Our 23 favourite Sydney restaurants, bars and cafes of 2016

Why 23? Are you turning into Buzzfeed with your arbitrary numbers based on how much you can be bothered googling and presenting to your readers as some kind of faux-authoritative listicle they’ll share with their friends and be like “omgod dis so me fo’ real, fam. Sc-uhhh-reaming!”? Well, not quite. There has been too many great openings in Sydney as of late, so we had to stretch the below list from the originally planned 20 to 23 because it was just too damn hard to leave even one of these out.

2016 was a year of great change for Sydney’s hospitality scene, and in the face of the soul-destroying, tourism-money-depleting, nonsensical and impractical lockout laws some of the city’s most inventive chefs, bartenders and hospitality figures set out to give us fresh, exciting places to drink and dine. Before we move further in 2017 we thought we better take a look back at some of our favourites who are doing what the government should be doing and actually keeping this city as a hip and happening city tourists actually want to come to.

After a few re-visits and much thought here are our favourite food and drink openings of 2016, in no particular order.

Restaurant Hubert

Source: Jugernauts

There’s not much that can be said about Restaurant Hubert that hasn’t already been shouted from the rooftops. It’s the biggest success story coming out of Sydney’s dynamic dining scene in 2016; the restaurants enormous and rapid rise to the top is justified as well, you’ll agree as soon as you walk off Bligh street and descend into opulent old-world French luxury. The immediately comforting atmosphere is stunning, drawing on all these beautiful little details for something unlike anything else in Sydney – or even Australia for that matter. The food and wine also keeps up to this high standard, and as your table tucks into a full duck or whatever version of their crispy tart they have on the menu with a big glass of red in hand you’ll certainly agree that the hype is real. Even if you’re just popping down for a casual sessions at their adjoining bar, satisfaction is guaranteed.

15 Bligh St, Sydney
(02) 9232 0881
restauranthubert.com

Sugarcane Coogee

Owner and chef Milan Strbac announced that he was expanding his beloved Sugarcane to Coogee last year, immediately perking interest from fans of the beloved Surry Hills mod-Asian eatery. He’d already seen success earlier with co-owner Griff Pamment and neon-lit chicken shop Juicy Lucy, so it felt right for him to realise the seachange and take the fusion favourite beachside. The result is stunning, a sightly beach hut-style restaurant which sits to the very right of Coogee’s golden sands. The menu is very much what made Sugarcane such a hit in the first place, but with obvious twists to suit the new location, juggling fresh and flavoursome seafood with homely Malaysian dishes like the exceptional Wagyu Rendang and the fluffy Roti. Just don’t forget the incredible Fried Eggs with a thick layer of slightly tangy sambal balado.

You can check our full write-up on Sugarcane Coogee HERE.

1/56 Carr St, Coogee
(02) 8313 9790
sugarcanerestaurant.com.au

The Dolphin Hotel

Source: The Dolphin Hotel

Executive Chef Monty Koludrovic is bringing fantastic Italian fare to Surry Hills’ refurbished The Dolphin. The pappardelle bolognese is life-giving and the pizza is made with dough that’s fermented for 48 hours. It’s all about simplicity and quality. The pizzas champion fresh and artisan ingredients: Olssons salt, ALTO extra virgin olive oil, sustainably grown tomatoes, and Vannella cheese. A fast favourite is the Sorbello, a garlicky pizza with Sorbello family tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. Finish off with a creamy tiramisu with Zokoko chocolate. You just can’t go wrong here.

412 Crown St, Surry Hills
(02) 9331 4800
dolphinhotel.com.au

Bar Brose

Source: Luchetti Krelle

The pasta at Bar Brose is incredible, but even more tempting are the snacks. Whether it’s a late night sandwich (cheese, nduja, and pineapple-glazed leg ham), a Comte gougere, or a cheese platter, all snacks bring flavour to the table. If you’re into desserts that play on sweet and savoury, give the crisp potato, brown butter mousse and salted caramel a go. It’s crunchy, sweet, salty and most importantly very delicious. Analiese Gregory has crafted a fine menu that’s excellent for sharing and even better when paired with one of the awesome cocktails.

231a Victoria St, Darlinghurst
0450 307 117
barbrose.com.au

Big Poppa’s

Source: australianbartender.com.au

There’s a cool vibe upon entering Big Poppa’s on Oxford Street. As you can tell from the name, hip hop is playing to get you in the mood for great pasta and the superb selection of cheese. The flavoursome pappardelle with lamb shoulder ragu gets a good grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table. But it’s the cheese menu that makes Big Poppa’s extra special. Head down the stairs to get settled into booths in the lower bar.

