Foodies flock to neighbourhoods such as Surry Hills, Newtown and Darlinghurst for a feed, leaving the inner city to languish under the shadows of its towering skyscrapers. But beneath the canopy of Sydney’s concrete jungle lies a smorgasbord of top-class diners delivering everything from Thai street food and traditional Italian treats to sea urchins and 200-Australian-dollar (£106) steaks. Here are the 10 best restaurants in Sydney’s CBD.
Restaurant Hubert for grilled escargot at a French bistro
The Swillhouse Group – the hospitality whizz-kids behind some of Sydney’s hottest watering holes, such as The Baxter Inn, Shady Pines Saloon and Frankie’s Pizza – opened its first restaurant in 2016, and it’s an unmistakably French affair. With its dim lamps, wooden booths and classic French menu to match, this Bligh Street bistro feels like a patch of Paris. Order the grilled escargot with XO sauce, champagne jelly for dessert and wash it all down with a selection from its long list of imported wines.
The name Tetsuya’s is synonymous with Sydney fine dining, plating up a legendary set degustation menu in a heritage-listed cottage dwarfed by Kent Street’s skyscrapers. Celebrated chef Tetsuya Wakuda combines traditional Japanese flavours, classic French techniques and cutting-edge invention throughout 10 mesmerising courses – just make sure you save some room for the signature confit ocean trout.
Bistecca for a T-bone steak cooked over charcoal, wood and olive branches
Restaurant, Italian, Steakhouse
Bistecca is known for its T-bone steak cooked medium rare over charcoal, wood and olive branches | Courtesy of Bistecca
Bistecca means beef steak in Italian, so no prizes for guessing what this Dalley Street establishment’s speciality is. This moody subterranean restaurant is dedicated to Tuscany’s beloved bistecca alla fiorentina – a classic T-bone cooked medium rare over charcoal, wood and olive branches and then seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil. It also serves a stack of tantalising Italian bar snacks to go with your bottle of nebbiolo or sangiovese.
Long Chim for authentic Thai street food made with premium ingredients
Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
This Angel Place favourite dishes up authentic Thai street food, crafted by chef David Thompson | Courtesy of Long Chim
There are dozens – if not hundreds – of uninspiring Asian eateries offering a quick 10-Australian-dollar (£5.30) lunch special in Sydney’s CBD. Long Chim is not one of them. This Angel Place favourite dishes up authentic Thai street food, but not the simple spring rolls most inner-city diners are used to eating. Chef David Thompson only uses the finest ingredients – including house-made tamarind and fish sauce – in first-class meals such as the marinated pork skewers, crunchy prawns and a pad thai that eclipses anything you’ve had at your local takeaway.
Situated on the corner of Hunter and Pitt Streets in the heart of the inner city, this industrial-chic restaurant-bar isn’t your regular corporate CBD eatery. Bentley’s inspired à la carte and tasting menus are loaded with sumptuous dishes. Try the West Australian marron with onion broth, nasturtium and finger lime; blacklip abalone with hen-of-the-wood mushroom and roast chicken mayonnaise; or smoked squab with XO clams and sea lettuce. Each dish pairs perfectly with a drop from the extensive international wine list.
Expect only the finest home-made and ethically sourced ingredients at Mercado | Courtesy of Mercado
Mercado makes its own cheese, butchers its own meat and bakes its own bread using house-milled grain; anything chef Jason Dean and his team can’t make from scratch, they ethically source from boutique farmers, growers and producers to make sure only the finest ingredients end up on the table. This sophisticated Ash Street dining room serves contemporary Australian fare with a Spanish streak – order one of the three set menus for a taste of jamón ibérico, roasted prawns with fennel butter and foie gras parfait.
Sick of grabbing some depressing pre-made sandwich from a corner shop on your lunch break? Then this Angel Place trattoria-espresso bar is one of the best places in the CBD to grab a quick bite, thanks to its range of pastries, paninis and pizza by the slice. If you’re hungry for something more substantial, Bacco also offers a full menu of rustic Italian mains – try the pistachio and pecorino gnocchi or the pappardelle with lamb ragu – produced with seasonal Australian ingredients.
Everything about Rockpool is big, including its chef, Neil Perry, who is a giant of Australia’s food scene. Towering marble pillars soar over the dining room inside Hunter Street’s City Mutual Building, an opulent 1936 Art Deco skyscraper. The menu carries more than 60 dishes, plus nearly that number of pages on the epic drinks list. And the cheque at the end of the night won’t exactly be petite, but it’s worth every cent to feast on melt-in-your-mouth steak at Sydney’s premier grill house.
Chefs Dan Hong and Jowett Yu traded popular Potts Point diner Ms G’s to run this huge Cantonese venue on Bridge Lane, which boasts a wall of golden peking ducks, a tank swimming with juicy mud crabs and a delicious dim sum menu of which the lunchtime business crowd can’t get enough. This large Merivale venue might seat 240 people, but it’s not short on charm, with its swanky Shanghai speakeasy theme split across two intimate levels.
Matteo Downtown, a shape-shifting café-restaurant serving Italian classics
Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
While Matteo Double Bay is a laid-back seaside affair, Matteo Downtown is something completely different. This Bond Street spot buzzes from dawn until midnight during the week, pulling espressos in the morning and then pouring martinis after dark. The food menu will also make your mouth water – pick and choose from the selection of cheeses in the mozzarella bar, the array of pizza and pasta plus the daily variety of fresh fish filleted at the table. Alternatively, pop in during aperitivo hour (4pm to 6pm) for bar snacks with your drinks.