Eating out in Sydney is special, particularly if you dine at one of this gorgeous Australian city’s best restaurants. Not only can you expect fine food, superb service, an outstanding Australian wine list, but you might also find yourself gawking at gobsmacking harbour views.

While we do believe that Melbourne is one of the best eating cities in the world, Sydney, our old home town, holds its own, with everything from elegant brasseries to the finest fine diners serving up contemporary Australian cuisine. Here’s our guide to eating out in Sydney.

Sydney is home to some of the best food experiences in Australia, so we thought it was time we shared some of those. We’ve given you guides to Sydney’s best beaches, best harbour and ocean swimming pools, and best small bars, so we thought it was time to share our guide to eating out in Sydney and not just eating out anywhere, but eating at the very best restaurants in Sydney.

UPDATE:
We first dined at these restaurants in 2011-12, but we’ve done something we haven’t done before and pulled this post out of the archives, added a mouthwatering new photo gallery (make sure to scroll through the images above), and marked it as a featured post. Why? Well, while researching Sydney’s best restaurants for a forthcoming Australia trip, we realised that these restaurants are still the city’s finest. Who said Sydney diners were fickle?

If you need proof, look what’s on Australian Gourmet Traveller‘s Sydney’s Best Restaurants in 2015 list: #1 Rockpool, #3 Quay, #4 Sepia, #5 Marque, #7 Rockpool Bar & Grill, #8 Tetsuya’s, #10 The Bridge Room. And in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide 2015: Quay, Rockpool and Sepia with 3 Hats (highest rating); The Bridge Room, Marque, Rockpool Bar & Grill and Tetusya’s with 2 Hats; and The Apollo, BLACK by Ezard, Longrain, Osteria Balla, Otto Ristorante and Sokyo with 1 Hat.

So here’s our guide to eating out in Sydney at the very best restaurants in the city.

Eating Out in Sydney — The Best Restaurants

Quay

For the doubters who don’t think Australia has an identifiable contemporary cuisine all its own, take a seat at chef Peter Gilmore’s harbourside restaurant. Quay, owned by the fabulous food and film loving Fink family has stupendous views of Sydney Harbour and does around 100 covers for each lunch and dinner service — there’s not too many restaurants at this level doing those numbers. We started with the sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple, nasturtiums, and Tasmanian wasabi — one of the prettiest plates we’ve ever seen — and progressed through a series of dishes that showcased a chef with a gift for making what sounds odd at first read (Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, and cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil) look and taste fantastic. Having worked our way through the exquisite savoury courses, it’s ironic that the chef is famous in Australia for a dessert he demonstrated on a rare TV appearance — his ‘snow egg’ — a dish so complex I’ll just link to a recipe of it. Chef Gilmore is a national treasure.
Quay Restaurant, Overseas Passenger Terminal, 5 Hickson Road, Sydney

The Bridge Room

A former executive chef of Rockpool (see below), chef Ross Lusted had been jet-setting around the world for the luxurious Amanresorts, developing food and beverage concepts for the exclusive properties (and we love Amanresorts), before he returned to Sydney to open his first restaurant, The Bridge Room. And what a fantastic addition to the Sydney CBD dining scene it is. Everything here just feels right, from the warm greeting by Ross’s wife and co-owner Sunny, to the stunner of an Art Deco-era space that’s been given a contemporary, almost Scandinavian, re-fit. Then there’s the contemporary treatment and exotic flavours of the chef’s idiosyncratic Australian cuisine (often given a light touch on the Japanese Robata grill), that give testament to Ross’s travels in Asia and Europe.
The Bridge Room, 44 Bridge Street, Sydney

Tetsuya’s

We first ate at Tetsuya’s a really long time ago, when we were excited young things who, like many Sydney food-lovers eventually, felt privileged to finally be making the pilgrimage to this Japanese-Australian chef’s modest restaurant in the inner-city suburb of Rozelle. I can still remember eating one dish there, chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s signature dish of ‘confit’ ocean trout, and being completely blown away. Now, in much grander digs in Sydney’s centre, the signature dish remains on the menu, but ‘Tets’ has his own ‘wild’ farm for the trout and many prominent Sydney chefs can tell you war stories of having to pin-bone that “damn trout” when working for him. While he’s been criticised by jaded old Sydney restaurant critics for no longer pushing boundaries like he once did (he’s more creative at his Waku Ghin restaurant in Singapore), we’ll happily eat his greatest hits, as well as newer dishes such as steamed spanner crab with bean curd, foie gras and junsai, and toast to this icon with something grand from the stupendous wine list.
Tetsuya’s, 529 Kent Street, Sydney

