The Best Restaurants in Sydney

Updated 1 week ago


What makes a great restaurant? Maybe it pioneered something, like Saint Peter and its fin-to-scale cooking. Maybe, after several decades in the game, it still feels as fresh and relevant as ever (looking at you, Frat Paz). Or maybe it’s been open less than a year and already feels like a future classic (hello Clam Bar).

All are equally valid answers when it comes to determining the best restaurants in Sydney. That’s why our list includes lively wine bars and other dressed-down eateries alongside the usual fine-dining institutions. The remit may be wide, but if you’re looking for restaurants that both define and capture our city’s culinary spirit, stop right here. These are the absolute best.

  • Sea-urchin crumpets? Grouper-head terrine? Here, they’re a thing. Chef Josh Niland is a pioneer of “fin-to-scale” cooking and will have you eating parts of the fish you barely knew existed. With the help of his fish butchery and an on-site dry-ageing room, he’s doing things with seafood you can’t find anywhere else in Sydney, or in the world.

  • Dinners at Ester don’t feel like a big occasion, even though Mat Lindsay’s consistently delicious menu is also one of the most inventive in Sydney. The place has an easy, effortless feel that off-duty chefs have fallen hard for. It helps that the set menu includes Ester’s many woodfired hits (classics such as the fermented potato bread and blood sausage sanga recur frequently).

  • The standard-setter for fine dining in Sydney. Executive chef Peter Gilmore is tireless in his pursuit of what’s interesting, new and Australian. His backyard is peppered with test plantations of rare vegetables, he works with local ceramicists on custom crockery and, like interstate peer Ben Shewry, he’s a leading advocate for native produce.

    Book a Table
  • Frat Paz, as its many regulars call it, has been doing its very confident thing since 2001. That is: feeding and watering everyone from nonnas to the city’s A-listers, people who come back regularly for dishes such as calamari Sant’ Andrea and what could possibly be the best tiramisu in the city. This bustling, all-day operation is by the same people who brought us 10 William St.

  • A Bondi institution that’s kept up with the times. The long-serving staff continues to deliver exemplary service, and chef Sean Moran remains laser-focused on what’s Australian, what’s ripe and how best to prepare and present it in a way that best shows off each ingredient’s natural flavours. Understated but glorious, this is a quintessential Sydney dining experience – even more so than the flashier restaurants on this list.

  • For beloved chef, restaurateur, author, television presenter and national treasure Kylie Kwong, her food is as much about flavour as it is about expressing her social and cultural beliefs. That’s the driving force behind her 25-seat eatery, which sees Kwong’s signature Australian-Cantonese food served in a casual, canteen-style setting. Bonus: it's open for lunch five days a week.

  • If Fred’s has the most beautiful dining room in Sydney, Bennelong has the most iconic. Aside from the fact it’s set within the window-cupped, city-facing end of the Opera House, the dining area is spectacular. Quay’s Peter Gilmore and head chef Rob Cockerill run a menu that matches the location – seafood from nearby waters, house charcuterie made with all Australian produce and show stopping desserts, such as pavlova sculpted to match the sails above.

    Book a Table
  • This elevated vantage of Bondi’s sloshing surf is one of Australia’s great views – one a less conscientious restaurateur might easily lean on. Not Maurice Terzini, who’s been pushing his resplendent Italian diner to greater and greater heights since 2002. Long lunches in this smart aquamarine room have never been better, largely thanks to an insistence on top-quality Australian seafood, which makes the mostly classic menu sing.

  • A trailblazer in Sydney’s Thai restaurant scene. When the late, great Amy Chanta opened it in Darlinghurst in 1989, it brought Bankgok flavours that were then-unknown to Sydney diners. The Thai street food here is fine-dining quality, served at very reasonable price points. Today, it’s a super-popular chain with stores all over Sydney.

    Book a Table
  • The Middle East’s lesser-known cuisines brought to light on a menu informed by ancient recipes and modern techniques. You can also try wines from Syria, Jordan, Morocco and more, in a stunning contemporary space in the former MLC Centre.

  • Six years after it was announced, Merivale unveiled Mimi’s, a love letter to Sydney’s coastal lifestyle. In the open kitchen, you’ll see custom Josper grills being used to make dishes based on executive chef Jordan Toft’s philosophy of uncomplicated, Mediterranean-style cooking that draws equally from his Australian context. This is the kind of elegant, seaside restaurant only Sydney could produce.

