“What good new restaurants should I try?”

Broadsheet’s editors field this question, or a variation on it, almost every day. While we’d just as soon recommend one of Sydney’s straight-up best restaurants or a long-standing institution, the pull of a hot new place is hard to deny.

So here it is: our edit of the best new restaurants in Sydney from the past 12 months, updated monthly. Some of these places are redefining the way we eat and will go on to become classics. Others will be shorter lived. Either way, these are the spots we’re enjoying eating and drinking at in August.

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Mimi's

This is the grandest restaurant Merivale’s ever opened, and that’s saying something. It took six years, plus the careful stewardship of Justin Hemmes and executive chef Jordan Toft, but we finally have it: Mimi’s is the jewel in the Coogee Pavilion’s crown. And it was worth the wait. The dining room is bright and sweeping, like Est but with beach views. The food is the poster boy for the type of cuisine that Merivale has been spearheading in Sydney for years: a lot of Mediterranean, a bit of Australian, and all produce-driven.

169 Dolphin Street, Coogee

Bar Totti's

A big part of the appeal of Totti’s in Bondi is the setting: it feels like you’re having a meal in a Tuscan backyard, complete with crisp white walls and olive trees. How can that translate to a smaller, darker CBD space? Very well, it turns out. Dishes from Bondi – including that show-stopping bread – have been carried over to the new Ivy precinct outpost, but antipasti – best enjoyed with a drink in hand – is a renewed focus: there are over 20 options to choose from right now.

4/330 George Street, Sydney

Henrietta

This neon-splashed Lebanese charcoal chicken diner, bar and takeaway shop (with a separate window for pick-ups) adds some fun to Surry Hills’ Crown Street strip. Everything here is best eaten with your hands. “You’ve got to get your Lebanese bread and rip it open, put a lot of garlic sauce [toum], chicken, pickles and chips in, then roll it and eat it all together,” says owner Ibby Moubbader and we agree. We’re also loving the Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails.

Shop 1 500 Crown Street, Surry Hills

Jimmy's Falafel

Jimmy’s Falafel's colourful room features booths, frosted-glass sconces and tourism posters of cosmopolitan 1960s Beirut. As the name suggests, there’s falafel, which is stuffed in pita (among other things) and served alongside meze plates including eggplant salad, hummus and silverbeet. At night, there’s also meat cooked on the charcoal grill, and a wonderful smoky scent permeates the air. As at Henrietta, eating with your hands is encouraged and toum (garlic sauce) is liberally applied.

312 George Street, Sydney

Pepito's

Thanks to travel bans, it looks like we’ll be confined to Aussie shores for a long while yet. So a visit to Pepito’s is the next-best thing to a trip to Peru. Based on the “tabernas” (diners where you can eat home-style cooking, drink and hang out) owner José Alkon frequents when he’s in his Peruvian homeland, Pepito’s is serving Latin American cuisine and booze you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the city, while Peruvian punk rock is pumped from the speakers. Expect dishes such as leche de tigre especial – local seafood marinated in lime juice, garlic, chilli and ginger, and topped with deep-fried calamari.

276 Illawarra Road, Marrickville

Ho Jiak Town Hall

Junda Khoo’s grandmother’s Penang-style home cooking informs the menu at Haymarket Malaysian diner Ho Jiak. But the restaurant’s latest outpost (there’s also a small outlet in Strathfield) is more expansive – Khoo’s taking flavours and dishes from regions all over Malaysia and putting his own spin on them. The most popular dish (and our pick) is the har mee bomb – prawn noodle soup inside a dumpling. On drinking: a tiki-inspired cocktail list has been compiled by Yoshi Onishi of nearby Bancho Bar.

125 York Street, Sydney

Restaurant Leo

Federico Zanellato and Karl Firla are two of Sydney’s most exciting chefs. On his resume the genre-bending Zanellato lists Copenhagen’s Noma, Melbourne’s Attica and Sydney’s Ormeggio at the Spit, and Firla was behind hard-to-get-into Newtown fine diner Oscillate Wildly, which sadly closed last year. Now they have opened an elegant Italian eatery in the city’s Angel Place precinct with slick service, white tablecloths and everything made in-house (pastry, bread, pasta, pickles – the lot). The menu swings from lobster ragu with truffles to veal saltimbocca and borlotti bean soup.

