Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published September 14th 2011
Sydney's a city with a vibrant food culture. It's not all-over-the-place like Melbourne or parochial like most of the rest of Australia, but unique and interesting: a marriage of Australian and standard Western tastes to innovations from Eastern cooking. The style is probably best described as fusion at its worst, the unwelcome intrusion of ingredients like star anise and lemongrass into dishes that don't suit them, but at its best a seamless combination of Western ingredients and Eastern-style preparation. With that in mind, let's talk about the three best restaurants in Sydney, starting with:
Rockpool is a Sydney icon that specializes in exciting and inventive dishes rather than grand courses. The dιcor is all green carpet and steel very stylish with the bar and kitchen prominently on display. Looking at the name, you can probably guess what kind of food Rockpool offers: seafood, and lots of it. From abalone to fresh fish, Rockpool won't disappoint even the most judgemental lover of seafood.
Abalone, drunken pigeon, truffle and potato salad.
Now, as with most excellent restaurants, Rockpool is pretty expensive - $175 or $150 per person, depending on whether you go for the chef's tasting menu or the set-price menu. The wine is extra, of course. If seafood is your thing (or if you're filthy rich) then definitely go for it. You'll need to book in advance, though. If you prefer other styles of food, then give Rockpool a miss and try...
According to the San Pellegrino 100 Best Restaurants in the World list, Quay is the best restaurant in Australia. While that statement might be controversial after all, there are many excellent restaurants in both Sydney and Melbourne Quay is undoubtedly worth your time. Situated on top of the cruise-ship terminal, Quay seems to have been designed to get the absolute best view of Sydney. Seriously, it's that good you can see Sydney Harbour, the famous Bridge and the Opera House from your table. (Fun game: you can spot the tourists easily, as they're the ones staring out the window instead of at their meal.)
Half this stuff isn't food and it still looks amazing.
The food is excellent, too: the texture, presentation and taste of the dishes works extremely well together. Try the famous Guava and Custard Apple Snow Egg for dessert. It's hard to describe, but absolutely delicious. Again, it's costly perhaps more expensive than Rockpool but definitely worth going for a birthday or other celebration.
In 2007, Tetsuya's was named the fifth-best restaurant in the world according to Restaurant Magazine. It's hard to argue that it doesn't deserve it every dish the head chef, Tetsuya Wakuda, puts out is frankly stellar. If you're eating here, definitely choose the wine-matching option: you'll get to sample a wine for each of the ten courses, several of them made specifically to go with the dishes you're eating.
Tetsuya Wakuda, the man behind it all.
Sydney's fusion attitude towards food is very clear in the menu, especially in the signature dish: a Tasmanian ocean trout confit with a konbu seaweed crust, lying on a bed of fennel and daikon. It blends the very Australian taste of Tasmanian trout with the Asian flavours of seaweed and daikon a dish not to be missed. $185 will get you a ten-course degustation menu, but with wine options and other expenses the bill can easily exceed $300 per person. Book four weeks in advance and re-confirm a few days before your booking if you want to get a table here.
These are just one person's picks for the best restaurants in Sydney. Besides these, Assiette is excellent, as is the Italian-style Lucios and the French-style Marque. If you know a restaurant in Sydney that you think beats any of these, share it in the comments we'd love to hear from you.
Would not go to any of those three. Why do the supposed best restaurnats all want you to take a set menu or degustation which invariably forces you to eat one or two courses of food you may not like. To my mind the best restaurants are the great places that still allow you, the diner, the one who is paying them, to make a choice of what you'd like to eat. A good example is Pilu at Freshwater. Great views, service and food. Two hatted. They don't care if you take the degustation or dine a la carte and they even take the entertainment card to help with the price.
By john5 - reader Friday, 16th of September @ 04:25 am
I love Agape at Botany in NSW. It is absolutely fantastic and all food is certified organic, and all food is sourced from local producers. It's a nice family business with heart enough to use only the freshest organic locally-grown produce.
By gigin0 - reader Friday, 16th of September @ 05:29 am
I agree with the first comment , we like to select as well. Pilu at freshwater is just lovely. My husband had the pork belly and still talks about the crispness. The view, the setting and food was worth the trip.
By hwill - reader Friday, 16th of September @ 08:39 am
You have also just reminded me to use our entertainment book voucher at pilu. Thanks.
By hwill - reader Friday, 16th of September @ 08:41 am
I enjoy degustation menus but wasn't impressed with Rockpool. The service is arrogant and the food isn't as tasty as their reputation suggests. A wine pourer even had the audacity to serve us wine, complete with dregs. When we complained, we were looked at like we were crazy.
I have been to Courtney's Brasserie in Parramatta easily a dozen times and usually order the degustation menu at $77. They purchase all their produce withing a 200k radius and I have yet to taste anything that doesn't tempt me to lick the plate clean. The wait staff are amazing; I hadn't had a chance to visit the restaurant in 9 months and I was greeted by name the last time I visited.
By eva.2 - reader Friday, 16th of September @ 09:14 am
Have been to these three restaurants and am going back to Testuya's this saturday - its amazing/. The other "must do" is Peter Doyle's Est - it is sublime - as are all of these restauarants deguastation menus!~
By damie0 - reader Monday, 19th of September @ 03:48 am
Rockpool is highly over-rated - poor service - I would not go back - Agree with comment above Est is excellent. Can't wait to try Quay and Tetsuya's
By louise - reader Friday, 23rd of September @ 05:19 am
That second picture looks amazing, I'm not sue what it is, but I'm sold just by looking at that. I suppose I'd just have to hope that it looks as good as it tastes.
I've often found that with 'classy' or 'fancy' restaurants, that while I've never been disappointed with the quality of the food I still don't feel half the time that it was worth the price paid. I'll hopefully get a chance to check out some of these sometime.
Have done all "three hatters" in sydney and Est is by far the stand out. Quay we walked out half way through the degustation while at Marque a month ago I couldn't describe how bland the flavours were. Pretty plates, table clothes and maybe a view doesn't make up for zero taste. My picks are rockpool bar and grill for flavour, service, room and wine selection. Simple yet amazing. Seans panorama for sunday lunch can't be missed and long grain has taken it to another level since getting it's second hat back. Plenty more great choices out there, lotus, billy kwong, botega I visit time and time again but I would never do a 3 hatted experience again. Its not worth the disappointment when the food tastes of nothing. Stay classy Sydney
By Anonymous Wednesday, 19th of October @ 11:42 am
I absolutely adored the food and ambience at Quay, Bennelong is another fantastic choice with awesome service and constantly available warm breads with the great food. Marque however didn't blow me away. it was on my to do list for a long time and disappointed me greatly. Not only were most of the courses average but some were actually offensive to the palate! The point of these fine dining restaurants is to wow you with food you wouldn't normally eat but somehow adore when they serve it... Marque somehow missed the mark here and actually put me off fine food for awhile!