  • Ho Jiak’s Junda Khoo grew up on the Malaysian island of Penang, and his food is inspired by the homey nyonya food of his childhood. Char kway teow noodles with jumbo prawns, comforting hainan chicken rice and a signature wok-fried crab are just some of the hits here. Downstairs is styled after the Penang street where Khoo spent his youth; upstairs is a mirror image of his grandmother’s home.

  • Hubert’s low ceilings, timber-panelled walls and candle-lit tables feel like they’ve been there forever. And yet, this convincing facsimile of a grand European restaurant circa World War II only opened in 2016. Behind this extravagant and ambitious facade there’s reverence for classic hospitality and notably un-classic French food. Sure, the menu includes duck parfait and escargot, but with clever tweaks such as maple syrup jelly and Chinese XO sauce.

  • When Brent Savage’s Yellow turned vegetarian in 2016, it seemed like a potential misstep. What actually happened is: it got better. It’s now Sydney’s only purely vegetarian fine-diner, rivalled by none when it comes to cooking vegetables with a level of care and creativity that will impress all but the most stubborn carnivores.

  • Not quite Neapolitan, not quite New Yorker – the pizza at Bella Brutta is a style all of its own. Expect a puffy, blistered crust, a sag-proof base and a raft of creative toppings (a slice of the white clam pie with fermented chilli is a must). From the teams behind LP’s Quality Meats and Porteno.

  • Get the best Australian produce from both the paddock and the soil, and cook it over an open flame. That’s it. It’s an extremely simple concept, but one few execute with the precision and aplomb of chef Lennox Hastie, who learnt the trade at Spain’s pioneering Asador Extebarri. Sit at the kitchen bar and watch Hastie roast a dry-aged steak, a prawn straight from the tank or a simple potato.

  • Not content with feeding the city’s noodle obsession solely at lunchtime, Keita Abe turned his teeny Surry Hills diner into a full-time ramen restaurant, and moved the smoke and theatre of its old yakitori nights up the road. Chaco Bar 2.0 recalls the smoky laneway restaurants of Abe’s hometown of Fukuoka, Japan. But more than anything, it feels like the restaurant Abe always wanted to make. The result is one of the best – and most fun – Japanese dining experiences you can have in Sydney.

    Book a Table
  • As soon as you walk into this good-looking restaurant you’ll see what you’re in for. At the central firepit they’ll be charring whole lambs and suckling pigs Argentinian style; you’ll spot a bar stocked with wine local and imported, natural and classic; and you’ll grasp that this restaurant cares not for trends or tropes, just what’s good according to owners Ben Milgate, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Joe Valore. Take a decent-sized crew and share the good stuff.

    Book a Table
  • Helmed by genre-bending Sydney chef Mitch Orr, the Ace Hotel’s eighteenth-floor diner is all about native ingredients, fire-based cooking and flavours from across the globe. The space exudes the Ace’s signature cool, with a view that’s primed for the adventurous wine list by P&V’s Mike Bennie.

  • Few restaurants have maintained their excellence and hunger for invention like this one. Bentley opened in an old Surry Hills pub in ’06 before moving to this grander location in 2013, announcing its culinary ambitions in the process. Chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt continue to post some of Sydney’s most varied and progressive wine lists and degustations. All dietary needs are catered for in the most delicious ways possible here.

  • Until Lumi and its Miso-strone came along, the idea of a Japanese-Italian restaurant sounded distinctly unappetising. But in the hands of chef Federico Zanellato (ex-Noma, Attica and Ormeggio at the Spit), this fusion not only makes sense – it makes you wonder why more people aren’t doing it. Enjoy multiple courses with matched wines from Michela Boncagni (Lumi’s sommelier and Zanellato’s wife), with serene views of Pyrmont Bay to keep you occupied between acts.

  • Around 60 styles of sake are pouring at this intimate drinking den, inspired by the vinyl-spinning jazz bars of Japan. Expect rare Japanese gins and whiskies too, plus a Euro-Japanese snack menu by a former Pinbone and Billy Kwong chef.

