What makes a great restaurant? At Broadsheet, we’re interested in how well a place lives up to its own ambitions, regardless of its age, price point or cuisine.

Maybe it’s good value for money and a reliable source of fun. Maybe it pioneered a trend, and remains the most vital example of it. Or maybe, after several decades in operation, it still feels as fresh and relevant as ever.

All are equally valid answers when it comes to determining the best restaurants in Sydney. That’s why our list includes lively wine bars and other dressed-down eateries alongside the usual fine diners. The remit may be wide, but if you’re looking for restaurants that both define and capture our city’s culinary spirit, stop right here. These are Sydney's absolute best.

Related pages:
Best Restaurants in Chippendale
Best Restaurants in Surry Hills
Best Special Occasion Restaurants in Sydney
Best Date Places in Sydney

Quay

The standard-setter for fine dining in Sydney. Executive chef Peter Gilmore is tireless in his pursuit of what’s interesting, new and Australian. His backyard is peppered with test plantations of rare vegetables, he works with local ceramicists on custom crockery and, like interstate peers Ben Shewry and Jock Zonfrillo, he’s a leading advocate for native produce. The restaurant’s theatrical tasting menus show off all this and more, bolstered by some of the city’s best harbour views.

Overseas Passenger Terminal The Rocks, Sydney

Automata

Irreverent, boundary pushing and umami obsessed are the most apt descriptors for Automata. Chef Clayton Wells honed his skills in three very different kitchens: Tetsuya’s, Quay and Momofuku Seiobo. His ability to blend these divergent experiences in a coherent manner makes him one of Sydney’s most exciting next-gen talents. Take in a reasonably priced five- or seven-course meal and you’re in for classic European techniques, new-world vegetables and Asian flavours – often all on the same plate.

5 Kensington Street, Chippendale

Ester Restaurant & Bar

Dinners at the dim-lit Ester don’t feel like a big occasion, even though Mat Lindsay runs one of Sydney’s most inventive and consistently delicious menus. The place has an easy, effortless feel that off-duty chefs have fallen hard for, along with the rest of the city. It helps that the set menu (a la carte is also an option) comes in under $100 and includes the restaurant’s many woodfired hits, such as potato bread, blood sausage sanga and king prawns. Bonus points: confident, knowledgeable staff and a cracking list of minimal-intervention booze from co-owner Julien Dromgool. This is everything great about cutting-edge dining in Sydney.

46-52 Meagher Street, Chippendale

Poly

Ester’s younger sibling is half restaurant, half wine bar and lives in a raw, basement-like space. Expect a long wine list of both classics and genre-busting naturals, plus an innovative, ever-changing snack menu focused on woodfired flavours and eating with your hands. One of our favourite dishes to date is crisp squares of honey- and five spice-marinated pig’s ear served on a skewer. Once again, the staff is possessed with noticeable poise. Choose the wine and ask for matching food, or chose the food and ask for matching wine. Either way, it’s all memorable.

74-76 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills

LuMi Bar & Dining

Until Lumi and its Miso-strone came along, the idea of a Japanese-Italian restaurant sounded distinctly unappetising. But in the hands of chef Federico Zanellato (ex-Noma, Attica and Ormeggio at the Spit), this fusion not only makes sense – it makes you wonder why more people aren’t doing it. Enjoy 10 courses with matched wines from Michela Boncagni (Lumi’s sommelier and Zanellato’s wife), with serene views of Pyrmont Bay to keep you occupied between acts.

56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont

Saint Peter

Sea-urchin crumpets? Grouper-head terrine? Here, they’re a thing. Chef Josh Niland is a pioneer of “fin-to-scale” cooking and will have you eating parts of the fish you barely knew existed. With the help of his fish butchery down the road and an on-site dry-ageing room, he’s doing things with seafood you can’t find anywhere else in Sydney, or in the world.

362 Oxford Street, Paddington

Momofuku Seiobo

Seiobo was the first restaurant in David Chang’s Momofuku empire to open outside the US. Under the stewardship of chef Paul Carmichael – who grew up in Barbados and arrived here in 2015 – it’s turning out traditional and not-so-traditional Caribbean dishes reimagined using Australian produce, with superb results. Refined takes on Antiguan sweet-potato dumplings, fried plantains and jerk chicken are all possibilities of the singular tasting menu. One of the city’s best front-of-house teams works a fun, vibe-y room that feels worlds away from its casino location.

