Sydney opera house against a bright blue sky

Sydney foodie guide: where locals eat and drink

Eat your way around Australia’s vibrant east coast city via kingfish ceviche, laksa flecked with chillies and lime and peanut butter parfait with chocolate ice cream

The iconic Opera House and majestic Harbour Bridge, miles of sandy beaches, swish suburbs and crisp, clear light: Sydney is one of the world’s great cities. And one of its most foodie. The locals love eating out so there are great restaurants, bars and cafés to choose from whatever your appetite, with Asian cuisine a staple and a definite Middle Eastern culinary scene emerging. Australia is also the land of brunch, kicking Italian coffee into touch with a stellar home-grown coffee culture and introducing the world to avocado on toast.

Advertisement

Best brunch spots in Sydney

A1 Canteen – best for global flavours

East meets West on the menu at this industrial café, home to some of the most interesting brunches in town. Za’atar eggs come with tangy braised rainbow chard, while a lip-smackingly good XO crab omelette has salty undertones from a touch of finely chopped dried fish, as well as a light hum from fresh red chilli.

a1canteen.com.au

A white bowl filled with feta and poached egg on toast
Za’atar eggs come with tangy braised rainbow chard at this industrial café

Concrete Jungle – best for Insta appeal

Become the envy of your Instagram followers at this feed-friendly café. It serves pretty plates of food that, thankfully, also taste rocking. There are a lot of plant-based dishes, including smoothie bowls and a dish of incredible beetroot hummus with sumac tomatoes. Brunch is brilliant, with an all-day selection of eggs and the obligatory smashed avocado.

concretejunglecafe.com

A blue smoothie bowl topped with blueberries and edible flowers
Become the envy of your Instagram followers at this feed-friendly café and tuck into vibrant smoothie bowls

Reuben Hills – best for coffee

Coffee roaster, ethical sourcer and incredible café all wrapped up in one gorgeous location on a sleepy street in Surry Hills. The coffee is the best in Sydney (fact!) and the menu knockout. Fried tortilla chilaquiles are drenched in yogurt, salty feta and sumac, and the café’s take on the infamous breakfast bun (a Sydney staple found in different guises on every brunch menu worth its salt) comes with bacon jam, chipotle aioli and a smashed omelette.

reubenhills.com.au

Brown paper cups stacked on top of each other
Coffee roaster, ethical sourcer and incredible café all wrapped up in one gorgeous location on a sleepy street in Surry Hills

Best Middle Eastern restaurants in Sydney

Nomad – best for seafood

Located in sizzling Surry Hills, this epic Lebanese-inspired restaurant has a modern menu and a buzzy open-plan dining room. Everything is cooked over wood-fired grills, giving the food a sensational smoky taste. Standout dishes include charred octopus with salty chorizo, kingfish ceviche served in a tart lime dressing, and spiced cauliflower on a slick of creamy labna.

nomadwine.com.au

A white plate topped with pink octopus tentacles
Standout dishes at this Lebanese-inspired restaurant include charred octopus with salty chorizo

Tayim – best for a date-night dinner

The Rocks neighbourhood would not be the first choice for a date-night dinner; it’s tourist-tastic. But Tayim breaks the mould. Hidden down a quiet alleyway, in a beautiful stone building, this intimate restaurant serves up a decent meze board to start, with lovely creamy hummus, thick labna and crisp falafel. Mains are equally exciting and the chermoula rainbow trout is face-plant food – tender, juicy fish encrusted with spices and made luxurious with decadent hazelnut butter.

tayim.com.au


Nour – best for new wave Middle Eastern dining

This casual neighbourhood restaurant in Surry Hills has a serious menu that really showcases the best of Middle Eastern cuisine. Kifta nayyeh, a sensational raw lamb tartare, comes beautifully spiced and covered in melted butter. Prawn dumplings are plump and juicy, enriched with chilli yogurt. For the main event, try a classic Lebanese dish called samke harra (a juicy baby snapper served with an intense tahini sauce).

noursydney.com


Best Asian dining in Sydney

Chin Chin – best for southeast-Asian cooking

This riotous Asian restaurant is the fun, naughty cousin to the Melbourne restaurant of the same name. In a huge exposed-brick dining room, lit neon pink, you can feast on shared plates of silky-soft kingfish sashimi with coconut and Thai basil, huge shell-on scallops swimming in a fiery chilli sambal and Chin Chin’s signature dish, beef brisket massaman curry, full of fragrant spices and enrobed in a wickedly claggy peanut sauce. Come for the food and stay for the cocktails. It’s a blast.

chinchinrestaurant.com.au/sydney

A white plate topped with slices of raw fish and green leaves
In a huge exposed-brick dining room you can feast on shared plates of silky-soft kingfish sashimi with coconut and Thai basil

Chinese Dumpling Master – best for Beijing dumplings

With several sites across the capital, all with the same not-so-chic plastic tables and school dinner chairs, these little restaurants don’t look like much on first appearance. But boy do they pack a serious punch. It’s here that you’ll find the best Beijing dumplings in Sydney, all of them plump and juicy, and a steal at just under $13 for 12. Or try the mighty hand-pulled Xinjiang noodles, beautifully textured and flavoured with light soy and garlic, for an authentic taste of northern Chinese food. In fact, order both and roll home afterwards.

