Food / Wellbeing

Here’s our (non-exhaustive) list of actually cool restaurants in Sydney

Here's our (non-exhaustive) list of the coolest restaurants in Sydney

Cool is such a subjective term. And everyone will boast that they are ahead of the curve when it comes to if-you-know-you-know spots for wining and dining in Sydney. A hole-in-the-wall dinner spot in the backwaters of industrial Marrickville. A vape-shop-turned-one-man-Thai-restaurant in Darlinghurst. Whatever the elevator pitch might be, there are a few key factors (in our humble opinion, anyway) that take a dining spot from average to being actually cool.

Good food is an obvious first port of call. You can have all the vibes in the world, but if the food isn't punching, we probably won't be returning. A killer lineup of cocktails, wines or other boozy accoutrements are a must – bonus points if they do a great happy hour special. As any sane person will attest – good lighting is key to a vibe. No one wants to feel like they're sitting under the unflattering light of a hospital waiting room on a dinner date. And of course, last but not least, the place has got to have a VIBE. The energy must be there. That intangible, ephemeral stuff that makes a place special – a combination of soundtrack, decor, buzz and fun.

With all this in mind, the RUSSH team have rounded up a non-exhaustive and definitely-not-definitive list of some of the coolest restaurants we like to frequent in Sydney. Sure, some of these aren't well-kept secrets – but that's not part of our criteria, now is it? Check out our curated pickings below.


1. Pellegrino 2000 (Surry Hills)


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Best for: Neon lights, negronis before dinner, ravioli di gamberi.

Open: Daily

This Surry Hills neighbourhood trattoria isn't bound to tradition, despite its appearances: walls lined with imported tins of tomatoes, packets of pasta, and bottles of olive oil. Instead, they're dishing up Italian fare with their own signature spin – and while you'll find plenty of classics on the menu, we'd suggest daring to try some of their more contemporary dishes (like their trippa fritta crumbed in Japanese Sichuan pepper, or their prawn ravioli). Upon arrival, a red, neon-lit '2000' sign ushers you downstairs into a moody seated cellar, while upstairs you're greeted by a window-lit indoor-outdoor dining area. The place has been a hit pretty much since its inception back in 2022 – it sold out of its branded tote bag online before even opening – but we think now that it's been anointed by a certain blonde pop star, you'll probably want to double-down on making your next booking.


2. Ursula's (Paddington)


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Best for: Birthday parties, photo opps, Tommy's Margaritas.

Open: Tuesday–Saturday

If you have something special to celebrate – a birthday, an anniversary, a new job or finally quitting your old one – then Ursula's is your place. The two-storey corner terrace in Paddington has been gorgeously renovated by Melbourne-based interior designer Brahman Perera into a rich and romantic dining room, complete with sculptural lamps by Clementine Maconachie, caramel-toned walls and Perera's own oversized handmade plaster pendants. While they tout themselves as modern Australian, the space does have a distinctly Parisian feel to it – and since its opening back in late 2021, diners have flocked to get their hands on some of the Ursula's signatures: Moreton Bay bug pasta, Ursula's negronis (though we here at RUSSH think they do an excellent Tommy's margarita too), brioche buns and of course, who could go past a strawberries-and-champagne-cream dessert? Not us.


3. Cafe Freda's (Darlinghurst)


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Best for: Aperitivos, disco dancing, happy hours, people watching.

Open: Wednesday–Sunday

It's an open secret that Cafe Freda's is one of Sydney's most energetic venues for an aperitivo cocktail hour, tasty bar snacks, and some good old fashioned people-watching at Taylor's Square. Soundtracked by a lineup of disc jockeys with wildly entertaining DJ names (we see you, DJ Dior Saddle Bag), and adorned in a rotating roster of local artwork, it's hard not to pick up on the good vibrations of this joint.

Sundays at Cafe Freda's usually entails a unique kitchen takeover from local restaurants, wineries and chefs, and through the week, they offer nightly specials like their Wednesday $30 wine and pasta deal.


