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Guide to the Best restaurants in Sydney’s CBD 2016

Information verified correct on December 10th, 2016

The CBD can be an overwhelming place. At first glance it’s all skyscrapers and suits, so it can take a little bit of leg work to discover its hidden gems.

Or you can remove the need for any leg work and simply read our guide to the best restaurants in Sydney’s CBD. We’ve stretched the meaning of the term ‘CBD’ to include The Rocks, Darling Harbour and Walsh Bay, because quite frankly, they’re home to a few eateries that any guide to city dining would be amiss without.

This is fine dining done right - remember you don’t need to be a city slicker to eat like one.

Sake Restaurant & Bar

Sake Restaurant & Bar

  • Address: 12 Argyle St, The Rocks
  • Opening Times: Monday to Sunday (12pm - 3pm / 5:30pm - 11:30pm), Sunday (5pm - 10pm)
  • Facebook: Sake Restaurant & Bar

As you might have guessed by the name, contemporary Japanese fair is on the menu at Sake.

The restaurant has a sommelier’s dedication to its namesake, so this is the place to go if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Japanese rice wine.

Other (equally valid) reasons include: its historic Rocks location, the popcorn shrimp and the bragging rights.


Bentley Restaurant & Bar

Bentley Restaurant + Bar

  • Address: 27 O’Connell St, Sydney
  • Opening Times:Monday to Friday 12pm - 3pm (lunch), Monday to Saturday 6pm - late (dinner)
  • Facebook: Bentley Restaurant + Bar

There’s plenty of reasons to visit Bentley’s new CBD venture: the 700-strong wine list, the two chef’s hats picked up during their Surry Hills run, the fit-out by an award-winning interior designer… but the biggest drawcard? Their address has changed but their attitude hasn’t.

It’s still the casual-cool place that made it a Surry Hills standout with friendly service and no pretentions.

You’re welcome to pop in for a drink, or, if the mood takes you, go all out with the tasting menu and matching wines. It’s setting a standard all CBD-dining should aim to meet.


Aria Logo

Aria

  • Address: 1 Macquarie St, East Circular Quay
  • Opening Times: Monday to Friday (12pm - 2:30pm / 5:30pm - 11pm), Saturday (5pm - 11pm), Sunday (5:30pm - 10pm)
  • Facebook: Aria Restaurant

No guide to Sydney’s best restaurants would be complete without an Aria mention, but with a Saturday night waitlist that’s measured in weeks - if not months - you’d be advised to plan well in advance.

The real star here is the eight-course tasting menu, where you’ll be tasting some of Matt Moran’s greatest creations - and his most famous. Fans of Masterchef will be menu-spotting in the same way nature lovers go bird-spotting. It’s what we foodies do.


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est.

  • Address: Level 1, Establishment, 252 George Street, Sydney
  • Opening Times: Monday to Friday 12pm-2:30pm (lunch), Monday to Saturday (6pm-10pm)
  • Website: est.
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Having been awarded two or more hats on more than one occasion, est. is a fundamental experience for any fine diner in Sydney.

Housed within a heritage building and helmed by renowned chef Peter Doyle, the Merivale outfit prides itself in serving contemporary Australian food that is uncomplicated by nature but full of flavour. As to be expected, dishes are seasonally driven and options are extensive with two, three, four and tasting menus available for lunch and dinner.

And if your server today asks you if you'd like any wine today, the answer is "yes". With its extensive selection of celebrated vintages, boutique wines and biodynamic finds, simply open up your palette to their recommendation and the rest will take care of itself.


Gowings

Gowings Bar & Grill

  • Address: Cnr Market and George St, Sydney
  • Opening Times: Daily 6:30am - 10:30am (breakfast), from 12pm (lunch), from 6pm (dinner). Closed for lunch on Sundays.
  • Facebook: Gowings Bar & Grill

Gowings Bar & Grill is the sort of place that has a lively vibe on a Tuesday afternoon, let alone on a Friday night. Be prepared to have all your misconceptions about hotel dining thrown out the window, with their brasserie-style menu of locally sourced food ready to change your mind. Hidden upstairs at the QT Hotel, you’d almost miss it if you walked by… but it’s unforgettable once inside.


Rockpool

Rockpool

  • Address: 11 Bridge St, Sydney
  • Opening Times: Monday to Friday (lunch), Monday to Saturday (dinner)
  • Facebook: Neil Perry | Rockpool

Image credit: Chelsea Jones

Since their move to Bridge St, the fine dining establishment we all know and love has taken a relaxing turn, without losing any of the Neil Perry flair. Lunch is a speedy affair, as they know city professionals who can’t linger over their seared King Prawns in the daytime are likely to be back to linger over dinner. The menu is designed for flexibility, allowing you to choose one, two, or three courses, along with canapés and wine.


Alpha

Alpha

  • Address: 238 Castlereagh St, Sydney
  • Opening Times: Monday to Friday (lunch), Monday to Saturday (dinner)
  • Facebook: Alpha Restaurant

Image credit: Chelsea Jones

Another establishment with a famous name attached to it, Peter Conistis’ Alpha is the epitome of a career that has seen him crowned Sydney’s king of Greek cuisine. Bustling and lively, friendly servers carry ceramic plates heaving with modern and traditional Greek dishes in one of Sydney’s most beautiful buildings. This place is proof that fine dining does not equal stuffy dining.


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Quay

  • Address: Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks
  • Opening Times: Friday-Sunday 12pm-1:30pm (lunch), Daily 6pm-9:30pm (dinner)
  • Website: Quay

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Home to Peter Gilmore's famous Snow Egg dessert and commanding pristine views of Sydney Harbour from its idyllic spot inside the Overseas Passenger Terminal, we think it's fair to say that a meal at Quay is one of those experiences that deserves to mark an occasion. The menu is constantly evolving with flavours running seasonally and seatings are available for lunch and dinner.

While both seatings offer four-course meals of your choice, diners who want a little bit of everything can further the experience with a tasting menu. It's a 9 degustation with dishes each more enviable than the other. Naturally, that snow egg makes an appearance, capping your meal off perfectly.

Booking are released on a 6-month basis, opening on the 1st of the month. Mark it on your calendar to avoid disappointment.


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The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf

You don’t need a trip to the theatre as an excuse to visit The Bar at the End of the Wharf, but it can’t hurt.

Apart from winning all the awards for most literal name ever, the bar - part of the Sydney Theatre Company - offers superb views with excellently priced dishes.

Our advice is to pop in for afternoon drinks over a Ploughman’s Platter and unlike most of the other restaurants featured on this list, there’s no need to book.


Palings Kitchen & Bar

Palings Kitchen & Bar

  • Address: Level 1, ivy, 330 George St, Sydney
  • Opening Times: Monday to Friday 12pm - late, Saturday 8:30pm - late
  • Facebook: ivy

Since it’s revamp, diners have been raving about Merivale’s Palings Kitchen & Bar, located on level 1 of ivy. The place is oozing with quirky touches and a friendly atmosphere and the extensive menu of salads, snacking and heartier dishes won’t leave you with an empty wallet. Spend the change on cocktails, perhaps? Patisserie queen Lorraine Godsmark is in charge of desserts, so leaving room for one is not just advised but mandatory. So to speak.


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Alex Bruce-Smith

Alex Bruce-Smith is a publisher at finder.com.au, taking care of shopping & travel. She funds her addiction to online shopping by hunting coupon codes like a pro, and can usually be found waiting anxiously for a package to arrive. #notevensorry

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