96 Oxford St, Darlinghurst
0499 052 201
bigpoppa.com.au

Saint Peter

Source: samanthawxlow.com

Saint Peter is fast climbing up the ranks as the go-to seafood spot in the Paddington locale. With Joshua Niland at the helm, the restaurant boasts incredible brunch and dinner menus that change according to the best daily locally sourced seafood. Stellar hits from brunch include the Marron Scrambled Eggs and the ever-so sightly Eden Sea Urchin Crumpet. For dinner, Niland and team stay truer to classic seafood + sides such as the John Dory with Heritage Tomatoes and a Roast Pearl Perch with Saltbush and Macadamia. The crispy, deep-fried School Prawns will most definitely be your best friend but above all, do not go past the incredibly smooth Lemon Tart. The exciting addition to Paddington is modern and upscale while still maintaining an honest approach to seafood the way your local fish and chip shop does it.

362 Oxford St, Paddington
(02) 8937 2530
saintpeter.com.au

Kittyhawk

There’s a reason this is all kinds of busy just about every weekend. This dimly lit homage to France’s liberation is from the same team behind the epic Lobo Plantation and is now sitting comfortably as one of the best bars in the city. On any given day you’ll find social drinkers lounging in the plush seated area which looks like it was ripped straight from a bygone era, separated from the jovial and highly attractive bar where pro bartenders regularly mix up both fun and gravely serious concoctions. The food ain’t bad either, in fact it’s some of the best bar food in Sydney, with buttery French flavours and hearty warmth to keep your palates busy between drinks.

Check out our full write-up of Kittyhawk HERE.

16 Phillip Ln, Sydney
0437 233 009
thekittyhawk.com.au

Barzaari

Marrickville locals are still celebrating this victory. Ex-quay chef Darryl Martin mans the kitchen at this very distinctive Middle Eastern restaurant which looks to Cyprus as its main source of inspiration. The servings here are unbelievable considering the price, reflecting the generosity of the famed region and then some. It’s not all about the size though, many of these inventive dishes come packed with flavour, beautifully balanced and carefully presented as if this was a fine-dining standard wrapped in an exceedingly casual and unpretentious vibe. It looks like a small neighbourhood cafe, but make no mistake about it, this is one of the best new restaurants in Sydney – if not the best.

You can check out our full write-up on Barzaari HERE.

65 Addison Rd, Marrickville
(02) 9569 3161
barzaari.com.au

BL Burgers

What started out as a genuinely creative burger shop run out of a typical pub has turned into a mini empire of highly sought after burger supremacy. Last year Circular Quay’s highly regarded Bar Luca, the home of the Blame Canada burger, channeled their popularity into two more streamlined venues that functioned as dedicated burger shops, going by the name of Bl Burgers. It was an instant hit of course, first popping up on Oxford Street with queues around the block and then showing some love to Bondi Beach locals. Now it’s one of the most well-established and well-known burger joints in the country, regularly popping out eye-opening weekly specials and their infinitely loved signatures.

1/151 Oxford St, Darlinghurst
(02) 9357 4527
blburgers.com.au

Fred’s + Charlie Parker’s

Merivale had a strong year in 2016, opening a dizzying amount of new venues and even stamping their presence outside of their traditional stomping grounds. Paddington benefited from a few of these, but it’s the lovely approach at Fred’s which sticks out. Couple that with the adjoining jazzy cocktail bar, Charlie Parker’s, and you’ve got a double-venue that truly represents progress in the hospitality group. The kitchen at Fred’s is led by Danielle Alvarez who has a beautiful approach to soulful, sustainable food and wine that results in fantastic dishes like Wild Kingfish Crudo with smoked trout roe, radish, cucumbers, and chives, and the Moorlands Lamb with summer herbs, crumbed eggplant, charred capsicum. Food aside, we could spent all day here just to soak in the homely atmosphere and never want to leave.

380 Oxford St, Paddington
(02) 9240 3000
merivale.com.au

Juicy Lucy

There’s a reason Juicy Lucy is one of the most popular options on Uber Eats in Sydney. The taste and size of their burgers is one thing, but the consistency is among the best in the city as well. They do up a fiery homage to the classic chicken shops one would often find on the corner store in just about every Sydney suburb, blending this with their love of Asian spices to make for some very unique rotisserie and fried chicken. This tiny shop feels like something inner-Sydney has been missing for years, and now that it’s here it’s hard to imagine the otherwise same-same strip of Elizabeth Street without that neon-popped chicken sign.

