The best restaurants in the CBD
Seek out these top notch dining destinations in the heart of the city
Virtually every suburb in Sydney can boast a world-class eatery (or several), but none rival the CBD for the sheer number of sky-high culinary experiences on offer. We’ve cherry-picked the best tables to book in the heart of the city, whether you’re stepping out for business lunch, a pre-show bite or a swanky degustation.
Want more top chefs? Check out our guide to the 50 best restaurants in Sydney.
Recommended: Want something a little more casual? Check out our guide to the best cheap eats in the city.
The best restaurants in the CBD
The dress-circle Harbour views? The exquisite works of art on each and every plate? The custom-made crockery? The cornucopia of produce grown exclusively for the restaurant? The service team’s unrivalled professionalism? Some restaurants are engineered for special occasions and totally worth the splurge – this is most definitely one of them.
As soon as you walk through the big wooden doors of Hubert you feel instantly detached from the outside. This is because they have excellent attention to noise control (acoustic ceilings and carpeted floors), which also means you can actually hold a conversation over lunch. As you climb down two flights of stairs into the city’s depths, it feels like you’re walking back in time (Belle Époque? Post war Paris?). Your destination: a music-filled, candle-lit restaurant buzzing with people. Order up the chicken to share, or the steak frites.
They’ll tell you to go for the Peking duck. They’ll tell you it’s a juicy bird with crisp skin and sweet meat. And they’d be right. It is. This is just one of the many roast delights at Mr Wong – a two-level Canto-extravaganza offering everything from fancy dim sum to green beans stir-fried with pork mince and house-made XO sauce.
David Thompson has brought his Long Chim empire to Sydney to stoke the flames of our South East Asian eats. Order up the $45 set menu – it’s an affordable treat with all the good bits in reasonable portions. You’ll kick off with a serve of the famous marinated pork skewers, which come charred and tender with little ribbons of fat, followed by an aromatic curry, or perhaps deep fried squid with crisp fried peppercorns. Finish with buttery soft folds of roti topped with thick drizzles of condensed milk – it’s like capping your night off with some crisp banana pancakes, which is oh so right in a weird way.
Dining at Aria will make you fall back in love with Sydney; the longstanding, harbourside fine-dining landmark not only has world-class views, but it’s overseen by world-class chef Matt Moran. Both the relatively recent renovation and overhaul of the menu by head chef Joel Bickford have brought the restaurant firmly into the here and now, thanks to the kitchen’s less-is-more approach and a brighter spotlight on native ingredients. The panoramic outlook from the floor-to-ceiling windows, on the other hand, remains some of the city’s best.
Hit peak Sydney with seaside seafood from Cirrus, the fourth venue from culinary kingpins Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt. Their trophy cabinet is already chockers thanks to Monopole, Bentley and Yellow, but the collection wanted an aquatic addition. When NOMA moved out, Savage and Hildebrandt moved in and built something Sydney was sorely lacking: an elegant seafood restaurant by the water that’ll impress the socks of anyone you bring here.
The sequel to Bistecca , which offers a broader spectrum of carnivorous thrills but keeps the old-world elegance front and centre. Handing over your mobile phone at the door allows you to surrender completely to a bygone era of prawn cocktails and Waldorf salads, when drinks were stiff and proper and whole fish were filleted tableside. If you need to loosen your necktie and let out your inner Don Draper, this is the place.
This petite laneway pasta parlour that follows in the footsteps of sibling wine bars Dear Sainte Éloise and Love, Tilly Devine. The Harbour City’s obsession with pasta is at an all-time high, but thanks to a focus on lesser-known shapes and a willingness to stray from the tried and true, Ragazzi stands out. And because these are the brains behind two pioneering wine bars, there’s good drinking aplenty to be had.
Rockpool Bar & Grill
The first thing that hits you when you enter the 1936 City Mutual Building – considered by many the finest Art Deco building in Australia – isn’t the pristine stone and brass work. It’s the smell. Push through the heavy brass doors and be greeted by a mingling of grilling meat, wood fire and leather. This is Sydney’s best-smelling restaurant and it’s enough to make your mouth water even before you sit down. Breathe it in as you look up at the grandeur of the room.
Rather than choosing some airy harbourside venue with Opera House views, Neil Perry’s gone subterranean in the city for Spice Temple. “I’m asking people to go down a number of steps and come underground in beautiful Sydney,” says Perry. “To do that, I felt I had to have something really special.” And special it is – a Chinese restaurant that does not serve any Cantonese dishes. Instead, you’ll find a menu that roams China from Sichuan to Yunnan to Guangxi. Spice Temple is an exciting restaurant – not just because it’s Neil Perry’s amazing food in a casual, fun environment. It’s unlike anything Sydney’s seen before.
Bentley Restaurant and Bar
You might not expect a seriously schmick wine bar and restaurant housed in the original Fairfax building in the heart of the CBD to be all about inclusivity, but the Bentley Restaurant and Bar by sommelier Nick Hildebrandt and chef Brent Savage wants everyone to have a good time. If you’re not here for the full sit-down dining experience that’s A-OK. But to get the most out of this venue it’s worth ordering a full meal. You won’t regret a bite.
Time Out's ultimate guide to dining in the CBD, from high end Cantonese crab-houses to sleek European offerings. Some of the best Sydney restaurants are in the heart of the city.
Best Restaurants in Sydney CBD
Eating well in the centre of Sydney was once difficult. There was little middle-ground between typical food-court fare and expense-account steakhouses. But things have changed in recent years, thanks in part to Barangaroo’s burgeoning dining precinct, a financial district that’s upped its game, and an eruption of restaurants in place of late-night bars and clubs. Now, there’s plenty to choose from in the city centre.
A ritzy institution on the Customs House rooftop. The menu bounces between Indian and Italian flavours to create an altogether modern Australian vibe that spans surf, turf and vegan dishes. An appropriate focus on seafood works a treat, given the jaw-dropping views of Sydney Harbour. Book ahead for the window seats.
There’s 250 bottles of mainly low-intervention wine from Italy and Australia, and a rotating menu of pasta that changes daily.
Reviving French splendour in an old-fashioned setting.
Continental Deli, Bar and Bistro CBD
The follow up to Newtown’s distinctive tinned cocktail bar offers all the same thrills: cold cuts, cheese, canned goods, fine wine and stiff drinks.
Moody jazz, heavy wooden beams and a bank of barbeque ducks in the old Tank nightclub space. A modern Shanghai-style dumpling den from Dan Hong and Merivale.
A taste of Modern Vietnamese serving boozy coffee, crisp pancakes and rotisserie chicken.
Descend the stairs into a labyrinthine den of lush velvet booths, flowing booze and a menu that champions Black Angus rib eye.
Apart from sides, there’s only one thing on this menu: T-bone steaks, sold by weight.
The standard-setter for fine dining in Sydney. Executive chef Peter Gilmore is tireless in his pursuit of what’s interesting, new and Australian. His backyard is peppered with test plantations of rare vegetables, he works with local ceramicists on custom crockery and he’s a leading advocate for native produce. The restaurant’s theatrical tasting menus show off all this and more, bolstered by some of the city’s best harbour views.
Matt Moran’s fine-dining restaurant inside Barangaroo House.
Many of Sydney’s best restaurants are in the CBD these days. Now it’s worth hanging back after work – or even coming in on a weekend – for a great meal.