The Star, Level G 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont

Icebergs Dining Room and Bar

This elevated vantage of Bondi’s sloshing surf is one of Australia’s great views – one a less conscientious restaurateur might easily lean on. Not Maurice Terzini, who’s been pushing his resplendent Italian diner to greater and greater heights since 2002. Under current executive chef Monty Koludrovic, long lunches in this smart aquamarine room have never been better, largely thanks to a strict insistence on top-quality Australian produce, which makes the mostly classic menu sing.

Restaurant 1 Notts Ave, Bondi

Restaurant Hubert

Hubert’s low ceilings, timber-panelled walls and candle-lit tables feel like they’ve been there forever. And yet, this convincing facsimile of a grand European restaurant circa World War II only opened in 2016. Behind this extravagant and ambitious facade there’s unmatched reverence for classic hospitality and notably un-classic French food. Sure, the menu includes duck parfait and escargot, but with clever tweaks such as maple syrup jelly and Chinese XO sauce. This is a room you want to eat in, and often.

15 Bligh Street, Sydney

Alberto’s Lounge

This lively Italian diner is from Swillhouse, the same group behind Restaurant Hubert. It shows – the place has an ineffable cool and gently subversive food that often seems traditional at first glance. Case in point: the signature trippa alla romana (braised tripe), which employs cinnamon, cardamom and garam masala in place of the expected Roman flavours. Pastas play it straighter but offer no fewer thrills. We’d expect nothing less from Dan Pepperell, one of the city’s most distinctive chefs.

17-19 Alberta Street, Sydney

Fred's

We can’t think of a more beautiful restaurant than this one. It’s like no other place in the city and actually feels like dining in a home kitchen. Ask for one of the two tables shared with the chefs, who, from the other end, put finishing touches on Mediterranean-inspired dishes pulled from the woodfired oven. Head chef and American export Danielle Alvarez has a hefty CV that includes a stint at the revered Chez Panisse in California, something that’s writ large on the menu.

380 Oxford Street, Paddington

Sean's Panaroma

A Bondi institution that’s kept up with the times. The long-serving staff continues to deliver exemplary service, and chef Sean Moran remains laser-focused on what’s Australian, what’s ripe and how best to prepare and present it in a way that best shows off each ingredient’s natural flavours. Understated but glorious, this is a quintessential Sydney dining experience, even more so than the flashier, more high-profile restaurants on this list.

270 Campbell Parade, Bondi

Bert's

This waterside property feels like an opulent hotel. There’s a reception to greet you, it’s luxuriously decorated with period furniture and the bar has a scalloped design that’s almost mesmerising. The menu mixes classical French and Italian dishes and high-end Australian seafood cooked with the precision the prices imply. Despite this, Bert’s is versatile and accessible, just as suitable for dates as for celebrating a boozy long lunch with friends or family.

The Newport 2 Kalinya Street, Newport

Bodega x Wyno

The room is dim, the volume loud and the drinks are flowing. More than any other venue on this list, the focus here is fun. Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz opened this tapas and cocktail bar before they became better known for their Argentinean restaurant Porteño, when little else like it existed in Sydney. Many have since tried to replicate this simple but perfectly executed package, but none have succeeded like Bodega.

50 Holt Street, Surry Hills

Ormeggio at the Spit

You’ll feel like a real VIP when you arrive at Ormeggio. It’s hidden among yachts, in the marina just near the Spit Bridge in Middle Harbour. Executive chef Alessandro Pavoni is from the northern-Italian region of Brescia and oversees a menu of nuanced dishes that range from glazed pork jowl, to creamy risottos and some of the prettiest entrees in town. Australian seafood shines here, so come for Moreton Bay bugs, Queensland red scarlet prawns and Sydney rock oysters done creatively.

