Welcome to the wonderful world of late-night dining. No queues, shorter wait times for food, greasier menus and a colourful crowd of diners, from chefs and bartenders after their shifts, to insomniacs and partygoers.
The significance of these venues to our city’s cultural life is felt by the co-owner of ACME and Bar Brosé, Ed Loveday. “It’s important to have places open later, particularly because there isn’t a whole lot out there. Australia’s customary hours of dining, from 6pm until 9pm, don’t need to be that way, nor do they suit everyone,” he says. “It’s about drawing out the dining experience.”
Sydney’s lockout laws have caused the closure of many bars and clubs. But what they haven’t managed to stop is the resurgence of dining late. The opening of places such as Big Poppa’s and Bar Brosé is evidence of better things to come. “It’s really encouraging seeing other restaurants keeping their kitchens open late. From a point purely of self-interest, it’s nice to have that on offer. I hope the trend continues,” says Loveday.
According to Simon McGoram of Henrietta Supper Club, these eateries have an important role to play. “Venues that are open late should be recognised and supported. When the lockout laws are [hopefully] lifted, these places will lead the charge in rebuilding a vibrant, late-night economy,” says McGoram.
“People work all sorts of hours,” he adds. “They should have access to hospitality as much as anyone else. It’s important to have a diverse offering and give people something to do [other] than just drink.”
So whether you’re after a quick kebab, a cheesy carbonara, some Korean fried chicken or a Mexican fiesta, here are the best restaurants to visit between dog and wolf.
Bar Brosé signals a new breed of classy-but-casual wine bars in Sydney offering quality wine and food in a relaxed setting. “We tend to get people from similar establishments in the area coming in for a bottle of wine after dinner,” says co-owner Ed Loveday. “A few migrate from ACME. We also get a fair few hospo people coming in.” From June 28, Adam Wolfers and Marc Dempsey from Yellow will temporarily take the reigns of the restaurant, with a two-month pop-up celebrating Jewish and Eastern European flavours. There's matzo-ball soup, fried Hungarian bread, parsnip schnitzel, and an apple-and-mooseberry strudel with star anise ice-cream for dessert. Hours:
Wed & Thu 5pm–11pm
Fri & Sat 6pm–12am
Where all walks of life come together. Golden Century serves classic Cantonese fare until the wee hours. You’ll find a group of twenty-somethings eating Peking-duck pancakes and fried-pork spare ribs next to a table of chefs enjoying a braised mud crab with diced meat and vermicelli hot pot, after a long day. We recommend the searing Mongolian lamb hot pot, deep-fried duck with plum sauce and the famous salt-and-peppered squid .
Dae Jang Kum
This home-style Korean-barbeque restaurant is bright, lively and open very late. It offers more than 150 authentic, spice-laden dishes, and this place is a favourite among many chefs, including Berta’s former head chef, O Tama Carey. Try the bulgogi beef or Korean-style deep-fried chicken with numerous sides, such as endless varieties of kimchi, beansprouts and a mustard and sesame sauce.
Mon to Thu 9am–4am
Fri & Sat 9am–6am
Brought to you by the masterminds behind Shady Pines Saloon and Baxter Inn, Frankie’s is well known in Sydney’s late-night bar scene. The retro pizza parlour with checkerboard floors, wooden booths and red-and-white tablecloths adjoins an American-style dive bar. Frequented by hospitality workers, incognito musicians and locals alike, this beloved establishment offers a great selection of craft beer and delightfully cheesy, classic, thin-based pizzas.
Mon to Fri: 12pm-3am
Sat to Sun: 4pm - 3am
Fatima’s is the long-standing crown jewel of Cleveland street’s late-night Middle Eastern restaurants. It opened in 1969 and was one of Sydney’s first Lebanese restaurants. It is still family-owned and operated. Walk in through what looks like a milk bar, with takeaway food, and enter the restaurant, tucked away behind. Upstairs groups can enjoy the privacy of their own room with pillows generously piled around a low table and a banquet. Your table should be lined with bowls of hummus, baba ghannouj and labneh, followed by shish kebabs; fetta and spinach lady fingers; and lamb-cabbage rolls. The huge slabs of sizzling meat and the live belly-dancing shows on weekends will keep you coming back.
What started as a pop-up Mexican cantina has since become an enduringly popular, permanent establishment in the heart of Surry Hills. El Loco is the brainchild of Dan Hong (Ms. G’s and Lotus) and Merivale mogul Justin Hemmes. The menu is a result of Hong and Hemmes’s travels to LA where they sampled the city’s famous taco trucks. It’s also inspired by Hong’s solo adventures around Mexico. Dishes such as chilli dogs, quesadillas and churros are all there, until late, but the $6 tacos are the real heroes. The lemongrass beef and the spit-roasted pork with pineapple salsa tacos are highlights.
Mon to Thu 12pm–late
Fri & Sat 12pm–3am
Henrietta Supper Club
What started out as a smart-casual restaurant open late has evolved into a restaurant solely dedicated to late-night hospitality. “We grew a reputation for being the place you go after lockout. For a while, we were one of the only places you could go … due to our restaurant license,” McGorman says. “It just made sense to reject normal trading hours.” But whether its success lies in sticking it to Baird or finding a gap in the market is neither here nor there – it’s the food that gets us talking, until 3am. In a dark and brooding dining space with low-lit lamps and dark-oak tables, enjoy easy bar snacks and burgers; Jalapeño poppers, buttermilk popcorn chicken and Bulleit bourbon wings. The Yo Mama burger with beef, cheese, bacon, peanut butter and pickles will satisfy any late-night hankerings.
Tue to Sat 10pm–3am
A collaboration between Lewis Jaffrey of Shady Pines, Baxter Inn and Frankie’s and Lobo Plantation’s Jared Merlino, Big Poppa’s is one of Sydney’s newest restaurant rebels. It delivers delicious wines, complex cocktails, a cheese-centric menu and hip-hop, all under one roof. And it’s open until 3am. The main restaurant area is located upstairs, and downstairs there’s a relaxed and cosy bar area with plush cocktail lounges, an exquisite drinks list and hip-hop booming from the speakers.
Mamak offers good Malysian food at a relatively low price and is open late on weekends. There’s always a queue snaking around the corner for its ayam goring. It’s everything fried-chicken should be: generous in portion, crispy in skin and tender in flesh. The famed rotis are flaky and fluffy and come with curries and sambal that will keep you joining that queue, time after time.
Mon to Thu 11.30am–2.30pm, 5.30–10pm
Fri & Sat 11.30am–2am
Low 302 is a bohemian bar serving food a cut above the usual late-night offering. Wagyu steak; pan-seared scallops with zucchini spaghetti; and charcuterie and cheese boards is a rarity past 10pm anywhere else in Surry Hills. It also makes an exceptional G&T. In the corner, the intimate stage regularly hosts live music. A favoured after-hours haunt of Sydney’s music set.
Updated June 9.