The Emerald City is blessed with abundant natural attractions – that Harbour, that coastline, those parks. But good looks aren’t everything (even in Sydney!) and the NSW capital has long boasted a dynamic wine and food culture. From tiny bars to the iconic and special-occasion restaurants, discover a dazzling array of cuisines and seriously good wine lists compiled by committed and knowledgeable sommeliers. There’s loads to discover in Sydney.
Here are just a few of our favourite bars and restaurants around Sydney to savour a glass or bottle of fine wine and some of the best food Australia has to offer.
Sitting at the magnificent marble bar, extending 42 metres along this grand, colonnaded room, brings a real sense of occasion to any time of day. Open from breakfast through to late-night drinks and snacks – truffled croque monsieur, anyone? – this historic CBD stalwart offers a compact wine list of quality Australian regional and international labels.
Establishment is also the pre-dinner meeting place for any one of the many restaurants nearby, including its own multi-award-winning fine-diner Est., where you’ll find a more extensive wine list curated by sommelier Dheeraj Bhatia. Among the greats, you’ll find Best’s Old Vine Pinot Meunier from our Icon range. How appropriate.
Double Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is fortunate for Bibo wine bar to have landed in its midst. Owner and head chef Jose Silva (formerly long-time head chef at Guillaume Brahimi’s Bennelong restaurant) and his equally talented team, including head sommelier Louella Mathews (ex Rockpool/Rockpool Bar & Grill), have created a stylish haven for the locals (and plenty of others who are happy to make the trip).
Drop in for a drink, lunch (Friday, Saturday and Sunday only) or dinner seven days a week and work your way through a Portuguese-inspired menu of bar snacks or more substantial fare. Not to be forgotten, is their wide-ranging wine list of fine local and imported drops, including, we’re proud to say, Best’s Pinot Meunier/ Pinot Noir and Bin No. 0 Shiraz. Don’t miss ordering the flambé chorizo, which comes to the table literally on fire, or the bacalhau (salt-cod) croquettes, dubbed Australia’s best by The Australian’s restaurant reviewer, John Lethlean.
Situated on the rooftop of ‘the spaceship’ – as Barangaroo House is affectionately known – Smoke Bar is the perfect place for sunset drinks overlooking the water. Get there early to grab a premium spot on the terrace, then settle in for a few delicious appetisers, such as baked truffle camembert (insanely good) and double wagyu sliders. Cocktails are the go-to here, although there’s also a good selection of wines to work your way through too.
The Lodge Bar
Over on the Balmain peninsula in Sydney’s inner west, The Lodge Bar is one of those snug, welcoming locals that every suburb needs. Settle into a comfy leather banquette and take your pick of a free-ranging wine list that takes its cues from varietal stars of Australia and around the globe. Chef Thomas Hoff’s menu is Mediterranean/Spanish-inspired, and we particularly like his Sunday Long Lunch – an amazingly good-value eight-course grazing menu ($35 per head) that, because there’s only one sitting, means you can enjoy it over as many hours as you have free.
Fix St James
This long-time CBD star has been the midweek go-to destination for an early-morning coffee meeting, lunch, drinks and, dinner for wine aficionados since, well, forever, it seems. Fix’s wine list spans more than 250 options from classic to ground-breaking, with many available by the glass. Owner/sommelier Stuart Knox not only knows his stuff, he writes about it beautifully in his introductions to the various styles and regions.
The bar/dinner menu ranges from wine-friendly snacks such as a roast chicken and sage jaffle to classic chateaubriand with confit carrots and mushrooms. Sit at the front bar or outdoors, or settle into the 60-seater dining room and enjoy the cosy surrounds.
Love, Tilly Devine
Over on the mean streets of Darlinghurst, Love, Tilly Devine remains one of hipster Sydney’s favourite laneway watering holes. One of the first cabs off the rank in Sydney’s small-bar movement, and named for the infamous colourful ‘Kings Cross identity’, brothel manager Matilda Devine. LTD specialises in supporting small-batch, predominantly Australian, winemakers with a difference – natural, organic, biodynamic and sometimes plainly out there.
The short bar menu is surprisingly restrained considering what it’s up against on the wine front – and all the better for it. Expect wine-matching fun with dishes like ‘parmesan toast, Japanese Vegemite’ or smoked buffalo mozzarella, plum and sunflower seed. Love, Tilly Devine is open Monday to Saturday from 5pm till midnight, and you can also book for chef Michael West’s $38 three-course menu of the day.
Rockpool Bar & Grill
For a special-occasion dinner, there’s not much to beat this grand dining room in the heart of the city. There’s a true New York art deco feel to the multi-awarded Sydney outpost of Rockpool Bar & Grill, situated in the c1936 City Mutual Building. The food menu reflects that sense of luxury and largesse, built around top-quality steak and seafood cooked over a wood-fire. Neil Perry has always been an advocate for prime Australian produce, cooked and presented perfectly, and this is no exception.
The extraordinary wine list (some 3000 wines and counting) regularly wins accolades, and features such gems as our very own Bin No. 1 Shiraz, Great Western Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. Best of all, if you don’t want to wait aeons for a booking, just walk in, pull up a seat at the bar and order from the bar menu, which includes the renowned David Blackmore wagyu burger! Enjoy it with a side of ‘fat cut chips’ and wagyu gravy.
Down at the Rocks, bordering the Overseas Passenger Terminal is, quite possibly, Australia’s (and one of the world’s) best restaurants. For more than 16 years, legendary chef Peter Gilmore has been creating magic with amazing ingredients at this exceptional fine-dining venue. At Quay, your meal is just as much a feast for the eyes as the appetite, with a series of exquisite dishes (six or 10 courses) served by meticulously professional wait staff. This is a dining experience anyone who loves food and wine should have at least once in their life (preferably more frequently – though you’ll need to book well in advance, particularly for a Saturday night).
Head sommelier Shanteh Wong presides over a wide-ranging, Australian-heavy list that features a number of Best’s wines, including our Old Vine Pinot Meunier, Pinot Meunier/Pinot Noir, House Block Riesling, and rare back vintages in our 2005 Old Vine Pinot Meunier and 1987 Bin 0 Shiraz. Insider’s tip – keep an eye on the shipping news if you don’t want your view of the Sydney Opera House blocked by a massive cruise ship moored alongside…
Tucked in a basement on the corner of Angel Place and Pitt Street in the city, Long Chim is simply one of the best Thai restaurants around. Owner David Thompson is a highly respected Australian chef and author who’s a master of Thai cooking. He’s won numerous awards here and abroad for his restaurants, as well as for his books on the subject.
This place is pumping any time of day (it’s open weekdays from 11.30am till late and Saturday from 5pm) because the food is fantastic – lots of shared dishes, plenty of spice and flavour – and the staff are great. When it comes to this kind of food, it’s a balancing act, and luckily, Long Chim’s drinks list is up to the task – with a good beer selection, cocktails and interesting wines to complement some BIG flavours. We like the idea of Best’s Sparkling Shiraz alongside some Chiang Mai sausage and lamb ribs from the flaming grill in the long open kitchen.