D'Albora Marinas The Spit Spit Road, Mosman

Tetsuya’s

When Tetsuya Wakada opened his eponymous restaurant in 1989, its sophisticated service and careful marrying of Japanese and French cuisines changed the game. Thirty years on, it remains one of the most elegant and on-brief examples of fine dining Sydney has to offer, if a little solemn. Tetsuya’s is about balance and fastidious technique – ideals passed down to a legion of alumni who today run many of the city’s best restaurants themselves.

529 Kent Street, Sydney

Cirrus

Second only to Saint Peter in the art of seafood cookery. While Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt’s Barangaroo restaurant is similarly interested in issues of sustainability, this waterfront restaurant is more focused on luxury. An all-Australian seafood tower, multiple caviar options and an unrivalled selection of chablis are proof of that.

10/23 Barangaroo Avenue, Sydney

Porteño

As soon as you walk into this good-looking restaurant you’ll see what you’re in for. At the central firepit they’ll be charring whole lambs and suckling pigs Argentinian style; you’ll spot a bar stocked with wine local and imported, natural and classic; and you’ll grasp that this restaurant cares not for trends or tropes, just what’s good according to owners Ben Milgate, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Joe Valore. Take a decent-sized crew and share the good stuff.

50 Holt Street, Surry Hills

Yellow

When Brent Savage’s Yellow turned vegetarian in 2016, it seemed like a potential misstep. What actually happened is: it got better. It’s now Sydney’s only purely vegetarian fine-diner, rivalled only by the all-vegan Paperbark when it comes to cooking vegetables with a level of care and creativity that will impress all but the most stubborn carnivores.

57 Macleay Street, Potts Point

Firedoor

Get the best Australian produce from both the paddock and the soil, and cook it over an open flame. That’s it. It’s an extremely simple concept, but one few execute with the precision and aplomb of chef Lennox Hastie, who learnt the trade at Spain’s pioneering Asador Extebarri. Sit at the kitchen bar and watch Hastie roast a dry-aged steak, a prawn straight from the tank or a simple potato

23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills

Bentley Restaurant & Bar

Few restaurants have maintained their excellence and hunger for invention like this one. Bentley opened in an old Surry Hills pub in ’06 before moving to this grander location in 2013, announcing its culinary ambitions in the process. Chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt continue to post some of Sydney’s most varied and progressive wine lists and degustations. Depending on the season, you could find anything from white beetroot and rare fennel-like herbs to caramelised lactose, olive-oil ice-cream and pineapple beer. All dietary needs are catered for in the most delicious ways possible.

27 O'Connell Street, Sydney

LP’s Quality Meats

Calling LP’s an American barbeque place is underselling it. Yes, there are smoked meats. Yes, they’re cooked in a Southern Pride Smoker shipped from Texas. And yes, the restaurant has a rowdy diner feel. But this isn’t a derivative brisket and pulled-pork haunt – it’s an Australian interpretation with all the cultural influences that brings. Aside from the smoky big-hitters, look out for the house charcuterie, sangas and exceptional sourdough. Plus it’s got a great bar if you just want a drink.

Unit 1 16 Chippen Street, Chippendale

Bennelong

If Fred’s has the most beautiful dining room in Sydney, Bennelong has the most iconic. Aside from the fact it’s set within the window-cupped, city-facing end of the Opera House, the dining area is spectacular, no matter if the sun pours in or the CBD’s lights are illuminated. Quay’s Peter Gilmore and head chef Rob Cockerill run a menu that matches the location – seafood from nearby waters, house charcuterie made with all Australian produce and a show stopping desserts, such as pavlova sculpted to match the sails above it, and the best lamington you’ll ever eat.

Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point

Lucio’s

If you want a charming, reliable venue – the kind where you’re just as likely to see a first date as you are a 50th wedding anniversary – this is it. The three-decade old restaurant is family-run, has traditional Ligurian eats, friendly waiters and walls so busily plastered with art you can barely discern the wall colour. And not just any art – take a squiz and you’ll see a Sidney Nolan and Archibald finalists such as Garry Shead. Not that you’ll be looking up from the plate too much – the pastas are exceptional.