You can check out our full write-up on Juicy Lucy HERE.

232A Elizabeth St, Surry Hills
(02) 8540 8726
facebook.com/juicylucychicken

Osaka Trading Co.

Out of all precincts that opened last year our favourite is most definitely Tramsheds. How could it not be? It’s an architectural marvel on the outside with the space inside gutted and turned into a European food hall that’s large enough to house all these incredible restaurants and bars, yet small and intimate with a neighbourhood vibe. The self-contained food scene does have it’s stand-outs though, one of them being contemporary Japanese restaurant Osaka Trading Co, from the same team behind Surry Hills favourite Tokyo Bird. Diving into their fresh raw menu is a treat, but one of the most memorable dishes on the menu is the Grilled Hokkaido Scallops clinging softly to their shells, swimming in a sweet soy onion butter that’s incredibly full-flavoured. It helps that they have a respectable stock of Japanese whiskys too.

Shop 18, Tramsheds Harold Park, 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge
(02) 8880 0717
osakatrading.com.au

Burrow Bar

Source: Small Barfly

A speakeasy that’s actually hidden? Woah. Wrap around what seems like an ordinary driveway for delivery trucks and you (might) find your way into Burrow Bar. It’s a long stretch of clandestine charm with some of the friendliest and most personable bar staff around. Their approach to cocktail making is artful and considered, focusing on doing only a few things each week but doing them incredibly well. The energy is kinetic too, with the menu changing constantly while fan favourites linger for a bit longer before disappearing into what is already a rich history of stunning concoctions and good times.

De Mestre Pl, Sydney
0450 466 674
burrowbar.com.au

Ume Burger

Plenty of people were waiting patiently for Kerby Craig to open a permanent spot for his feverishly popular, queue-heavy Japanese inspired burgers and with Barangaroo needing a dedicated burger shop the time was right. In addition to reopening his famed hatted restaurant as Bar Ume in Surry Hills – offering more than just burgers – Ume Burger was born, an open-air shop right next to the equally popular Belles Hot Chicken on the harbourside Wulugul Walk. Not only is he doing the most unique burgers in town, but some of the best and most consistent. Grab a Fish Katsu Burger with some Koji Fried Chicken on the side and you’re set.

Wulugul Walk, Barangaroo NSW 2000
umeburger.com/barangaroo/

Thirsty Bird

Source: Jugernauts

Chicken more than made a comeback in 2016. Next to beef burgers, the poultry – usually of the fried variety – damn near dominated, so much so that we ended up with festivals dedicated to the bird and the many businesses who serve them so well. Thirsty Bird is most definitely on that list. The fried chicken shop from the team behind Mr Crackles set up on Bayswater Road just over a year ago and have since been going mighty strong with their straight-forward, honest and incredibly tasty chicken sandwiches. It’s now one of the best things to eat in Kings Cross.

3/2-14 Bayswater Rd, Potts Point
(02) 8937 4672
thirstybird.com.au

Superior Burger

When you name your new burger shop Superior Burger you better have the goods to back it up. One of Sydney’s best known burger chefs, Jovan Curic (or Pub Life Kitchen) opened this one in the unexpected location of Wakeley, paying tribute to classic tuck shops with a few modern twists and staying dedicated to the most essential part of any burger: the meat. Jovan has ensured consistency and complete control over the flavour of his burgers by putting the focus on naturally raised pasture fed beef with complete produce traceability. The patties are hand-made daily and their unique salt aging process allows each patty to bring maximum flavour to the burger. Even the chickens are treated with the same care, as the fried chicken and chicken burger only uses hormone free and chemical free poultry. Does it make much of a difference? Take a bite and you’ll know the answer is a resounding “fuck yeah it does”. That neon “Best Burgers in the West” that hangs over diners ain’t lying.

You can check our full write-up of Superior Burger HERE.

Shop 5/30 Bulls Rd, Wakeley
superiorburger.com

Dust

Dust are one of the only – maybe even the only – bakery in Sydney that goes through the time and effort to stone mill their own flour. What says dedication more than importing a huge stone mill and sitting it in plain view of the public behind all-glass windows so they can watch each morning as the magic is made? Getting up at ungodly hours and paying homage to the bread making process each morning is what this team does, and they really do make a difference. The bread here is exceptional, and gentle – you won’t feel bloated or full after tearing into these beautiful pastries, loaves, and pizza – so much so that you might even re-evaluate what you thought about the carb-loaded essential all along. Do yourself a favour and get down early enough before their breakfast pizza is all sold out or head along to one of their appreciation classes which provide great insight into just why how your bread is made matters so much.

