Only the most discerning of tastebuds could navigate the superfluous banquet of options lining Sydney’s gastronomy-laden streets. A city where dining out is a way of life and flavours from across the globe meet, it’s the obvious launching pad for Aussie chefs looking to make it big in the culinary world. So who better than the master foodies themselves to give us the goss on where to dine? Here’s the inside scoop on who they take their chef hats off to – and yes, you can bet it’s a stellar line-up so be sure to book ahead.
Address: 66 Hunter Street, Sydney CBD.
When Karen Martini drops into Sydney she can’t resist a stop for some modern Australian fare at the ever-so-popular Rockpool Bar & Grill. Home to one of Australia’s most lavish dining rooms, the restaurant also ranked number 12 in the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards 2015. The brainchild of much-loved chef and TV personality Neil Perry, Martini says he is “part of the foundation of food in Australia”. “He’s pushed the boundaries and has done a lot for the Australian food industry over the years,” she says.
Taking the steakhouse concept to new culinary heights, Rockpool Bar & Grill maintains a simple and uncomplicated menu with the focus on sourcing fine produce. Dried meats are aged on the premises and a wood fired grill and charcoal oven adds incredible taste sensations to the very long list of fine menu picks, from spanner crab semolina noodles to melt-in-your-mouth 9+ marble score Wagyu and a long list of global wines. The stunning 1936 art deco building and marble interior sets the scene for an exquisite night out.
Address: 201 Sussex Street, Sydney CBD
Peter Gilmore isn’t the only well-respected Australian chef to take his hat off to Sepia; the restaurant was named the winner of The Australian Financial Review’s Australia's Top Restaurants award, as voted by chefs and restaurateurs across the nation. The chef, Martin Benn, was also voted by his peers as the country’s top chef. As a Sepia fan, Gilmore says the “take on Japanese flavours and food is really interesting”. “I think it’s interesting how, with Australia being such a multicultural society, we interpret traditional cuisine through immigration,” he says. “I think Martin does that brilliantly and puts it in a very modern context.”
Offering a contemporary menu in a corporate-luxe setting in the prestigious Darling Park precinct, Sepia draws on the best seasonal produce and seafood while hailing inspiration all the way from Japan. Sit down to a five- or nine-course tasting menu matched with a delectable list of wines compiled by award-winning Sommelier Rodney Setter. Alternatively, opt for the accomplished bar menu in the seductively classic bar sitting adjacent.
Address: 252 George Street, Sydney CBD
A consistently high performer in the Sydney foodie stakes, Est. is a favourite spot to dine for celebrity chef Luke Mangan. “The chef Peter Doyle is one of my favourite chefs with wonderfully executed food from his foundation of impeccable French technique,” Mangan says. Widely regarded as the founding father of contemporary Australian cuisine, Doyle has no shortage of fans. But it’s also the atmosphere that draws Mangan to Est. “The room has a wonderful ambience and for me it’s formal dining at its best,” he says.
Set in a gorgeous heritage dining room in the heart of the CBD, Est. touts location as well as elegant decor, attentive service and the finest seasonal ingredients. Choose from a two, three or four course chef’s menu or a seven course degustation for dinner, or opt for a collection of Doyle’s most celebrated dishes over lunch. From freshly shucked oysters and juniper crusted venison saddle with quince puree to mushroom consommé with seared wagyu and enoki mushrooms, expect only the best out of this kitchen – and a matching wine list by award-winning sommelier Frank Moreau.
Address: 92 Hardgrave Street, Paddington.
Paddington restaurant Guillaume has a reputation about as big as Neil Perry’s own, so it seems fitting that Perry gives it his well-respected nod of approval. Recently opened, in 2014, by award-winning chef and restaurateur Guillaume Brahimi, his French origins play out authentically across the menu. “I love eating his food – I think it’s the best French food by far in the country,” says Perry. “The food he does is truly world-class with beautiful ingredients and the skill in the cooking is really super wonderful.”
Offering an a la carte and an eight course degustation menu, each and every dish is perfected to the finest touch, drawing on fresh, seasonal produce-driven food from across Australia’s best regions. Enjoy South Australian King George Whiting with cleriac, konbu and sesame, the royale of peas with truffle and Queensland mud crab or the Blue Mountains grimaud duck with foie gras, sweet potato and fig. The desserts, the wine and the wonderfully sophisticated yet comfortable historic setting completes every meal.
Address: 529 Kent Street, Sydney CBD.
Tetsuya Wakuda is no stranger to acclaim for his classical French-infused take on Australian and Japanese flavours, and for Shannon Bennett, iconic Sydney establishment Tetsuya’s is “one of the great places to eat”. “It’s the ambassador of consistency and glamour for me,” Bennett says, “and I think that the produce there is something that all chefs aspire to.” Flaunting a superb 10 course degustation menu, he says “Tetsuya has got the best of Australian produce and each dish tells a unique story.”
From the tea smoked quail breast with parsnip and calamari to the confit of petuna ocean trout and the savoury custard with avruga, the flawless portions come perfectly complemented by one of Sydney’s most extensive wine lists. Enjoy it all in the beautiful and serene Japanese-inspired ambiance, beautifully set out in a refurbished heritage-listed site in the heart of Sydney.
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Interviews for this article conducted by Tourism Australia.