47 Windsor Street, Paddington

10 William St

Everything you want out of an Italian restaurant but younger, freer and more lubricated. Owners Marco Ambrosino and brothers Enrico and Giovanni Paradiso have built a place that has pull, enticing you for a glass of something exciting from its forward-thinking, minimal-intervention booze list, or a plate of house-made strozzapreti with pistachio pesto, or its signature pretzel with whipped bottarga. Service is chatty-but-informed, the fit-out relaxed, and the vibe is buzzy, always.

10 William Street, Paddington

Golden Century

Golden Century has been serving Sydneysiders with classic Cantonese fare for more than three decades. Many of its popular orders are now legendary, the pippies with XO sauce most of all. Arrive at midnight or a few hours later on a Sunday and you might see some of Sydney’s best chefs bulldozing their way through out-of-the-tank seafood, mud crab with ginger and shallot, and maybe a bizarre mix of cheap imported beer and luxury wines.

393-399 Sussex Street, Sydney

Fratelli Paradiso

Frat Paz, as its many regulars call it, has been doing its very confident thing since 2001. That is: feeding and watering everyone from nonnas to the city’s A-listers, people who come back regularly for dishes such as calamari Sant’ Andrea and what could possibly be one of the best tiramisus in the city. This bustling, all-day operation is by the same people who brought us 10 William St, and although it has a more traditional approach to Italian food, the wine list and service are equally as schmick.

Bakery 12-16 Challis Avenue, Potts Point

Mr Wong

Restaurants all over Sydney have tried to copy Mr Wong’s refined Cantonese-led menu, its modern fit-out and the quality of its service, but none have been successful. Consequently the large but intimate-seeming space is always packed, even though it’s down a CBD laneway. Inside, a bank of barbequed ducks aren’t just great to look at: they’re plump, juicy and delicious. Likewise the delicate dumplings, which are some of the city’s best. Chef Dan Hong sets a benchmark that has the right amount of Aussie-Cantonese nostalgia.

3 Bridge Lane, Sydney

Pilu at Freshwater

Imagine a beautiful timber-built seaside home, one with spectacular, sea breeze-swept views and a courtyard that walks onto the sands. Now fill it with tablecloths, birthday celebrations and plates of seafood-led Italian fare, and you’ve got Pilu. Choose between head chef Jason Saxby’s traditional or innovative menu. Either way, you’re in for flavours from Sardinia, the region owner Giovanni Pilu himself is from.

Moore Road, Freshwater

Cho Cho San

The concept is modern Japanese, unrestricted by tradition and more influenced by what goes well with sake or a Japanese-style highball. Maybe that’s a plate of wasabi-dressed oysters or grilled, kombu-buttered prawns. The setting for this slick restaurant isn’t the dark red and black palette you might expect; the space is white, light and brown and sits somewhere between industrial warehouse and Japanese bathhouse.

73 Macleay Street, Potts Point

Sokyo

There are two options at this flashy Star City restaurant: Chase Kojima’s modern Japanese menu or Takashi Sano’s $165, give-me-whatever omakase. The former offers premium Australian meats off the robata grill, some of the best nigiri rolls in Sydney and umami-punching mains, while the latter is an intimate, bar-only, several-hour excursion into Japanese tradition and raw seafood.

Level G, The Darling at The Star 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont

Paperbark

Like Yellow, this vegan fine diner stands up to its meat-serving competitors. That’s almost all thanks to the brilliance of executive chef Joey Astorga. He’s created a menu that relies not on meat and dairy substitutes but on using ingredients in innovative ways and native ingredients to impart the richness plant-based food is criticised for lacking. The bar is equally progressive, using native ingredients creatively in cocktails and serving the funkier side of Australian natural wine.

8/18 Danks Street, Waterloo

Lankan Filling Station

The food here is very Sri Lankan – there’s a traditional fish curry, hoppers (bowl-shaped crepes made from fermented rice flour), an array of sambols and fluffy dal – but this narrow restaurant is a reflection of chef and owner O Tama Carey. She wanted to bring her experience of the island to Sydney, along with what she likes to drink: Australian-brewed mead, pét-nats, a coconut and coffee slushie, and wine poured from a tap.

Ground Floor 58 Riley Street, Darlinghurst