Rockpool Bar & Grill

Hands-down the most dramatic dining room in Sydney, chef Neil Perry has struck gold in this 1936 Art Deco-era former bank in the heart of Sydney’s business district. Given its location, Perry could not have made a better choice of cuisine than that of a steak restaurant that could easily be at home in Manhattan, NYC. While the wood-fired, dry-aged Wagyu is outstanding, this is a steak restaurant (it would be an insult to call it a steakhouse) where three courses is a must, along with a couple of side dishes with the main course. It’s also hard to resist the excellent seafood and a passionfruit pavlova to die for as dessert. Chef Perry loves his wines and it shows in an outstanding wine list. PS: The burger, pictured in the gallery above, available at the bar, is brilliant.
Rockpool Bar & Grill, 66 Hunter Street, Sydney

Otto Ristorante

Lunch. Sunshine. Sparkling harbour. Champagne. Oysters. Seafood pasta. Crisp white wine. These are the kind of notes you write when eating at a place like Otto, with its lovely harbourside location on the historic Cowper Wharf, Woolloomooloo. The reason this place is still booked out solid for weekend lunch is not just about the setting, however. The modern Italian food of chef Richard Ptacnik is some of Sydney’s best. Creative dishes such as his ‘ravioli’ of finely sliced pickled beetroot with goat’s curd pistachio and horseradish are fantastic, while his seafood pasta of house-made tagliolini with saffron infused egg pasta, Balmain bug meat, cherry tomatoes, chilli, garlic, and basil is divine.
Otto Ristorante, Area 8, 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo

The Apollo

Greek restaurants in Australia used to be, well, to be honest, quite ‘homely’ little places or raucous joints where Greek Australians went in big groups to celebrate a birthday and drink plenty of awful wine that could strip paint off a car, and ouzo, which can do a similar job. Even our Greek friends used to complain that the best Greek food was to be found at their mother’s place and not at any Greek restaurants. Enter The Apollo. Talented Greek-Australian chef Jonathan Barthelmess joined forces with Longrain’s Sam Christie (see below) to create the first real Greek restaurant in Sydney. In chef Barthelmess’s hands, classic Greek dishes such as his taramasalata (mullet roe dip), saganaki (cheese with honey oregano) and grilled octopus with fennel and olives are better than anything we’ve tried in Greece, a country we’ve spent many months in over the years writing guidebooks. You can even do the classic Greek whole table service called the ‘full Greek’ (the lamb shoulder is the real deal), with ouzo. Just don’t start smashing plates.
The Apollo, 44 Macleay Street, Potts Point

Otto Ristorante

Lunch. Sunshine. Sparkling harbour. Champagne. Oysters. Seafood pasta. Crisp white wine. These are the kind of notes you write when eating at a place like Otto, with its lovely harbourside location on the historic Cowper Wharf, Woolloomooloo. The reason this place is still booked out solid for weekend lunch is not just about the setting, however. The modern Italian food of chef Richard Ptacnik is some of Sydney’s best. Creative dishes such as his ‘ravioli’ of finely sliced pickled beetroot with goat’s curd pistachio and horseradish are fantastic, while his seafood pasta of house-made tagliolini with saffron infused egg pasta, Balmain bug meat, cherry tomatoes, chilli, garlic, and basil is divine.
Otto Ristorante, Area 8, 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo

Longrain

Sydney has long had a love affair with Thai food and it appears, a lasting love affair with this long-standing restaurant. Even though we’d eaten here several times over the years, including just after it first opened, coming back into this buzzy room with the long shared table and brilliant bar seating just makes us want to order a cocktail. Make mine a Bloody Longrain: vodka with sweet chilli nahm jim, coriander root, fresh lemon and tomato juice. The food, originally developed by the restaurant’s long-standing chef Martin Boetz, who trained under Thai food master David Thompson, takes its cues from classic and street food recipes from across Thailand. Dishes such as ma hor (caramelised pork, prawns, peanuts, sour pineapple) are perfect to go with cocktails, before wine with one of their rich curries.
Longrain, 85 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills

Sokyo

Former Nobu chef Chase Kojima has earned himself an envious reputation in Sydney for his Kaiseki style Japanese at Sokyu. On any given night, you might spot a chef or two from other Sydney restaurants pulling up chairs at the sushi counter trying the Omakase sushi menu (email first to avoid disappointment). Chase’s dishes can be very creative, a Maguro Tataki come with carbonized leek aioli, pickled mushrooms, asparagus and smoked ponzu, while a Wagyu Tataki is accompanied by pickled grapes, pumpkin purée, tarragon, chilli oil and tosazu (a Japanese dressing). The chef is also known for sourcing the best seafood in town for his sushi, much of it coming from South Australia or Tasmania, which is where his must-try sea uchin in crisp nori comes from. While you’d expect this Omakase and Kaiseki cuisine to be eaten in a reserved, reverential atmosphere, the restaurant is dimly lit, noisy and buzzy, with a resident DJ. That’s Sydney for you!
Sokyo, Level G, Harbourside, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont

Sepia*

On our last trip to Sydney, when we asked chefs, restauranteurs and foodies where we should eat, generally there was a one-word response: “Sepia”. English-born chef Martin Benn worked for Marco Pierre White in London and became head chef at Tetsuya’s in Sydney (see below) and takes this background of French and Japanese cooking and adds wild creativity to every plate in his low-lit restaurant and wine bar. Using mostly beautiful Australian seafood and a light touch, a degustation menu here just flies by, generally punctuated by phrases like “Wow, how did he do that?” We loved everything we tried, but the crunchy, smoky, soy-glazed eel, and a roasted scampi tail with shell fish custard, wild rice and fennel were the most memorable of an extraordinary tasting menu. While Sepia is slated to move to Melbourne, the Sydney restaurant is open until late 2018.
Sepia, 201 Sussex Street, Sydney
*Sepia is now closed, however, Martin Benn is opening in Melbourne in 2019.

Marque*

Another culinary maverick, chef Mark Best has been pushing boundaries at Marque for over a dozen years. While chef Best was trained in traditional French restaurants, he does things his own way, including wildly creative presentations of dishes. The degustation (or ‘dego’ as the Aussies call it) menu progresses so smoothly that you soon just give in to the chef’s whims. While our favourites included an almond jelly with blue swimmer crab, almond gazpacho, sweet corn and Avruga herring roe, and his sublime crab custard with foie gras, a surprise dish of spring onion with jamón, tuna and madeira became the standout of what was a very special meal. A true mark of a great ‘fine dining’ chef: we left the restaurant not full, just sated, excited, and wanting to go for a post-dinner drink so we could take it all in and re-live it all over again.
Marque, 4/5 355 Crown Street, Surry Hills.
*Marque is now closed

Rockpool*

During our dozen or so years overseas, Neil Perry’s Rockpool was one of the only Sydney restaurants that people knew the name of in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. However, when we went to dine here again, the restaurant had lost a coveted ‘hat’ in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. Despite this, we still heard great things from chefs and restaurateurs about head chef Phil Wood and his pushing the boundaries of Neil Perry’s love affair with Asian, and particularly Chinese, cuisine. Chef Perry has been a culinary bower-bird over the years, but one thing remained constant — a knack of nurturing good talent. Every dish that came up the walkway to our table was outstanding, with dishes such as veal sweetbreads with ham, peanut, braised tripe, and buckwheat noodles, something that no other chef is doing in Sydney. Thankfully, soon after we ate there, Rockpool rightly regained its third hat.
Update: Rockpool has now closed permanently and Chef Neil is concentrating on the rest of his restaurant empire.

BLACK by Ezard*

Melbourne chef and restaurateur Teage Ezard is known for his aptly-named ‘Australian Freestyle’ cuisine at his Melbourne restaurant, Ezard. Enticed to take on a ‘steakhouse’ concept at The Star in Sydney, Ezard came in all guns blazing, with a beautiful wood-fired grill for his meat (we’ll take the ribeye, medium rare, along with some wood-fired vegetables), interesting starters (organic farm egg with potato cream, black truffles, Iberico ham, and micro herb salad) and a heavenly butterscotch crème brûlée to finish. We do love a great steak but to have both Rockpool Bar & Grill and BLACK by Ezard in the one city is just plain greedy of Sydney.
BLACK by Ezard, Level G, Harbourside, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont
*Black by Ezard is now closed

Osteria Balla Manfredi*

Also at The Star, legendary Australian-Italian chef, Stefano Manfredi, has been able to let his Milan-centric mind go wild on his return to Sydney’s dining scene. Inspired by a quintessential Milanese osteria, chef Manfredi has an emphasis on fresh ingredients — daily-fresh seafood, gnocchi still being prepared as the first guests arrive for lunch — as well as a seductively straightforward menu. Dishes such as his slow cooked octopus with potato and Tuscan olive oil remind us of the beauty of simplicity in Italian cooking, and the potato gnocchi with duck ragù showcases the craft in great Italian recipes. Fantastic wine list and Grappa selection.
Osteria Balla Manfredi, Level G, Harbourside, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont 
*Osteria Balla Manfredi is now closed

Okay, Sydney foodies, so what are the best new restaurants of 2015? Where should we be eating out in Sydney when we next return home to Australia?

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