instagram.com/chinese_dumpling_master

Chinese Dumpling Master, Sydney
At Chinese Dumpling Master you’ll find the best Beijing dumplings and hand-pulled Xinjiang noodles

Queen Chow – best for a night out

With a cute cocktail bar and bright, breezy, first-floor dining room, this lively Asian restaurant is perfect for a fun Friday night. Fill the table with bowls of deliciousness. How does peppery squid, lightly steamed dim sum, unctuous honey-glazed pork char siu and black bean Wagyu beef sound? To be frank, there’s little on the menu that’s not worth ordering. It’s slap-bang in the middle of Newtown, a hip neighbourhood that’s packed with cool bars, so hang around for an after-dinner nightcap.

merivale.com/venues/queenchow


Spice Alley – best for Asian street food

Just off Kensington Street (a foodie find in itself, with a great selection of restaurants and bars), Spice Alley is a collection of hawker stalls selling fast and furious Asian dishes, all brilliantly priced. Take your pick from Malaysian, Chinese, Indonesian or Japanese cuisine – sink into an authentic laksa flecked with chillies and lime, nutty nasi lemak or kecap manis squid. Everything is made to order and you can grab a cold beer while you wait.

spicealley.com.au

A bright red sign with white lettering that reads Spice Alley
Spice Alley is a collection of hawker stalls selling fast and furious Asian dishes

Best bars in Sydney

Willie the Boatman – best for craft beers

Kick back in the tasting room of one of Sydney’s hottest independent breweries, where you can take a seat and choose from one of 20 beers (all made using Australian hops) or grab a tasting flight of four fabulous brews. Try the Old Salty, a German-inspired Gosê beer made with coriander. It has a salty, mineral taste that is utterly addictive.

willietheboatman.com


Earl’s Juke Joint – best Sydney speakeasy

Hidden behind a butcher’s shop facade in Newtown this swinging speakeasy is heaps of fun. It serves a wide selection of well-crafted cocktails, plus very quaffable ready-mixed drinks on tap. Try a refreshing Jazzy Jeff Spritz, made with Aperol, tequila and melon.

facebook.com/earlsjukejoint


The Barber Shop – best for gin

Another speakeasy, this time hidden behind a barbers’ shop, this Dickensian spot in central Sydney puts the focus on gin. Slouch into a sofa and sip a Spice Trade, a decadent cocktail made with gin, dry sherry and orange sugar syrup. Or order a Desert Bazaar, a cool concoction of absinthe, gin, star anise and lemon curd.

thisisthebarbershop.com


Mojo Record Bar – best for beer and beats

Basement bars don’t get much better than Mojo Record Bar, a subterranean vinyl store and beer bar. It’s dark and dingy in all the right ways – a rock ‘n’ roller’s paradise, where you can fall into a red leather booth and put the world to rights over a few well-produced Ozzie tinnies.

mojorecordbar.com


Best out of town restaurants near Sydney

Barrenjoey House – best for all-day dining

Set on the glistening Northern Beaches coastline, this all-day brasserie and boutique hotel is ideal if you need time out from the city. It’s swanky enough to warrant frocking up but also relaxed enough to settle in for a decadent meal. The food is beautifully prepared and the menu casual. Think coral-pink tuna spaghetti, juicy steak tartare or battered cod. Make sure you save room for the peanut butter parfait with chocolate ice cream, a hot mess that gets better and better as it melts. Sheer heaven.

barrenjoeyhouse.com.au

Barrenjoey House, Sydney
Make sure you save room for the peanut butter parfait with chocolate ice cream, a hot mess that gets better and better as it melts

The Boat House – best for tables with a view

On Palm Beach, of Home and Away fame, this roaring beach restaurant is the perfect spot to put your feet up after a hike in the surrounding area. Think Hamptons-style chic, with whitewashed tables on a terrace that extends right out over the sea. Order champagne and oysters and admire the coastline (some of the finest in the region).

theboathousegroup.com.au

A burger on a plate on a kitchen counter
On Palm Beach, this roaring beach restaurant is the perfect spot to put your feet up after a hike in the surrounding area

Coogee Pavilion – best for long, lazy lunches

This huge restaurant and bar has three floors, all heaving with brilliant booze, wood-fired pizzas and mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisine. The best place to hang out is on the roof, a plush haven with panoramic views of Coogee Beach. Indulge in a bucket-load of ice-cold rosé and enjoy plates of charred octopus with chilli and capers, ’nduja-flecked Kinawooka mussels and whole baby snapper. It’s an ideal spot for a long, lazy lunch.

merivale.com/venues/coogeepavilion

A plate with fresh vegetables on and a glass of fizz
Indulge in a bucket-load of ice-cold rosé and enjoy plates of charred octopus with chilli and capers

Watsons Bay Boutique – best for sunset dining

With an enviable location right by the sea, this banging beach restaurant is the perfect destination for a day trip. There are several terraces to choose from and a modern menu of sensational seafood, comforting classics and salads. The sunset is truly magical here – watch the whole of downtown Sydney twinkle, as the sky fades into another epic evening.

watsonsbayhotel.com.au


Return flights from Heathrow or Manchester to Sydney, via Abu Dhabi, cost from £697 (etihad.com)

Advertisement

Words and photographs by John Gregory-Smith