Sydney’s long had a reputation for glitzy views, beaches and utter self-confidence. They’re all mostly good reasons to go anywhere, but there’s something else happening in the city that doesn’t make postcard prints or magazine headlines – the recent, and bewilderingly fast, revolution in the city’s food and drink. It’s irreverent, spontaneous and honest, and with the backdrop of glorious coastline and history, rather exciting.
Here’s how to spend 24 hours in the Emerald City.
9am – Breakfast at Edition Coffee Roasters
This tiny Scandinavian-Japanese cafe is pretty much the definition of Sydney’s new wave and is a great way to experience where the cafe scene is heading. It’s subversive without being pretentious or overly experimental. That means expect no eggs benedict, toasted granola, or bacon and egg rolls. Instead you’ll be eating smørrebrød (buttered rye with different toppings), charcoal-black hotcakes, hotdogs with smoked pork, Japanese omelette and miso barbeque sauce. They also do some of the best speciality tea and coffee in Sydney.
11am – Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk
One of the best short walks found in any city, ever. The path careens and undulates over Sydney’s coarse cliff face, showing off views of the Pacific, the bushy headland and a mixture of the city’s best (and most questionable) architectural achievements.
Look left and imagine what you’d do with $30 million and a piece of headland; look right and pretend there’s just you, the ocean, and a sea bird or three. Like any good journey, there’s a reward at the end – a dip in the emerald-coloured ocean pool at the Bronte Baths.
1pm – Lunch at Icebergs, Bondi Beach
Iceberg’s is where old and new Sydney meet. Well, sort of. The old part we’re talking about is the luxe one, with ocean views, long wine lists and tablecloths. The other side of the venue has a subtle but creative approach to Italian food; and the bar, with its fish burgers, spritzes and whisky selection, and an incredible salumi selection. If you’re in the mood, bar manager Lenny Opai oversees a fine selection of brunch cocktails, including the in-house No. 242, which happens to pair wonderfully with the restaurant’s smoked ocean trout, with beetroot, roe and cultured cream.
3pm – See The Nudes at AGNSW
Heading back from the coastal spoils and into the CBD, there’s ample opportunity to witness its art world. Over at the Art Gallery of NSW there’s a remarkable gathering of classics (we’re talking Picasso, Freud, Matisse and Dumas, just to name a few) based on the human body in purest form. Simply put, they are sculptures, paintings, prints and photographs of naked bodies. It runs until February 5. Elsewhere in the gallery, “naked” is an exhibition of nude paintings and drawings from late Sydney painter Brett Whiteley, open every Friday and Saturday until May 14.
5pm – Drinks at Bulletin Place
Despite being close to some of Sydney’s most notoriously touristy locations, this is a bar that will make you feel fundamentally local. Part of that is the seasonal cocktail menu, which changes daily, and part of it is the bar’s mishmash semi-industrial design. Its small size doesn’t restrict the bar from producing some of the best, most location-specific cocktails in town.
7pm – Dinner at Hubert
Start at the spiral wooden staircase, move into a waiting room that resembles a neatly organised alchemist’s workshop, and then you’ll encounter a dining room with the grandeur and romance of old-world Europe.
On the tables, there’s food from Dan Pepperell, which means a finessed but lawless approached to French dining: French to the eye but something subtle and new to the tongue.
9pm – Cocktail at PS40
This cocktail bar and soda factory approaches its drinks with the delicacy and creativity of Sydney’s best kitchens (from wattle cola to smoked lemonade and bush tonic). They are served in a light, airy, almost studio-style bar that feels as social as it does slick and fresh.
11pm – Snack at Bar Brose
Bar Brose is possibly the only bar-restaurant in Sydney self-confident enough to serve a ham-and-cheese sandwich next to some of Australia’s most interesting and progressive natural wines.
That’s not the only enjoyable pairing they do. The entire menu is literally whatever chef Analiese Gregory likes to eat and drink. That makes for a wildly eclectic spread. Think comté gougères; gnocchi with lap cheong and kombu butter; sweet potato fritters with brown-butter mousse and salted caramel, as well as seasonal cocktails, sake or an orange wine.
1am – Dance at Cliff Dive
Dancehall, hip hop, beers, $10 cocktails and walls covered in tropical fish and tiki designs. Cliff Dive feels like the start and end of your night all at once.
2am – Bed at The Old Clare Hotel
Time for bed. The boutique rooms here are all individually designed, and will make you feel either like a high-roller with a taste for antiques, or a struggling artist with an impeccable knack for furnishing industrial apartments. After a night of comfortable sleep, wake up to a swim in one of Sydney’s most glorious rooftop pools.