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Sydney City Guide

Sydney is world renowned for its modern fusion cooking and wines. JILL NORMAN samples the city's gastronomic delights.

Until recently, it seemed that new restaurants and bars could open every week in Sydney and find an eager crowd of customers ready to spend their money. But this year things are a bit different: the economy is tighter and even some well-known restaurants have closed. But that isn’t to say that things are static, or that people have stopped going out. Sydney is still one of the world’s top cities for food and wine lovers, and you can eat and drink well at all price levels.

Sydney’s bars and restaurants are lively and smart, smart yet casual. Modern Australian cooking reveals French or Mediterranean roots with Asian influences – Japanese, Indian or southeast Asian. Top restaurants have the best wines from all over the world; elsewhere, lists tend to concentrate on Australian wines. Happily, BYO (bring your own) is a long-established local tradition; some restaurants are BYO only, and some licensed restaurants permit it for a corkage charge. Don’t be afraid to ask.


Eating out

Sydney’s most inspirational restaurant, Tetsuya’s, surrounds a serene garden of rocks, pebbles and gently splashing water. There is a set menu of up to 13 tiny courses of exquisite Japanese-French dishes, with accompanying wines if you wish. The cellar contains some 4,000 bottles from all over the world, but BYO is accepted. Booking is essential, at least a month in advance, and it is expensive, but the experience is worth it.Neil Perry’s Rockpool in The Rocks concentrates on fine seafood. The cooking is original, with distinctive Asian leanings. The comprehensive wine list includes older vintages of Australian wines, as well as house wines from producers like Jeffrey Grosset.Almost opposite Rockpool is Sailors Thai, located in a former sailors’ home. At street level is an inexpensive canteen with simple dishes like pad thai. Downstairs the restaurant serves seasonal, classic Thai dishes. The wine list has lots of Australian whites, carefully chosen to match Thai food.The newest, hottest place is Restaurant VII, not far away in Bridge Street. Here, two French-trained Japanese chefs turn out highly praised French food to which they sometimes introduce Japanese ingredients or cooking techniques. The wine list has some 600 bins from top producers worldwide.Salt in Darlinghurst, and its friendly bar, Fix, are popular with smart, young Sydneysiders. The wine list boasts Australian classics like Grange Hermitage and Leeuwin Estate, plus several European and local wines by the glass to match the simplicity of Luke Mangan’s innovative Australian-French food. He provides snacks for the bar too.In nearby Surry Hills is Longrain. This converted warehouse with long stainless-steel tables and a lively bar serves Asian-inspired food from its open kitchen.

For seaside fish and chips head out to Doyle’s at Watson’s Bay – they run their own water taxi from Circular Quay. Wash it down with a bottle of sparkling wine as you watch the gulls, yachts and lapping water.

Tetsuya’s, 529 Kent Street, Sydney.

Tel +61 2 9267 2900

Rockpool, 107 George Street, Sydney.

Tel +61 2 9252 1888

Sailors Thai, 106 George Street, Sydney. Tel +61 2 9251 2466. No reservations for the Canteen

Restaurant VII, 7 Bridge Street, Sydney. Tel +61 2 9252 7777

Salt restaurant and Fix bar,

229 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst.

Tel +61 2 9332 2566

Longrain, 85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills. Tel +61 2 9280 2888. Reservations lunch only

Doyles, 11 Marine Parade, Watson’s Bay. Tel +61 2 9337 2007


Cocktails are in, but every bar also has a selection of wines by the glass and bottle – and many bars have sensational views. Sip a Bellini, or a flute of Roederer accompanied by a dozen oysters, at the 14th-floor International bar while you watch the harbour. Aqua Luna bar on Opera Quays offers light Italian dishes with wines to match in a lively waterside atmosphere. In the city centre the best bar is Wine Banc, a chic basement bar offering several hundred wines, cocktails and serious food.

International bar, Top of the Town Hotel, 227 Victoria Street, King’s Cross.

Tel +61 2 9360 9080

Aqua Luna, restaurant and bar, East Circular Quay, Sydney. Tel +61 2 9251 0311

Wine Banc, 53 Martin Place, Sydney.

Tel +61 2 9233 5399

Buying wine

Sydney is well supplied with good wine merchants. Ultimo, behind Darling Harbour, has an extensive range of Australian wines and many high-quality imported wines. Five-way Cellars in Paddington specialises in boutique Australian wines and has a good international selection, particularly from Italy and the Rhône. Garage Cellars in Darlinghurst also has fine Australian boutique wines. And a visit there is a must for any Pinotphile; it has an outstanding international selection.

Ultimo Wine Centre, 99 Jones Street, Ultimo. Tel +61 2 9211 2380

Five-way Cellars, 4 Heeley Street, Paddington. Tel +61 2 9360 4242

Garage Cellars, 233 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst. Tel +61 2 9380 6133

Written by JILL NORMAN

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