This modern Aussie restaurant boasts one of the most memorable settings in Sydney. Its indoor and outdoor tables hang suspended in a glass cube-like structure over the North Sydney Olympic Pool right between Luna Park (the city’s vintage amusement park) and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. As you dine on fresh oysters and prawn tartlet or fried zucchini flower and mozzarella salad, you can watch sailboats on the harbor and swimmers doing their laps in the historic pool. This is a taste of how Sydney revels in its unique geographic blessing.
Housed in the iconic Sydney Opera House and overlooking the bustling Circular Quay, Bennelong Restaurant is a delightful spot for innovative cocktails and modern Australian cuisine. Despite its touristy location, Bennelong feels refined and intimate, serving fresh takes on seafood dishes.
Catalina Rose Bay
This award-winning restaurant, one of the grande dames of the Sydney restaurant world, is for those who prefer more serene water views than are on offer at such trendy seafront spots as Otto’s or Icebergs. Few experiences match watching the quaint little seaplanes take off just outside the window as you feast on roasted snapper, but do look out for the enormous resident pelicans. Owners Michael and Judy McMahon have now been joined by their children James and Kate, whose glittering CVs include stints at some of the city’s hippest restaurants and bars, and who are injecting a new forward-thinking spirit to this old classic.
Right on Manly Wharf where the ferries arrive from Sydney, Hugo’s is a fabulous waterside spot for a casual lunch or dinner. Its owners are a pair of Aussie celebrity chefs, Pete Evans and Massimo Mele, and their pizzas are considered among the best in town. Other popular items on the menu are seafood such as oysters served with sherry vinegar, fried calamari, seared scallops with tomato and basil and delicious pastas such as homemade gnocchi with roasted zucchini, garlic and basil pesto and spinach pappardelle with scampi, sea urchin, broccolini and garlic and lemon.
Tip: There are no reservations accepted for dinners on the weekends so if you want to be sure not to have to wait for a table, book for lunch Monday to Sunday or dinner Monday to Thursday.
Icebergs Dining Room and Bar
When Sydney’s beautiful people want to see and be seen, they head here. The famed Bondi restaurant is hyperbole-inducing—wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of Bondi Beach, and the artful Mediterranean dishes are simply but expertly executed. Fashion editors, models and celebrities all rub elbows here, but the mood is refreshingly unpretentious: chalk it up to that casual Bondi spirit. A regular sight: a few girlfriends in flip-flops and tank tops stopping by to enjoy a bottle of Dom Perignon while they sun themselves out on the terrace.
Bigwigs power-lunch here on oysters and sinfully rich dishes like hand-rolled porcini pasta with wild boar ragu from head chef Richard Ptacnik. It doesn’t hurt that Otto’s location on Woollomooloo wharf has turned into a people-watching promenade, complete with lurking paparazzi (Russell Crowe has a penthouse at the far end), and superyachts docked in the sparkling marina out front.
Propped up on Manly Wharf, Papi Chulo sits on the water’s edge and offers a tasteful but relaxed ambiance ideal for an easy lunch or dinner. With checkered tile floors, copper fixtures and wicker-style benches, the space feels at once chic and comfortable. The menu features a variety of small plates, including seafood and shellfish, but diners rave most about its sophisticated execution of comfort food classics like six-hour smoked lamb ribs or wagyu brisket with roasted cauliflower with romesco and parmesan.
Pilu at Freshwater
One of Sydney’s most lauded and awarded restaurants, Quay features a dramatic dress-circle position on the harbor and near-faultless food. (This is definitely a big-night-out style restaurant, with prices to match, so don’t be surprised to get a case of sticker shock when you open the menu.) Chef Peter Gilmore crafts exquisite little stories on the plate out of ultra-exclusive ingredients like wagyu beef, abalone and truffles: it’s classic virtuoso French cooking with a Modern Australian touch. Don’t miss the restaurant’s famous dessert, the intricate, multi-layered “snow egg.”
There are two legendary restaurants on Bondi Beach, Icebergs and Sean’s Panorama. Whichever one you choose to dine at, you will not be disappointed. In fact, you may just feel that you are eating with the coolest crowd around yet they are wildly different. Sean Moran’s beach shack-cum-restaurant feels quaint and neighborhoody. The menu changes daily here with a focus on fresh ingredients and Italian home cooking so you will likely find a pasta and grilled seafood dishes scrawled on the blackboard menus.
Tip: Sunday brunch here is a Sydney institution for many.