2-12 1 Angel Place, Sydney

Lonely Mouth by RaRa

Ramen purveyor Rara Ramen did Sydney’s vegan community a solid when it opened a plant-based version of its diner in Newtown, pretty much right as Covid hit. Hemp seeds, sunflower and soy milk are used in lieu of pork offcuts for a collagen-y, umami-laden broth, while seitan (hydrated gluten) stands in for pork chashu. We reckon Lonely Mouth has probably got the best name of any new restaurant in Sydney (roughly translated from the Japanese word kuchisabishii, it refers to the longing to put something in your mouth, even when you’re not hungry) – and it isn’t just for people who eat a plant-based diet. This is for people who like their ramen made without cutting corners.

275 Australia Street, Newtown

Ormeggio at the Spit

Since 2009, owners and chefs Alessandro Pavoni and Victor Moya had built Ormeggio into one of Sydney’s best Italian eateries. Their new take is more casual, completely meat-free and, rather than offering individual dishes, it’s now shared plates. Seafood is the star, and there’s a gelato bar serving iced delicacies inspired by different Italian desserts. It’s as outstanding as ever and its waterside location is still enchanting.

D'Albora Marinas The Spit Spit Road, Mosman

Saint Peter

This inventive Paddington seafood restaurant has emerged from lockdown with a new look, new vibe and new menu, and we’re into it. It now has a 12-metre Carrara-marble-topped bar running down the middle, with the kitchen on one side of the bench and diners on the other. The switch gives seafood maven Josh Niland and his crew more cooking space, and lets them transform the experience into a quasi-masterclass, offering ringside seats to these masters pin-boning fillets and taking perfectly aged fish skin and grilling it into pork-like crackling. Importantly, it means they can continue the journey of sharing their pioneering fin-to-scale philosophy.

362 Oxford Street, Paddington

Cafe Paci

Pasi Petanen is back and he’s better than ever. Since closing the original much-loved Cafe Paci back in 2015, Petanen has been popping up at restaurants around town, with questions about when he would find a new permanent space trailing in his wake. We have that new spot now and it was worth the wait. Things are more casual now, a-la-carte, not set menu. The cuisine genre is hard to pin down, there’s a lot of Finnish, a little bit of Italy and some inspiration taken from Australian favourites. On the wine front, vino maestro Giorgio De Maria has created a wine list with an emphasis on fun, drinkable drops.

131 King Street, Newtown

The Gidley

This follow-up to smash-hit steakhouse Bistecca has a lot in common with its older sibling. Steak is still the focus (despite an expanded menu), both venues are subterranean and phones are controversially banned at the dinner table. But it’s the little touches that distinguish The Gidley and make it so exciting. Like the Martinis, which come deconstructed with three ramekins filled with garnishes so you can make it how you like it. Or in the theatre of the place – drinks are finished and fishes are filleted right in front of guests at the table.

161 King Street, Sydney

Lotus 2.0

When Dan Hong joined Potts Point’s Lotus back in 2008, he was one of Australia’s brightest young chefs, hungry for success. Over a decade later, he’s opened a handful of blockbuster restaurants, written bestselling cookbooks and has become a fixture on television. He’s got nothing to prove. That attitude shows up in spades at Lotus 2.0. The cooking is confident, unrestrained and comfortable. There are old favourites (the cheeseburger is back, with a few tweaks), but we recommend some of the newer dishes – maybe the noodles with scarlet prawns and XO. Lotus 2.0 is a one-year pop-up, but here’s hoping we get a Lotus 3.0.

