When you’re dining in a group it can be difficult to find a venue to accommodate you. Private dining rooms can be stale and impersonal, and communal tables too crowded and noisy. These are Sydney’s best places to share a meal in a group.
Private Dining Rooms
In 2014, the Hotel Centennial underwent a multimillion-dollar revamp and was transformed from an aged local favourite into a contemporary gastropub. Celebrity chef Justin North runs the kitchen.
The pub’s High Table concept is the ultimate in group dining. Up to 30 guests can sit on high leather bar stools at the same white marble table, which stretches from one side of the elegant lounge to the other. There are two set menus. A three-course menu for $75 per person, and a four-course menu for $96 per person. It’s produce-driven and includes share plates of fried calamari and local charcuterie. Move on to platters of roast pork with vegetables and grain mustard jus, and local line-caught blue-eye trevalla. Follow this with a chocolate, cumquat and Earl Grey tart, or green apple sorbet. What sets this place apart is that you can reserve the surrounding lounge as well. After lunch or dinner, relocate to the comfy couches and invite additional guests to join for aperitivo.
Deceptively located at the rear end of the bar, Eau de Vie’s Whisky Room offers a dining experience for up to 40 guests. The space can be closed off entirely from the main bar, and has a sleek yet homey ambience. That’s down to the room’s dark-paneled walls and plush lounge seating. Discerning whisky drinkers can store their favourite spirits in the dedicated bottle lockers.
The Grounds of Alexandria is all about its weekend bustle, but its latest addition, The Lock In, has a different atmosphere altogether. The space fits 20 seated or 40 standing guests. It’s behind a huge door signposted only by red lights, which indicate whether the room is occupied or not. Whisky is the specialty here, and when it comes to food, guests can choose from The Potting Shed’s a-la-carte or A Fine Feast grazing menus, which feature DIY hot dogs, and cheese and chacuterie boards. The final option, the Master & Chef includes a private chef, and an opportunity for complete customisation.
Apollo in Potts Point was devised with group dining in mind. For a more exclusive meal, the restaurant’s chef table promises an evening to remember for parties of up to 12. Hosted in a rustic space adjoining the main kitchen, guests will feel involved and secluded, on display and hidden. Choose between two specially designed banquet menus, or the restaurant’s usual a-la-carte offerings. Highlights include the grilled swordfish with broccoli, capers and mint, and slow-cooked lamb with lemon Greek yoghurt.
Arguably one of Sydney’s most innovative group-dining restaurants, Mojo’s Cone of Silence is so inconspicuous it can only be accessed by a stairway from the restaurant’s wine cellar. The room is industrial, with timber walls and neon chairs. It is also embellished with cushions and a rotating wall gallery. The space accommodates 16 seated or 25 standing guests. The menu’s plates are categorised by nation. The Singaporean selection offers honey and oregano baked haloumi, fig and golden beets alongside an Indonesian pappardelle with braised short rib and “rendang” buffalo mozzarella.
While its unlikely location on a quiet backstreet in Chippendale means it’s tucked away, the open kitchen and long tables give Ester a sense of welcoming and warmth. The menu features smaller and larger plates, all from the restaurant’s signature wood-fire oven, and Ester is ideal for groups that prefer a laid-back setting. Although there is some space for walk-ins, reservations are recommended.
Two Chaps is a cafe and sourdough bakery by Piero Pignatti Morano. Their back-to-basis approach is reflected in the cuisine and the interior, which includes second-hand furniture. There is a Mediterranean focus, and the inventive dinner menu includes three fresh pastas every week. There are two dessert optionsincluding an ice cream sandwich. It's BYO and the long table can fit up to 32 people comfortably. Bookings are encouraged for the two seatings; 6pm and 8pm. Two Chaps has also extended its opening hours on Thursday and Friday nights.
This restaurant celebrates the fare you would find in southern-Indian and Sri Lankan villages. And the hospitality that comes with it. Located in a sandstone heritage building in the CBD, Indu’s interior is old world meets new, furnished with sleek wooden tables and industrial lamps. The bright-green booths are perfect for smaller groups, and the two dedicated private dining rooms fit up to 12 guests.
Cho Cho San’s izakaya-style long marble dining bar offers an alternative for diners in small groups. Its wooden alcove tables are ideal for larger groups. Sample the restaurant’s take on Japanese favourites, such as steamed buns filled with smoked duck and hoisin sauce, and cubed yellow-fin tuna and udon noodles in a pork and chili ragu. Be warned, the strobe lighting may not be ideal for some.
Located in a lofty space in Surry Hills, with exposed-brick walls, the communal tables and open kitchen at Bang create closeness. The a-la-carte menu caters to groups of all sizes. It offers Bengali street snacks, such as fried roti and spiced beans and crispy whitebait, as well as larger plates, such as a duck-egg and blue-swimmer-crab omelette, and honey-roasted paneer. The $55 Bang for Your Buck menu for parties of more than eight offers a selection of these.