Ted Sealey
Nicholas Fonseca
August 19, 2014

Australia is a food lover’s delight. Long gone are the days when dine-‘n-dash pub meals and the country’s British heritage informed what came out of many of its restaurants’ kitchens. Thanks to Oz’s increasingly large immigrant population, the flavors of nearby Asia and the far-off Mediterranean have become staples of most residents’ diets. But beyond that, a willingness to experiment, the country’s temperate climate, and the surrounding oceans have resulted in ‘Modern Australian’ cuisine, a somewhat vague catch-all term that can be summed up as follows: fresh, wholesome ingredients; beautiful seafood; succulent meats and a zesty attitude that pops on the plate. Sydney, in particular, is home to long-established fine-dining halls; pubs that have taken interesting chances with their menus; and a scene that’s always welcoming ambitious newcomers. These are five of its most recent winners—spots where you are all but guaranteed to have a memorable meal, and perhaps even a good story to tell. Read on for some of the hottest tables in Sydney in 2014.

Pinbone

This Woollahra newcomer has a playful side, and it starts at the wine list, where bottles are categorized as “pouring wines,” “fizzy shit,” and “big shit.” The menu is just as cheeky—pork and pineapple, broccoli steak, and duck hearts are all available for adventurous foodies who want an experience to remember.

Sagra

This laid-back joint is located in Darlinghurst on Stanley Street, long the city’s epicentre of Italian eating. The menu at this impressive seasonal restaurant changes daily and includes such dishes as pumpkin ravioli with sage butter and hazelnuts and leg of lamb with baked barlotti beans and salsa agresto. 

Rockpool

The enduring standard bearer of fine dining in Sydney relaunched in 2014 to huge praise. The term “Modern Australian” can seem elusive to outsiders, but here it all makes perfect sense: the prix-fixe menus (warning: they’re pricey) feature an impressive range of options, such as charcoal-grilled prawn with shiso and nam prik sauce; a dolled-up serving of Aphrodite haloumi (a squeaky, salty Cypriot cheese); and the restaurant’s signature petit four, its house-made date tart.

Moon Park

The surroundings are spare, perhaps to keep your focus on the food—wildly inventive take on Korean dishes. Its bimbimbap, fried chicken, and bulgogi have impressed wary diners and serious foodies since its opening in the once-sketchy suburb of Redfern. Ask for a table on the balcony in warmer summer months.

Ester

The long-overlooked suburb of Chippendale, which lies just to the south of Sydney’s central business district, is now a hot spot thanks to a huge new apartment complex (Central Park) and a raft of openings. Much of the menu is cooked in a wood-fired oven, giving dishes an irresistible smoky flavor. Try the cauliflower with almond and mint, or be adventurous and order the kangaroo tartare with fried egg sauce.

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