’s is a welcome change. Dark interiors are now bright and open with plenty of greenery and natural light, and the enormous beer garden is shaded by gum trees. It’s a good backdrop for the menu of pub classics. There’s a free-range chicken schnitzel; beer-battered fish‘n’chips; a pot of mussels with napolitana sauce; and buttermilk fried chicken tenders. The focus is on quality produce, with meat for dishes such as a Rangers Valley Black Onyx rib eye and Moroccan-spiced lamb shoulder sourced from Vic’s Meats.