In a side street in swanky Woollahra in the Woollahra Hotel, this French bistro has that wonderful and ever-so-rare blend of sophistication and informality that makes for a memorable dining experience. They don’t take reservations, so arrive early or late (and repair to the bar next door for a cocktail while you wait). The last time I was there, former prime minister Paul Keating was at the next table, obviously a fan of the comfort food the restaurant is known for, such as homemade sausages and mash, sirloin steaks and just-right golden frites.
Lucio’s Italian Restaurant
This is the quintessential family-owned Italian restaurant, only it’s been transplanted to a quiet street in Paddington. The menu relies on fresh, seasonal produce and inventive dishes like chicken-and-mascarpone ravioli or squid-ink pasta with crab. Museum-quality contemporary Australian art lines the walls, and the service is always impeccable.
This is the kind of spot that locals desperately try to keep secret (I know, I used to live around the corner), but the word is finally out. The modern Vietnamese restaurant is a favorite for its Cha Goi (crisp parcels filled with pork, chicken, glass noodles and carrots) and Ca Chien Don (whole shallow fried snapper), and it can be hell getting a reservation for one of the cozy tables. Persevere, though; it’s worth the wait for dishes like roll-your-own rice flour crepes filled with prawns, pork, mung beans and bean sprouts. Or consider take-out; it’s an option.
Whenever I’m in town I love to visit Tabou, a fabulously authentic French restaurant with bentwood chairs, linen tablecloths and the specials scrawled on a gilded mirror. It’s busy and bustling yet romantic too, just as brasseries in Paris can only seem to pull off. Try the twice-cooked cheese soufflé—it’s a little gooey piece of heaven.
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