Romance can mean many different things when it comes to nights out. Iconic water views, intimate fine diners, cosy bistros or buzzing dining rooms with live jazz – Sydney has options for all kinds of dates.
For intimate luxury: Ursula’s, Paddington
Award-winning chef-owners Phil Wood and Lis Davies’ Paddington restaurant is beautiful in its simplicity, making it one of the most romantic restaurants in Sydney. Décor consists of boldly painted walls and sculptural lights, while the menu is filled with recognisable dishes – a Moreton Bay bug pasta, a roast bird, or a chocolate cake – that are done masterfully. Everything, service included, is elegant and lacking in pretention, set up for you and your date to sit back and luxuriate.
For a distraction-free dinner: Bistecca, CBD
How can you be present with your date if your phone is constantly buzzing and you’re trying to take pictures of everything? The solution: make it inaccessible. At CBD restaurant Bistecca, they request you leave your phone in a locker at the entrance. You will have more than each other’s company to keep you enthralled – the underground Italian bistro has an open kitchen where some of the best steaks in Sydney are cooked over flame. The service is impeccable (you may need it to digest the wine menu) and the steak is likely to be one of the best you’ve ever eaten.
For harbour views over lunch: The Fenwick, Balmain
Picture this: a parade of peaceful yachts, the sun twinkling on the water and views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That’s the selling point for the tables at The Fenwick, a modern Australian restaurant (with a European slant) set in a beautifully kept 1880s former tugboat store on the water in Balmain. When you finish dining (it serves breakfast through to dinner) head upstairs to wander through the art gallery, then get a sunset ferry back to the city.
For an insight into the chef’s mind: Restaurant Ka, Darlinghurst
There’s a tiny, little-known restaurant hidden behind a sign-less door that seats just 10 people in Darlinghurst. Diners (and dates) overlook Zac Ng’s kitchen, who for 10 years worked in one of Sydney’s most lauded restaurants, Sepia. It’s degustation only, with Ng becoming an occasional character on your date, talking to you about the food when handing over his cuisine-bending creations or a cocktail he’s made himself.
For a classic date night ambience: Pino’s Vino e Cucina, Alexandria
Romance abounds at Pino’s: the lighting is warm and dim; there’s funk, soul and R&B on the stereo; at the wooden, hand-carved bar they mix negronis and pour Italian wine; the fresh pastas are luscious and rich; and its set in a brick cottage so cosy it’s at odds with the grittier Alexandria location. It’s louder than the usual romantic restaurant but that doesn’t matter – it feels tailor-made for a great date night.
For an iconic night: Bennelong, Circular Quay
The Bennelong dining room is one of the most spectacular and romantic in Sydney. It sits in Circular Quay within a sail of the Sydney Opera House; you can admire the bones of the striking architectural feat above you and, through a grand window, look out onto the harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Curated by lauded chef Peter Gilmore and his team, the menu traverses the high points of Australian cuisine and celebrates local ingredients. End the night with a nod to the very icon you sit in, represented by a sculptural pavlova with meringue wings fanning out like the Sydney Opera House’s sails.
For pretending you’re in Japan: Nom Japanese, Darlinghurst
Not all date nights have to be extravagant; sometimes a casual meal that transports you away from the familiar is what you need, and Nom delivers. This tiny Darlinghurst restaurant is run by chef Kimiko Uriu; an intimate experience ubiquitous in Japan but a rare find in Sydney. You’ll feel like you’ve been invited over for a dinner party, but one that will exceed all expectations with sushi, tempura and a sake service to rival Sydney’s best bars.
For beach views: Sean’s Panaroma, Bondi
Sean’s has been a date-night pick from the year it opened, 1993, and this romantic restaurant with a view is now regarded as a Sydney institution. The fact it looks out onto Bondi Beach helps, but so does the pared back excellence of Sean Moran’s cooking and the charming interiors featuring a chalkboard menu, walls adorned with art, striped tablecloths and tiled floors. While the vibe never changes, the menu does almost daily, but expect European-led farm-to-table cooking that matches the view.
For plant-based lovers:, Redfern
You could finish a date at The Sunshine Inn without ever noticing there’s no meat on the menu. That’s because being vegetarian is not their primary MO – they just want their guests to have fun. You’ll feel that in the music, the relaxed menu of pastas and bar snacks, the casual service and the variety of people dining alongside you. At this dimly lit diner on the main street of Redfern, you’ll be talking late into the night over well-priced focaccia, natural wines, cake and excellent cocktails.
For a quiet moment before a gig: Yeodongsik, Lidcombe
If the second half of your date night is going to be at an exciting event at Sydney Olympic Park, Yeodongsik is the perfect place for a moment of peace before it all kicks off. The Korean soup restaurant is a rare venue that is quiet without being boring. The manner of the staff, the soft jazz and lightly seasoned food leaves diners feeling incredibly peaceful and thus softly spoken, so it’s easy to hear your date. Get there early – there are no bookings and there can be queues.
For French grandeur with a side of live music: Hubert, CBD
If your idea of romance is candle-lit tables, live jazz, French wine, rich food and old-world charm, head straight to Hubert. The cavernous French restaurant, which is subtly multicultural in its recipes, is one of the most loved venues in Sydney, particularly for date nights. The only difficult part will be choosing between the chicken fricassee and the Australian rock lobster with garlic butter to share.
For drinks and snacks over the bar: Ante, Newtown
Sydney has a slew of venues that are part bar, part restaurant and almost all of them are perfect romantic settings – sitting up at the bar watching the chefs in action is ideal – though Newtown’s Ante is one of the best. The Japanese-inspired restaurant offers more than 60 sake varieties, a rich, umami-loaded menu that takes on both European and Japanese influence, and a soundtrack powered by a record player with an eclectic range of vinyls. It’s dark, trendy and flexible – treat it like a sake bar, a fine dining meal or somewhere in between.
For a date to impress your food obsessed partner: Kame House, Gordon
In the back of Kame House, a traditional Japanese restaurant in Sydney’s North, there’s an eight-seat bar that’s led by one extremely accomplished sushi chef, Tomoyuki Matsuya. There, you can spend two hours with the chef on an omakase (a chef’s choice set menu) that delivers sushi that shows off both the quality of NSW seafood and Matsuya’s skill. Unlike other omakase spots, this one you can book easily.