Perhaps the ultimate way to take the pulse of a city is through its bars, restaurants and cafes. Sydney’s culinary precincts range from atmospheric to clamorous. Think hawker-style markets, a strip of waterside fine dining restaurants, food halls and revamped finger wharves. Linger in one establishment or hop between a couple.
Sydney is known as the ‘City of Villages’ for good reason – most districts are self-sustaining, like Potts Point. Here, head to Macleay Street for a back-to-back parade of places to wine and dine. Start at Franca Brasserie for Med-inspired meals, then move on to mod-Japanese at Cho Cho San, elevated French at Macleay St Bistro, Greek at The Apollo, inspired vegetarian fare at Yellow and cocktails with a view at The Butler. Down the hill, Woolloomooloo Wharf is lined with restaurants overlooking the harbour, including Otto Ristorante and Il Pontilefor Italian, China Doll for pan-Asian, and Manta Restaurant, for ocean-fresh seafood.
Crown Street in nearby Surry Hills is all vintage stores and trendy eateries. Sip a craft gin at the Four Pillars micro-distillery’s Eileen’s Bar, have a beer and pizza at The Dolphin, order a glass of vino to enjoy alfresco at The Winery, indulge in modern Middle Eastern fare at Nour or order a cocktail at Bartolo.
The wider neighbourhood is home to many more standout restaurants, from Firedoor (everything is cooked over coals and flames) and Argentinian-inspired Portenoto La Salut (Catalan bites), Arthur(mod-Aus), Chin Chin(funky Asian) and Cicerone (Italian).
If you love the clatter of chopsticks and clink of long-necks of beer, make a beeline to Dixon Street in Chinatown. You can eat your way around China, from Cantonese to Sichuanese. Plus, there’s an epic Friday night market, which sees the strip packed with food stalls.
Golden Century Restaurant, Chinatown
The Darling Square precinct, just behind Darling Harbour, is home to Steam Mill Lane and Little Hay Street, vibrant outdoor dining areas that are not for the indecisive – there’s that much on offer. Try Hello Auntie, Ume Burger, Boque by Tapavino and Gelato Messina for starters. Less than a 10-minute walk away you will find Cafe Del Mar, serving Mediterranean fare on an outdoor terrace with water views.
Cafe Del Mar, Darling Harbour
A meal with a view? They don’t come any better than the waterfront precinct of Barangaroo. This is the place to splash out at high-end restaurants like Cirrus, Anason, NOLA Smokehouse and Bea Restaurant within the dramatic Barangaroo House – pop into Smoke Bar on the rooftop for cool cocktails and sparkling views. At the end of the strip, the Crown Towers Sydney is where you can find an outpost of Nobu, plus other high-flying restaurants such as Woodcut, a’Mare and scene-stealer Oncore by Clare Smyth.
There’s nothing better than sitting down to a slap-up meal, before or after a swim at Bondi, particularly if you like people-watching. For a view of the beach, pick a spot along (or just off) Campbell Parade. Try Speedos, Bondi Trattoria, North Bondi Fish or Calita for Mexican. Follow the lead of locals to the precinct around Hall and Curlewis Streets, where you can order a cool cocktail at Neighbourhood, dumplings at China Diner and dessert at Pasticceria Papaor Gelato Messina.
Tramsheds in Glebe has the ambiance of a European food hall, replete with restaurants – Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and so much more – stores and a weekly growers market. All housed in historic tramsheds. Not full yet? Head up Glebe Point Road for cocktails and banter at neighbourhood bar The Little Guy, a glass of wine surrounded by second-hand tomes at Sappho Books, or fine dining to the sound of a tinkling piano at Beckett's.
If you’re craving pasta and gelato, Norton Street in Leichhardt is a bit like Sydney’s equivalent of Little Italy. If cheap and cheerful Asian food is your thing, King Street in Newtown has you covered – the strip is also the home of oh-so-memorable Mary's burgers. Meanwhile, vegans flock to Enmore Road, which has become a thriving hub of plant-based dining. But to be honest, any street you turn down in Newtown has a restaurant or bar worth lingering in. We love Cairo Takeaway, Rising Sun Workshop, Hartsyard and Continental Deli, among so many other hangouts.
While international travel may be back, you don’t need to leave Sydney for a global meal. Head to Cabramatta for Vietnamese food; if you fancy falafel, Bankstown is the place for fantastic Lebanese cuisine; and Wigram Street in Harris Park has unbeatable Indian fare. Church Street is Parramatta’s Eat Street. And it caters to all tastebuds: there’s everything from Middle Eastern to Asian on offer. In Liverpool, The Paper Mill Food precinct has multiple dining options inside a revamped 19th-century building on the banks of the Georges River. Come here for meat and seafood at Firepit, pizzas at Georgie’s, and charcoal chicken at Charcoal Joe’s, among others.
Follow the Pacific Highway to Crows Nest for a northern eat-street lined with cafes, restaurants and bars. Or jump on the ferry at Circular Quay for a scenic ride to Manly – you don’t even need to leave the wharf precinct to have a tasty time. Meander to Garfish, Queen Chow, Betty’s Burgers, Chat Thai, El Camino Cantinaand legendary Hugo’s. The same neighbourhood’s Corso connects to Manly’s main beach. Along the way, and in between, you can linger at The Pantry(you can’t get much closer to the water than this) and The Cumberland, for a beverage or two in an underground speakeasy.
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