22 Challis Avenue, Potts Point

Chaco Bar

It may have the same name as its Darlinghurst forebear, but Chaco Bar Potts Point is an entirely new beast where the focus here is exclusively on yakitori (if you’re after Chaco’s exalted ramen, the original location is now Chaco Ramen, and is dedicated exclusively to the stuff). At Potts Point, owner Keita Abe is clearly relishing his singular focus: the skewers he grills over charcoal – whether they’re chicken thigh, heart, liver, pork belly, lamb shoulder, miso eggplant or gizzard – have never been better. Combine it with a fun roster of sides and a tidy cocktail list and you’re guaranteed a great night out.

186-188 Victoria Street, Potts Point

Bar Vincent

Handmade pasta and natural wines. It’s an easy (and very on-trend) sell. But there’s always room for another player in the field when they’re doing good work. And that’s what Bar Vincent is doing. It’s a simple and charming corner eatery, within which you’ll find plump tortellini, hearty maltagliati and many more pasta shapes, paired with their soul mate sauces. The small wine list backs things up well and the excellent house-made bread is complimentary.

174 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst

Bush

This delightfully pared-back eatery has just a handful of items on the menu. At the moment you can order a cheeseburger, greens and chips, and for dessert, a fairy-bread-and-butter pudding. There's also a kangaroo curry puff and a killer sausage. Enjoy it with a coffee, tea or a milkshake. And that's about it. It’s simple, but definitely worth checking out.

55 George Street, Redfern

Shwarmama

This jazzed up kebab shop with a takeaway focus isn’t exactly a restaurant, but we would be remiss not to include it here. These kebabs are some of the best things to eat in Sydney right now. Shwarmama exists because of a conversation between Matt Lindsay, owner of Ester and Poly (and one of the best chefs in Sydney) and Russell Beard of Paramount Coffee Project and Reuben Hills (two of Sydney’s finest cafes). Now, we have a place where you can have an exceptional – and surprisingly good value – kebab alongside a great coffee from a futuristic coffee machine. Wonderful.

Shop 2 106-112 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills

Ragazzi

It feels like recently every second opening has been an Italian restaurant, so why do we think Ragazzi will stand out? Its pedigree, for one. Chef and co-owner Scott Williams has worked in the kitchens at Movida Sydney and Bacco Osteria e Espresso. He’s putting out a changing menu that’s included cavatelli (thin shell pasta) with pipis and pork sausage, a classic cacio e pepe and a goat ragu mafaldine (long ribbon-shaped pasta). Then there’s the other two co-owners, Nathaniel Hatwell and Matthew Swieboda, the team responsible for Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Sainte Eloise, two of the best wine bars in town. And the wine? 300 bottles strong. It all comes in a snug 40-person CBD space the size of a small convenience shop.

Shop 3 2-12 Angel Place, Sydney

Bodega x Wyno

When news broke that Bodega was leaving its Commonwealth Street premises, it was heart wrenching. The restaurant was 13 years old, and helped introduce an entire generation of Sydneysiders to modern Latin American food. But Bodega lives on now, albeit in a different form. It now shares a space with bottle shop Wyno. It was a savvy move. With its renewed focus on wine in a sleeker space, Bodega x WyNo is the fresh approach we didn’t know Bodega needed. Favourite dishes such as the fish fingers and the banana split have survived the move – but they’re the only constant. The rest of the menu changes often.

50 Holt Street, Surry Hills
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Alala's

When Neutral Bay institution The Oaks announced a multi-million dollar redevelopment, the news was received with equal-parts trepidation and excitement – it’s always tricky to mess with a classic. Alala’s is the restaurant of the development, and it breathes fresh air into the space without stepping on the toes of the rest of The Oaks around it. It’s a light and airy space – we recommend trying to get a table by one of the large windows. The menu marries approachability with refinement well; think chicken tagine or smoked flat iron steak. There's also excellent porchetta and plump rotisserie chooks available from the downstairs takeaway.

118 Military Road, Neutral Bay

Busta

Sean and Luke Miller are serial Manly restaurateurs. They’re the pair behind the much-loved Sunset Sabi and Chica Bonita (which opened a CBD spot earlier this year). Now, they’ve set their sights on Italian. At the moment, Busta has a tight menu: a cluster of antipasti options, a handful of pastas and mains and two desserts. Fine by us. It’s perfect beachside fare.