1 Dalgal way, Forest Lodge
(02) 9660 4529
dustbakery.com

Anason

Grab some Sesame Ring Simit breads, the Atom dip (which is mild marash chillies, burnt butter, and strained yoghurt), and the exceptional Cured Salmon Pastirma and you’ll already feel satisfied. Those are just some of the starting dishes at Anason, the harbourside Turkish restaurant that feels like something this side of Sydney has needed for a very long time. It was the first official restaurant at the Barangaroo precinct and, despite all the fantastic openings there this year, is still our favourite. Disagree? You obviously haven’t tried Chef Somer Sivrioglu‘s Calamarmi Dolma or his incredible King Prawns with webs of kashar cheese yet.

You can check up our full write-up of Anason HERE.

5/23, Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
(02) 9188 1581
anason.com.au

Nour

Nour is a salmon-pink ray of sunshine for Surry Hills. Contemporary Lebanese ain’t nothing new, but what the kitchen here is doing is unlike anything in Sydney right now. It’s unexpected, enormous, romantic and always interesting. It also sports what is perhaps the second best interior of 2016 (nothing can beat Hubert’s old-world glam), with a rose gold glow that bounces off those luscious pink walls while diners tuck into the likes of Camel Sambusak, Lamb Shoulder, and Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake.

You can check out our full write-up of Nour HERE.

3/490 Crown St, Surry Hills
(02) 9331 3413
noursydney.com

Lucky Suzie

Zachary Tan helped make Devon Cafe one of the most deservedly popular brekky-and-brunch spots in Sydney, so it’s no surprise that the food at his Darlinghurst bar-diner Lucky Suzie is well up to scratch. Instead of Asian-Aussie fusion, it’s traditional Malaysian with a few contemporary twists, both in food and drink. The cocktails are creative and focus on unique flavours while the food menu is full of curries, meats, seafood and fusion dishes like the Squid Ink Pasta with mentaiko, scallops, nori and shiso, or the Korean Style Wagyu Rump with kim chi and lettuce cups. The loving neighbourhood vibe certainly helps as well – now if only those tables were big enough to fit entire spreads of food and drink.

78 Stanley St, Darlinghurst
(02) 7901 0396
luckysuzie.com.au

Guilty

If you consider yourself a burger enthusiast and don’t know Jimmy’s Burgers then you just ain’t livin’ right. Jimmy Hurlston is the pre-eminent burger expert in Australia, he even wrote the book on it, literally. If you think all that knowledge, from fast-food to upscale burgers, is ultimately a waste then you haven’t been to his open-air Darlinghurst diner Guilty. Not only does he do one of the most flawless and simple cheesburgers the city has ever seen – you know, ones you can actually hold – but he and his team also whip up some damn indulgent American food – like tater tots and hotdogs. Chalk this one up as a win for Sydney of the same ilk as his grand multi-level Melbourne joint Easey’s.

248 Palmer St, Darlinghurst
facebook.com/GUILTYSYDNEY

Bouche on Bridge

Ex-Rockpool chef Harry Stockdale-Powell has set up a lavish restaurant-bar that screams fine-dining but operates without the air of pretentiousness. Instead, Bouche on Bridge is an endearing mix of casual elegance with a menu that pays homage to produce from the land, the sea, and the farm. I’m a bit sad they’ve taken their exceptional Beef Cheek Hot Pot off the menu (here’s to hoping it makes a return sometime this year) but just about everything here is delicious and obviously handled with care. The cocktails are fresh and inventive as well, kept simple but with top quality ingredients – served both in the restaurant and downstairs at the much darker, sexier subterranean bar.

You can check out our full write-up on Bouche on Bridge HERE.

6 Bridge St, Sydney
(02) 8278 9400
boucheonbridge.com

PS40

Source: sydney.com

They make their own sodas and they’re some of the best bartenders in town. PS40 is a godsend for Sydney’s discerning bar culture, taking place in a subterranean but well-lit, futuristic space filled with unusual cocktails and playful flavours thanks to sodas made from local, native produce. It’s a place for the adventurous drinker and one who appreciates getting a little bit experimental, pushing away from the classics with a serious house-made approach that was all borne out of the team’s in-demand PS Soda line and need to have complete control over the flavour of their cocktails.

2/40 King St, Sydney
ps-soda.com

Words by Chris Singh, Samantha Low and Sarah Han.

Feature image: Sugarcane Coogee.