SYDNEY’S restaurant scene is one of the most competitive in the world and this year has seen some big hits and even bigger misses.
They’re the restaurants that are so hot right now. Forget about walking in the door, you’re going to need to book in advance or have a celebrity friend to get in there.
So without further ado, here’s the top 10 places that are the flavour of the moment in Sydney…
92 Hargrave St, Paddington
How can you feature a top ten list without including the grand master of French cuisine Guillaume Brahimi and the new venture that seemed to occupy an inordinate amount of food column inches this year.
Cut loose by The Sydney Opera House Trust after a decade of white tablecloth dominance in favour of a more ‘casual’ approach, Brahimi packed up his sieves and steak knives and headed inland, taking over the old Darcy’s space.
A full refit ensued and, after a transformative seven months, Guillaume debuted to rapturous reviews. Of course, this is no cheap and cheerful Tuesday-nighter.
Brahimi makes no bones about the restaurants top-tier status (four courses is $135 not including wine) but Sydney needs its splurge places and this is, undoubtedly, the place to come to go cray cray.
2) Billy Kwong
Formerly Crown St, Surry Hills
It’s hard to believe Billy Kwong first opened its doors on Crown St 14 years ago.
Visiting again recently prior to its temporary closure, Kylie Kwong’s incredible creation seemed as fresh and vibrant as ever, with dishes that challenge perceptions and restore faith in the power of Chinese food — albeit with an Aussie tilt.
Kwong, famed for her commitment to organic food, biodynamic wine, Fair Trade and marine conservation, mixed things up last year when she began incorporating elements of Australian native and indigenous ingredients to her menu and the results (pasture-fed wallaby tail with black bean and chilli, salt bush pancakes.) were spectacular.
And while the temporary closure has some anxious Sydney foodie-philes gnawing their nails, a new (and thankfully bigger) incarnation in Potts Point will soon open its doors.
16 Foster St, Surry Hills
Opened with rock-show fervour last year, Nomad, in Surry Hills, immediately snagged the title of ‘the hot’ restaurant and a year on it has not only managed to keep that tag but head chef Nathan Sasi (who has the name and looks of a male model) has taken it to a new level.
If you’re lucky enough to snag a table prepare for sensory overload from Sasi who trained at Rockpool and most recently had a spell at London’s Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
The ever-changing menu, which is currently in ‘spring mode’ offers such delights as Nomad Jersey Milk Haloumi, wood-roasted bone marrow, chilli smoked pork jowl, BBQ whole snapper and wood-roasted pork with mustard fruits and roasted pear.
4) 10 William Street
10 William St, Paddington
Blink and you’ll miss it but, whatever you do, try not to.
Nestled among trendy shops and gorgeous Paddington terrace homes is this relative Sydney newcomer which has established something of a cult following in 2014.
The brainchild of the Paradiso bothers, Enrico and Giovanni — and their partner Marco Ambrosino — the venue follows a similarly slick Italian vibe to their famous first venture, Fratelli Paradiso.
Perch at the bar with a big glass of Italian red or a Negroni while you peruse the menu scrawled on the over-sized blackboard. Among the offerings; pickled sardine furikake, beef tartars, pizza fritta, calamari fritti and of course pappardelle bolognese.
And head chef Dan Pepperell arrived here with an impressive pedigree. His last port was Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York.
5) Cafe Paci
95 Riley St, Surry Hills
What’s that old saying.
Here for a good time, not a long time? That’s the motto at Surry Hills’ Cafe Paci — a stunning pop-up which opened last August and continued to have everyone talking this year.
A sexy, sparse space washed in steel grey paint and hidden behind a bold red door off Riley Street, Petanen’s passion project has recently undergone a menu change adding things like pickled melon with mustard and potato with mussels, parsley and chicken skin.
But they’ve also retained faves like the lamb tartars.
Originally opened last August on a one-year lease with a six month option, Cafe Paci is now set to extend its run for another year (provided the landlord aggress to install air-conditioning) and there’s a chance it will stay on a year beyond that.
Good news for foodies everywhere.
65 Ocean St, Woollahra
It feels like Matt Moran invented the lamb shoulder when Chiswick opened back in February 2012 and in 2014 the stunning Woollahra eatery continued to raise the bar for casual and elegant dining in Sydney.
Favoured by pollies, moguls and celebrities (Sam Armytage famously struck up a romance here with Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet over share plates and espresso martinis), Chiswick remains the perfect long lunch venue.
Graze dishes like yellowfin tuna carpaccio, seared scallops and pressed duck and then devour THAT show-stopping lamb shoulder sourced from Moran’s family farm in the Central Tablelands.
There’s also a bunch of re-modelled family classics like whole roast chicken, whole flounder (served with celery salsa and Goolwa pipis) and wood-fired rainbow trout. Sensational.
216 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills
Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of Sydney’s original and best Spanish joint and yet not the smallest dent has been made in the quality of dishes being served up night after night by the team that has also brought us the carnivorous palace that is Porteno. (They also brought us the rockabilly, dude food movement which may or may not warm your heart).
Revisiting Bodega this year for the first time in a few years sparked a renewed obsession and served as a reminder of why it remains a Sydney masterpiece.
Buttermilk pancakes with salted cod, poached egg and maple butter joins other menu crackers like mussels with palm hearts, char grilled calamari, roast pumpkin salad and tinned anchovies with fish pate.
Order a bottle of Malbec and go nuts.
8) Pei Modern
The Four Seasons, Sydney.
Let’s be honest. Star chef Mark Best is known within the industry as being a bit of a task master. Colleagues describe him as ‘tough’ and his habit of Twitter shaming guests who fail to show for bookings has earned him the ‘prickly’ tag (though it’s actually kind of awesome).
One thing you cannot fault, however, is Bests’ food.
And his latest Sydney addition, in the foyer The Four Seasons, is simply genius on a plate.
From the lamb shoulder, cooked in camomile and served bubbling in its own juices, to the wood-fired chicken and the grilled salmon tail, Best, along with head chef Matt Germanchis, has managed to achieve the seemingly impossible — brought sexy back to hotel dining.
9) Cho Cho San
73 Macleay St, Potts Point
What do you get when you combine restaurateurs with a background in Thai, Greek and Italian and a chef who speciality is Cantonese?
Sydney’s best new Japanese eatery Cho Cho San, which was an in stint sensation soon after opening in? The team of Sam Christie (Longrain) and Jonathan Barthelmess (Manly Pavilion) were rebounding from the success of their nearby Greek game-changer Apollo when they called on ex-Billy Kwong wiz Nic Wong (pictured) to helm the new kitchen.
Throwing out the rule book, Wong is churning out marvels like spanner crab buns, miso cod, hibachi prawns and raw marbled beef every night and it has Sydneysiders clamouring.
33 Enmore Rd, Newtown
Save yourself an airfare to America and instead swing by Newtown where HartsYard, a bustling bolthole on Enmore Road, has been slinging Yankee classics like oyster po boys, fried chicken with biscuits and gravy and pulled pork since its doors flung open in June 2012.
Diners have been known to wait hours for a spot in this cosy and casual spot favoured by Newtown hipsters and celebrities alike.
Even US rock star chef David Chang swung by for a bite and a drink earlier this year in what can only be called one hell of an endorsement.
No wonder that owners and husband-and-wife team Greg Llewellyn and Naomi Hart are currently negotiating a second location which is rumoured to be leaning towards a big seafood bent.