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Eat your way around Sydney’s restaurants

Dig into the best bites in the city down under.

Joanne Karcz
By Joanne Karcz29 Mar 2024 3 minutes read
The dining room of Cafe Sydney with panoramic harbor views.
Cafe Sydney
Image: Tripadvisor

Having spent much of the last few years walking the length and breadth of my home city of Sydney, I think I know what makes her tick—and where to find the best eats to suit your budget. Whether it’s a hole-in-the-wall takeout joint or a fine dining establishment with a view across Sydney’s sparkling harbor, the city's restaurant scene has something for everyone.

Once you’ve sampled the small selection that I’ve picked out for you below, why not spread your wings and explore suburban Sydney? Discover Portuguese in Petersham, the best bahn mi or pho outside of Vietnam in Cabramatta or explore Little India in Harris Park. But for starters, here are six of my go-to spots across Sydney.

For a splurge

Café Sydney

A dish of Ricotta Gnocchi With Jerusalem Artichoke, Mushroom, Pea, Burnt Sage Butter and Pecorino at Cafe Sydney.
Cafe Sydney
Image: Tripadvisor

Café Sydney is the first thing that comes to mind when I’m looking for fine dining with a view. The Sydney institution overlooks Circular Quay with the iconic Harbor Bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other. Located on the rooftop of the historic sandstone Customs House, you can sit in the main dining room or on the terrace—there are great views from both areas. But no matter where you hope to sit, make a res early to avoid being disappointed.

What to order: If you’ve come to Sydney to enjoy the seafood, then you’ve come to the right place. Share the crustacean platter or follow the goat’s cheese soufflé with grilled swordfish.

Travelers say: “Food, presentation, service, and ambience—seldom does a restaurant excel in all four, but Cafe Sydney does. This is that rare restaurant where five stars just [aren’t] enough. We dined on the patio overlooking the harbour. …From the cocktails to the homemade ice cream, the food and presentation [were] superb. And the price was very reasonable considering the value we received.”—@markf302

Mr. Wong

The dining room of Mr. Wong with chefs working behind a long bar.
Mr. Wong
Image: Tripadvisor

You probably won’t stumble across Mr. Wong when exploring Sydney’s CBD (central business district), hidden as it is in an old heritage-listed warehouse at the end of a nondescript laneway. Look closely as you walk down the lane to see how the axles of horse-drawn carts have gouged deep lines in the brickwork. Once inside, you’ll be transported into 1930’s Shanghai.

What to order: After a helping of soup-filled pork xiao long bao steamed dumplings, I always go for Peking duck pancakes and crispy fried eggplant. Leave room for the deep-fried ice cream with butterscotch sauce.

Hubert

A plate piled with meats at Restaurant Hubert.
Restaurant Hubert
Image: Tripadvisor

Planning a special night? Having secured your table at Hubert by booking weeks in advance (especially for a Friday or Saturday night), descend the spiral stairs into a scene of Parisienne elegance. Red velvet curtains, leather lined booths, and dark wood paneling create a moody atmosphere enhanced by nightly jazz in the main dining room.

What to order: Start with the gruyère soufflé and finish with a light airy passionfruit soufflé. Or share the duck parfait and prime beef tartare before tucking into the flakey Murray River cod or tender cote de beouf.

For a casual bite

The Australian Heritage Hotel

A spread of dishes shot from above at The Australian.
The Australian
Image: Tripadvisor

When visitors ask, “Where can I eat kangaroo?” I suggest The Australian, a heritage pub in The Rocks. There you can get a taste of kangaroo, emu, and crocodile without breaking the bank. Venture upstairs to the rooftop bar or join the locals sitting outside on the sidewalk sipping from a range of craft beers.

What to order: The Coat of Arms pizza—half kangaroo and half emu—is laced with lemon myrtle mayonnaise. Also popular is the crocodile pizza. Beer-battered or grilled barramundi suits those wanting seafood and the harissa roasted cauliflower is perfect for vegetarians.

Travelers say: “Awesome range of quality food and reasonably priced. Very historic and well preserved. Take a trip back in time especially when you need to use the toilets, but that is all part of the charm. Awesome location in the shadow of the harbor bridge.”—@LANDY31

Laneway Dumplings and Momo

A steamed basket of dumplings from above.
Laneway Dumplings and Momo
Image: Laneway Dumplings and Momo via Facebook

A friend introduced me to this hole-in-the-wall. Hidden down a grungy laneway decorated with lanterns and the odd mural, you need to be in the know to find Laneway Dumplings and Momo. Thankfully, this spot is popular at lunchtime, so join the queue of office workers grabbing lunch to eat at their desk. Go early to nab one of the few seats set against the rough brick wall.

What to order: Order 16 pieces of mixed dumplings and wash them down with a cool beer or glass of wine. I like soya sauce but if you enjoy a bit of spice, go for the sriracha hot chili sauce.

Kabul Social

A couple dishes set on a blue tiled surface.
Kabul Social
Image: Kabul Social

You’ll leave this “plate it forward” restaurant with a full belly and a full heart. Every delicious meal purchased enables Kabul Social to donate a meal to a person in need in Sydney and one in Afghanistan. The Afghani dishes are all based on family recipes passed down to the women who work here. Get there early or be prepared to wait. Every time I pass this popular spot at midday, the queue extends out the door and around the corner.

What to order: The spiced lamb mantu is my go-to. Served with a tomato and lentil sauce and a delicious mint yogurt, these little dumplings are something else. For something more substantial, order the Kabuli “burger.” More like a wrap, you can choose your filling from chicken, spiced lamb, roast pumpkin or, my favorite, eggplant (borani banjan).

Joanne Karcz
Sydney local, Joanne Karcz began photographing and writing about Sydney for her blog, Travel with Joanne. She loves to “Discover Differently” and is always on the lookout for the quirky side of places she visits. As a volunteer Sydney Greeter, Joanne meets visitors to Sydney for a walk pointing out places and eateries even locals haven’t discovered.