  • An institution among Laksa addicts. Today the name has two locations under its banner, but the original, now-closed Hunter Street shop was ladling bowls of piping hot laksa all the way back in 1987 – long before most of the CBD’s other Asian restaurants joined the party.

  • After leaving the kitchen at influential, now-closed Newtown diner Oscillate Wildly, Dan Puskas always planned to do something similar in the inner west. Sixpenny is his next chapter, where he and head chef Anthony Schifilliti use ingredients from small local suppliers to create a menu that’s inventive, accessible and deeply Australian all at once. It’s a vision brought to life in a tiny, historic building on a quiet suburban backstreet.

  • This waterside property feels like an opulent hotel. There’s a reception to greet you, it’s luxuriously decorated with period furniture and the bar has a scalloped design that’s almost mesmerising. The menu mixes classical French and Italian dishes and high-end Australian seafood cooked with the precision the prices imply. Despite this, Bert’s is versatile and accessible, just as suitable for dates as for celebrating a boozy long lunch with friends or family.

  • The Newtown sequel Pasi Petanen’s boundary-pushing Darlinghurst venue is a little more casual now, but the chef's incredible dishes have never been harder to pin down. There’s a lot of Finnish, a little bit of Italian and some inspiration taken from right here in Australia. Vino maestro Giorgio De Maria wine list emphasises drops that are fun, interesting and go exceptionally well with the food.

  • Restaurants all over Sydney have tried to copy Mr Wong’s refined Cantonese-led menu, its modern fit-out and the quality of its service, but none have been successful. Consequently the large but intimate-seeming space is always packed, even though it’s down a CBD laneway. Inside, a bank of barbequed ducks aren’t just great to look at: they’re plump, juicy and delicious. Likewise the delicate dumplings, which are some of the city’s best. Chef Dan Hong sets a benchmark that has the right amount of Aussie-Cantonese nostalgia.

  • The food here is very Sri Lankan – there’s a traditional fish curry, hoppers (bowl-shaped crepes made from fermented rice flour), an array of sambols and fluffy dal – but this narrow restaurant is a reflection of chef and owner O Tama Carey. She wanted to bring her experience of the island to Sydney, along with what she likes to drink: Australian-brewed mead, pét-nats, a coconut and coffee slushie, and wine poured from a tap.

  • Enter this iconic Sydney restaurant for Med-inspired dishes spanning inventive charcuterie and charcoal-fired plates. Plus, a wine list highlighting Australian producers great and small.

  • Imagine a beautiful timber-built seaside home, one with spectacular, sea breeze-swept views and a courtyard that walks onto the sands. Now fill it with tablecloths, birthday celebrations and plates of seafood-led Italian fare, and you’ve got Pilu. Choose between either a traditional or innovative menu. Either way, you’re in for flavours from Sardinia, the region owner Giovanni Pilu himself is from.

    Book a Table
  • The best of New York inspires the Pellegrino 2000 crew's handsome CBD seafood grill and steakhouse. As ever, it’s all about irreverently executed classics: steak tartare with an unexpected twist; macaroni alla vodka that tastes like the best pasta bake you’ll ever eat; and cocktails that cross New York classics with the “daggy drinks” of the ’80s.

    Book a Table
  • A Long Chim alumnus is behind this 30-seat Chinatown restaurant, where you’ll find punchy takes on classic Thai street food and home-style cooking. Think deep-fried barramundi with mango salad, Phuket-style curry with tiger prawns and betel leaves, and a refreshing coconut ice-cream with roasted peanuts and candied pumpkin.

  • A hidden Marrickville restaurant celebrating the cultural diversity of Sydney's suburbs. Beyond the low-key roller door, it’s plating up citrussy schnitzels; charcoal-grilled octopus with endives and raspberry; and bouillabaisse bolognaise with prawn and bacon XO sauce.

  • You can always count on fresh oysters, complimentary bread and a razor-sharp wine program at this exemplary neighbourhood diner. Come for an Italianate menu, served in one of the inner-city’s most romantic dining rooms.

  • A Mediterranean grill and wine bar unlike anything we’ve seen in The Rocks before. Visit Swillhouse Group’s grand-statement venue for two-sip Martinis; dishes cooked over charcoal; and a massive mosaic from Italy.