Australia's most populous city has a lot going for it. On an average day (at least for 340 days a year), the skies are a stunning azure, Bondi Beach is a hotbed for glittering waters and warm sand, and the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge a sight for sore eyes. It's hard not to indulge in the happy feels that come from being in one of the world's most beautiful cities. Sweeping vistas, picture-perfect filters, and glorious weather — check, check, and check.
If it's your first, second, or even eighth time to Sydney, chances are that food is a top priority. A melting pot of cultures, Sydney boasts a buzzing food scene that consists of anything and everything from modern Australian to inventive Middle Eastern fare. While Melbourne (yes, the sibling rivalry is real) has cafés and restaurants spilling out of its laneways, Sydney's best requires a little hide and seek (and some travelling to). Forget the major chain restaurants, or the easy mall options, for there's brand-new structures, shiny facades, and hidden culinary gems to be discovered in Sydney's meandering streets. To eat well here is to exceed your expectations — and all you have to do is stray a little sometimes from the major attractions. Below, a sampling of a rich smorgasbord of flavours for your picking the next time you're Down Under.
BREAKFAST: ORIGINALLY THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
If you're an early riser, the tranquil tree-lined streets of Surry Hills make for the ideal morning stroll. This hip neighbourhood is a short stroll from Sydney CBD, and is littered with a multitude of cool multi-label shops and street side cafés. Make Bourke Street Bakery your first stop of the day — the Surry Hills outfit on Bourke Street was where it all started — for its mouth-watering spread of pastries. Get the ham, cheese, and tomato croissant or sausage roll, both hearty, flavourful options for the carb lover. Everything is fresh and made in house, and it's no wonder the humble establishment now has 11 outlets (and counting) across Sydney.
Just a few hundred metres from Bourke Street Bakery is Artificer Speciality Coffee Bar & Roastery, a little hole-in-the-wall serving up the one of city's best cuppas. Don't expect a massive meal here; just great coffee, beautiful natural light, and cosy nooks for your conversations (or, if you're not a morning person like me, a private space for you to wake the heck up).
BRUNCH: THE MILLENNIAL'S MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
An Aussie's favourite word? Apart from "mate" and "far out", it probably is "brunch". Classified as a meal between breakfast and lunch, but consumed in the late morning, brunch is practically a religion in Sydney. By this time of day, you might have completed the iconic Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, and are looking for something substantial to eat. Pop over to The Nine at Bondi Beach, a laidback café serving up a menu full of Mediterranean influences. Call for the Autumn Shakshouka, a one-dish wonder of roasted tomato, spiced capsicum, organic poached eggs, and feta served with toast — the perfect refuel after any sort of exercise.
Up for a bit of a drive? The Grounds of Alexandria is worth the journey. Located about 20 minutes from Sydney's CBD, this former pie factory is now a coffee roaster, café, bakery, bar, garden, florist, weekend market, and mini-farm rolled into one. On weekends, it's teeming with tourists and families alike, but promises a fulfilling experience. The menu runs the gamut from juicy burgers to bagels topped with salmon rillettes to pretty desserts, so there's definitely something for everyone. Don't leave without saying hello to their resident pig, Kevin Bacon.
Side note: There's also The Grounds of the City, its city outpost that recently opened and is fashioned after an upscale diner, but first-timers should definitely check out the one in Alexandria.
LUNCH: A WORKING PROFESSIONAL'S MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
Mid-day is the best time to take a stroll along Barangaroo, Sydney's latest waterfront playground. Whether you're dipping your toes in the water, or enjoying a doughnut (Melbourne's famous Shortstop Coffee and Donuts has an outlet here), the lively precinct is where you can let loose and take in the city's generous amounts of sunshine. Food options are also aplenty here, but Anason and NOLA Smokehouse and Bar are where you want to be.
Turkish restaurant Anason is a casual dining option by the water, with fantastic sharing plate options and warm and friendly service. Get the white cod roe and pita bread to kick things off — the white cod roe mixes in garlic, fresh lime, and lemon juice for a tangy twist, and comes topped with pomegranate. The octopus dish is also a must-try here — it's soaked in red wine for three hours and char-grilled to perfection. Finish off with bites of baklava, air-flown weekly from Turkey. Tip: Eat the baklava upside down, so the flaky cap of the pastry first dissolves along the tongue.
If you're a whisky and meat lover, make a reservation at NOLA Smokehouse and Bar. With a second-storey view that overlooks the water, this is the ideal spot for a languid lunch. Their range and knowledge of American whiskies is impressive (the restaurant has about 500 whiskies in their possession), so be sure to knock back a few here. Pair them with plates of pit-smoked meats, warm salads, and mac and cheese.
DINNER: A COUPLE'S MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
When night falls, Sydney turns its twinkling lights and romantic factor on. You'll want to be having a cocktail to the city's scenic views, or admiring the glow of the Sydney Opera House. One of the finest date night spots to be is Peter Gilmore's Bennelong, a beautiful fine dining experience located right inside Sydney's most famous icon — where the dishes are crafted in partnership with farmers, fishermen, breeders, and providores from across the land. If you prefer something a little more casual, book in at Bennelong Cured & Cultured, where you can sit at the counter and watch the chefs deliver their magic. Order the twice-baked goats cheese soufflé, a light and fluffy concoction in your mouth, and the yellowfin tuna, crafted with kohlrabi rémoulade, black rice, and laver crisps for a delightful crunch.
Any meal at Restaurant Hubert is a meal to remember. Helmed as Sydney's best new restaurant for 2016, this underground French establishment located in the heart of downtown Sydney feels like a set from The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's dim, cosy, and filled with convivial vibes. Order the perfectly seasoned crab remoulade, a spanner crab dish made with crème fraiche, soft herbs, and fermented celeriac. There's also a deeply satisfying fish of the day, baked in paper, anchovy and lemon, which you'll dream about for days after. Finish off with the Vacherin, a massive meringue of sorts crafted with honeycomb, lemon and mandarin — best shared amongst a table of four. Forget getting any sort of reception in here — it's time to make actual good conversation.