Sydney is a world-class culinary destination, as famous for its waterfront brunches as it is for its celebrity-backed fine-dining temples. And with ambitious, exciting new restaurants opening every week, it’s hard to know which ones to book. These days, we’ve got our eye on the talented chefs and sommeliers behind these five new venues. From stellar cuisine in luxurious dining rooms, rare bottles from the owners’ personal wine cellars to outstanding pizzas fired in a hideaway location, these are the bars and restaurants to try on your next trip to Sydney.
Claim to fame: A stone’s throw from the CBD, Surry Hills is awash with great F&B options for any time of day. But wine-lovers seek out this convivial wine bar championing rare wines alongside inspired small plates. “We’ve always talked about opening our own spot, the kind of place we’d want to go. We tried to create a great bar where mates can enjoy good food and wine,” says Bar Copains co-owner Morgan McGlone.
At the helm: Chefs Morgan McGlone and Nathan Sasi’s friendship began at celebrated Nashville restaurant, Husk, where McGlone was chef de cuisine and Sasi was stage (intern chef). McGlone returned to Australia and opened Belles Hot Chicken, and Sasi was a founding chef at Nomad, later opening Adelaide’s Leigh Street Wine Bar.
Must-orders: The pair is famous for their love of natural wine (organic, low intervention, preservative-free), and the list taps into their thousands-strong personal collections, ranging from the best and rare, to delicious, affordable bottles. Each week Sasi’s menu evolves. There might be light-as-air cod roe with potato chips, barbecued beef tongue with salsa verde, or pappardelle in rich lamb ragu.
Claim to fame: City Oltra is a loud, fun pizza joint in the middle of Central Station that started as a beloved Sunday pop-up with party vibes at Poor Tom’s Gin Hall in Marrickville. “We do full pizzas and by-the-slice, so if someone misses their train, they can have a slice and hang out – or they can stay for a few hours with a bottle of wine. It’s nice to have the best of both worlds,” says co-owner Ben Fester.
At the helm: Skilled pizzaiolos Drew Huston who honed his craft at gourmet pizza joint Dimitri’s Pizzeria in Darlinghurst, and Ben Fester who also makes superb pies and keeps the soundtrack of rare tunes playing. In the spirit of the old pop-up, Fester and guest DJs throw a party on the last Sunday of every month.
Must-orders: The menu is simple: five rounds, four squares plus a special, with a handful of choices in the window for pizza-by-the-slice. For dine-in, there’s a growing list of natural wines from local producers, which complement round pies like the bestselling spicy pepperoni with cooling house-made ranch, or roast butternut, miso-mato cream and red shiso. Square pizzas come topped with mapo tofu-style mince, Thai sausage, or San Daniele prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella and a balsamic reduction.
Claim to fame: A collaboration between Bentley Group and Singapore’s Capella Hotels, Brasserie 1930 is a luxurious fine diner in Capella’s first Australian property, in Sydney’s Sandstone Precinct. “We’re a uniquely Australian brasserie in a world-class hotel, and we want to be a destination for all of Sydney,” says co-owner Nick Hildebrandt.
At the helm: Since sommelier Nick Hildebrandt and chef Brent Savage opened Bentley 16 years ago, the pair have been redefining Sydney’s dining scene with acclaimed eateries like Cirrus, Monopole and the all-vegan Yellow.
Must-orders: The focus is on local produce and native ingredients, with dishes like Rangers Valley beef tartare with mustard, capers and eschallots, coal-roasted Murray Cod with pepperberry butter, and Kinross Station lamb rump with carrot and harissa. Whole duck with dry aged breast and sausage is the signature dish, meant to be shared. The wine list taps into the Bentley Group’s extensive cellars and is well balanced: old and new, iconic and up-and-coming, conventional and natural.
Kiln at Ace Hotel
Claim to fame: A woodfire restaurant on the 18th floor of the buzzing new Ace Hotel, Kiln showcases some of Australia’s best producers. “I like pushing boundaries and challenging conventions. This is an opportunity to help redefine what hotel restaurants in Australia can be,” owner-chef Mitch Orr says.
At the helm: Orr is well known for deconstructing genres and breaking rules. His beloved restaurant acme was so influential because Orr led the way with inventive dishes that spanned Italian, Japanese and Southeast Asian cuisines. After it closed in 2019, he did short stints at Pilu at Freshwater and Cicciabella Bondi, but Kiln is his first full-time gig since acme.
Must-orders: Fire is at the heart of Kiln, fuelled by native ironbark and fruitwood. The food crosses cuisines, with plenty of Asian ingredients on the seasonal menu. Grilled snowflake mushrooms are served with wasabi leaf, stracciatella comes with shiso and grilled peach. For mains, there’s whole flounder with miso brown butter, grilled coral trout with smoked bone sauce and a single red meat dish: dry-aged ribeye with sudachi ponzu, a tangy sauce made from Japanese sudachi citrus juice mixed with soy sauce.
Claim to fame: Gilda’s is Lennox Hastie’s ode to the Basque region of Spain, where the celebrated chef learned to cook over fire. “In the Basque country, you can eat well at so many different levels,” he says. “Our menu celebrates a Basque-style of eating: with small plates that celebrate the best daily ingredients, to be eaten with a vermouth or a great glass of sherry.”
At the helm: Hastie’s early career was spent at Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, but he considers the Basque country his most formative experience. He was featured on the award-winning Netflix show, Chef’s Table: BBQ and his ground-breaking work at all-fire fine diner Firedoor earned him a reputation as one of the best chefs in Australia.
Must-orders: Gilda’s is inspired by the 1946 film-noir by the same name. Rita Hayworth’s character led to the creation of the first Basque pintxo: guindilla pepper, anchovy and olive. Hastie’s interpretation is smoked Port Lincoln sardine, pickled Dutch carrot and finger lime. There’s also tomatoes, black olive and aged sheep’s cheese, oyster mushrooms with smoked egg yolk and buckwheat, or cuttlefish with fennel, alubias and radicchio. European wines, vermouths and sherries dominate the drinks list.
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