Eat like a local: 13 Sydney cult-favourites to try

The best way to get to know Sydney is through its food. Here, brunch is a way of life, restaurants are destinations, and our chefs are stars. Join the queue and get a distinctive taste of Sydney through its most iconic menu items.

Destination NSW

Destination NSW

Oct 2021 -
min read

Totti’s woodfired bread

On a typical night at Totti’s, it’s hard to spot a table that hasn’t ordered a plate of the Bondi trattoria’s famous woodfired bread to mop up their creamy burrata and house-made antipasto. The 48-hour fermented dough is cooked in a flaming hot wood oven until it reaches that signature puff and lick of char. If you can’t get a table at the beachside locale, Bar Totti’s serves a similar menu in the heart of the Sydney CBD.

Totti's woodfired bread

Totti's woodfired bread. Image Credit: Nikki To

Marrickville Pork Roll’s pork banh mi

Vietnamese pork rolls are available all over Sydney, but Marrickville Pork Roll’s has garnered such a loyal following that a long queue is a constant outside the tiny Marrickville shop. Despite opening up three more locations to cater to its legion of fans, the formula remains simple: generous slabs of barbecue or crispy crackling pork are layered with pâté, mayo, fresh herbs, chilli, tangy pickles, served on a crusty bread roll.

Marrickville Pork Roll - Inner West

Marrickville Pork Roll, Inner West

Black Star Pastry’s strawberry & watermelon cake

The New York Times called Black Star Pastry’s now famous creation the “world’s most Instagrammed cake”, and with pretty layers of watermelon, strawberry, luscious cream and rose petals there’s no wonder the inner west bakery now has four outposts and sells thousands of slices every day.

El Jannah’s Lebanese charcoal chicken

Before its popularity expanded this Lebanese chicken joint into nine outposts across Sydney, El Jannah’s original Granville location was the place to go for some of the best chargrilled chicken in the city. Now you can order their signature golden juicy bird – plus accompanying bright pink pickles and legendary toum (garlic dip) – at stores from Newtown to Penrith.

El Jannah's Lebanese charcoal chicken

El Jannah's Lebanese charcoal chicken.

An Restaurant’s beef pho

Lauded by Sydney’s food critics as the best beef pho in the city (some say the country), An Restaurant’s Vietnamese beef soup has fans in all corners of Sydney making their way to the Bankstown eatery in Sydney’s southwest. And for good reason. The hot aromatic broth, simmered for hours with bone marrow, spices and more, plus fresh rice noodles and a bouquet of herbs, make this one of the most comforting bowls in town. 

Bowl of Pho from An Restaurant in Bankstown

Bowl of Pho from An Restaurant in Bankstown

bill’s ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter

There’s nothing quite like a long, lazy brunch in a sunlit cafe with a group of your nearest and dearest to signal the start of the weekend. Sydney chef Bill Granger is credited with pioneering the Australian cafe scene and then taking it worldwide. From the original cafe in Darlinghurst to the always-popular Surry Hills outpost and beachside brunching in Bondi, there are now locations across the globe, and his fluffy ricotta hotcakes are the top order.

Ricotta hotcakes from bills

Ricotta hotcakes from bills

XOPP’s pippies in XO sauce

Beginning life at Sydney legend Golden Century, the beloved pippies in XO sauce live on at the Chinese restaurant’s sister eatery XOPP in Darling Square. Tossed in a sweet and sour chilli-drenched sauce, more than half a tonne of these Nelson Bay clams are sold per week. It’s a favourite plate for chefs Dan Hong and David Chang, and even former Chinese president Hu Jintao, who requested a delivery to the Canberra embassy.

XOPP. Image Credit: Steven Woodburn

XOPP. Image Credit: Steven Woodburn

Single O’s single origin coffee

Follow your nose down Reservoir Street in Surry Hills and let the aromas of berry fruits and dark chocolate lead you to Single O, one of Sydney’s most prolific coffee roasters. With beans used in cafes across the city, they are known for ethically sourcing, roasting and tweaking their coffee to perfection. You can now find them in the CBD, Carriageworks Farmers Market and even Tokyo, but their Surry Hills cafe is the original, where single origin brews are poured on tap.

Single O’s single origin coffee, Reservoir Street - Surry Hills

Single O’s single origin coffee, Reservoir Street - Surry Hills. Image Credit: Alana Dimou

Opera Bar’s Champagne & oysters

As the sun goes down across Sydney Harbour, sparkling views are best paired with sparkles in the glass. Opera Bar’s unbeatable location puts you right between the water and the Sydney Opera House sails, and a plate of Sydney rock oysters accompanied with a glass of bubbles while you watch the sunset light up the sky is a moment you’ll never forget. 

Opera Bar - Sydney Harbour

Opera Bar on Sydney Harbour

Gelato Messina’s gelato specials

On sweltering summer days, in fact any day of the year, Gelato Messina brings sweet respite for ice-cream lovers. Its original Surry Hills location has since multiplied across the city and beyond, famous for their outrageous flavour specials (like Fairy Bread, Mr Potato Head and Wagon Wheel) and creative ice-cream cakes. Every Sydneysider swears by their own favourite, but Dulce de Leche and Salted Caramel & White Chocolate are must-try staples. 

Pasticceria Papa’s baked ricotta cake

From Sicily to Sydney, Pasticceria Papa takes you on a sweet journey to Italy with their traditional pastries. A closely guarded family recipe, their baked ricotta cake is far from your typical cheesecake, with light and fluffy ricotta encased in flaky pastry and dusted in icing sugar. Beyond the original Haberfield pasticceria, you can now get this popular dessert at outposts in Five Dock and Bondi.

Pasticceria Papa, Five Dock

Pasticceria Papa, Five Dock

Out of the Blue’s Julien's famous fish burger

Fresh from the waves of Clovelly Beach, dry off and wander up Clovelly Road to Out of the Blue, a tiny fish and chip joint with a big fan base. Serving decidedly Aussie vibes, Julien’s famous fish burger layers flash fried New Zealand hoki with a slice of grilled pineapple, beetroot, lettuce, tomato, cheese, a soft-boiled egg and chilli mayo.

Young Henry’s Newtowner Pale Ale

Sydney’s craft beer brewing scene is overflowing with golden brews to try, and almost every pub in the city boasts something on tap made locally. For a taste of the inner west, pull up a stool at your nearest drinking hole (or the Newtown brewery itself), and order a pint of Young Henry’s Newtowner Pale Ale. Crisp, refreshing, both fruity and bitter, this award-winning beer is a loving nod to its home suburb.

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