Shop 8 2-12 Pittwater Road, Manly

Gyusha

At most barbeque restaurants you select your meat, it gets brought to you, and you proceed to cook it yourself. Gyusha takes things one step further. Here, you’re asked to take a basket and peruse the shelves of the restaurant (fitted out to resemble those of a high-end Tokyo convenience shop). Then, once you’ve gathered your ingredients – maybe some Wagyu beef, chicken wings, enoki mushrooms and sweet-corn – you bring it back to your table and cook it. Maybe it’s a bit gimmicky, but it’s a fun and original dining experience. If that’s not your bag, you can buy the produce to cook at home.

Shop 7 6 Central Park Avenue, Chippendale
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Thirsty Bird Newtown

Fried chicken is one of the few foods whose quality can be measured by sound. If the crunch of your first bite isn’t loud, then it’s unlikely to be a great piece of bird. Thirstybird makes deafeningly crispy fried chicken. First in Potts Point, in a small takeaway-geared space, and now in Newtown in a bigger space with plenty of seats. There’s a wealth of classic and spicy chickens available in all the pieces. A range of burgers, such as the Big Kahuna (fried chicken, pineapple, bacon and cheese), rounds things out.

226 King Street, Newtown

XOPP

Many Sydneysiders have fond memories of smashing a bowl of Golden Century’s famous pipis with XO sauce after midnight. Visitors like it too: American celebrity chef David Chang once called it “the best dish in the world”. Safe to say, if any dish deserves to be the namesake of a restaurant, it’s those pipis. XOPP (say it letter-by-letter) recently opened in Darling Square. Although the headline act steals a lot of attention, the supporting cast is also strong: we loved the salted duck egg potato wedges and the chicken liver parfait. Add to that a fun wine list bolstered by the full firepower of Golden Century’s wine arsenal, and you have a sure-fire hit.

The Exchange, Darling Square 1 Little Pier Street, Haymarket

Prince of York

The team behind the Prince of York is going for a party vibe: somewhere guests of all ages can eat, drink and dance. Upstairs you’ll find a sophisticated take on pub food; dishes include a veal cotoletta with guanciale, and a chilli crab spaghetti served in a bag. Downstairs is all about the drinks; tequila and mezcal are sold by the bottle and tagged so people can come back to the bar for pours.

18 York Street, Sydney

Franca

Franca takes its name from lingua franca – a pidgin language developed by Mediterranean traders so they could understand one another. It’s a name that gives this French brasserie a lot of scope to dip its toes into other cuisines. Right now, the bulk of the menu is grounded in France – with some forays towards Italy. Franca has one of the most beautiful dining rooms we’ve seen this year. So grab a red-velvet seat or sink into the green-leather booths, order a wine from the 200-bottle list, and settle in for a long meal to take it all in.

81 Macleay Street, Potts Point

Dimitri's Pizzeria

Pizza, craft beers, natural wine. It’s a trio showing up everywhere right now, and it’s easy to see why. Dimitri’s is proof that the key to nailing this simple formula is in the steadfast commitment to quality ingredients and produce and to consistent execution. Dimitri’s has been around since 1975, and has had its current owners for the past eight years, but since its move from Crown Street to Oxford, it’s never felt fresher (or more fun). To match the new spot there’s a new oven firing pizza made with new dough. Try the Bee Sting: mozzarella, sopressa, tomato and honey. Or the Brussel Crowe, which is topped with roasted brussels sprouts, caramelised onion, fennel and scamorza.

215 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst

Little Felix

Little Felix is more than a waiting room for French bistro Felix. Thanks to a Cognac and Cointreau-heavy drinks list and a bar piled high with towers of French cheese cut to order, Merivale’s latest opening is a destination in its own right. It’s all set in an opulent, pale-emerald room replete with comfortable dark-toned leather lounges.

2 Ash Street, Sydney