4. 10 William St (Paddington)


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Best for: Carb-loading, after work wines, cosy dinners.

Open: Monday–Saturday

10 William St is a bit of an institution amongst foodies in Sydney, not least for its cosy hole-in-the-wall locale, tucked into the terrace houses that line Paddington's William Street. Sneak in after work for a quiet wine (from a delicious selection), but the real kicker here is the food. Sure, they're famous for their home-baked pretzels with whipped bottarga, but they might also have some of the best focaccia we've ever eaten outside of Melbourne's Hope St Radio (pillowy soft, but with a salty, crusty top). You really can't go wrong on the menu here (they even have GF options for those wheat-averse), and the energy is simply buzzing six nights a week.

Focussing on a small and considered menu of seasonal dishes, you'll nearly always get the chance to try something inspiringly new and delicious with each visit.


5. Calita Mexican (Bondi)


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Best for: Post-beach feeds, lazy lunchtime margaritas, window seats with a view.

Open: Wednesday–Sunday

This pint-sized (26-seater) mezcal bar and taqueria is located on the foreshore of Bondi Beach, serving up bright and airy European interiors, and a small, seasonal menu of seafood-focused house-made tacos, ultra-fresh oysters, and cocktails that hero their selection of small-batch, boutique mezcal bottles on display behind the bar. They're closed over winter, so it's best to maximise the summer season by drawing up a window seat at one of their cosy, communal tables.


6. Joe's Table (Darlinghurst)


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Best for: Avoiding pretentiousness, BYO booze, food made with love.

Open: Wednesday–Sunday

He's just Joe. Front of house, waiter, dishwasher, head chef: it's all him – a one-man show (kind of). Joe Kitsana recently upgraded his beloved 20-seater restaurant to one that's double the capacity on the corner of Bourke and William streets in Darlinghurst. The joint is BYO-friendly, serving up a mixture of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine with an unmistakeable charm to it (we'd highly recommend the dumplings as an entrée). Probably the reason why it – and Joe – have become such a beloved favourite. Joe's Table does have a small selection of wines is available, or BYO is available at $4.50 a person. He'll even chill your vino in the fridge for you.


7. Bar Copains (Surry Hills)


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Best for: Small plates, sunshine sessions, natural wines, Vitamin D.

Open: Monday–Sunday

Nestled into a suburban street of Surry Hills, Bar Copains is a small, trendy oasis of flowing wine and gorgeously plated roasted carrots and baby wild weed pies. There's tables inside for when the weather's not up to scratch, but we'd recommend finding a spot street-side under the greenery of the towering adjacent tree in the late afternoon. Bar Copains is pretty much the epitome of 'Friendly Neighbourhood Wine Bar' energy – perfect for a spot of alfresco wining, dining and Vitamin D every day of the week.


8. Baba's Place (Marrickville)


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Best for: Kitsch interiors, Eastern-European-Grandma-Core, garage parties.

Open: Thursday–Sunday

The unique experience of Baba's Place is probably Sydney dining's worst kept secret. It's where all the cool cats seem to spend a Saturday night, but it's existence is already hot on everyone's lips. When they're not throwing parties with adidas originals, or throwing impromptu BBQs pitch-side at a rugby league game, they're whipping up self-proclaimed 'suburban cuisine' that your own Baba would be proud of. They've decked out their back-streets industrial warehouse dining space with a capsule of furnishings and tablewares that feel like they were ripped straight from your Eastern European grandma's home; plastic-covered tablecloths and mismatched cutlery to boot.


9. Malay Chinese Takeaway (CBD and Ashfield)


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Best for: Laksa, Malay-Chinese greatest hits, queueing.

Open: Monday–Friday

It's already lived at multiple addresses since opening their doors in 1987, but Malay Chinese Takeaway in the city's centre is legendary for good reason. If you can bear the queueing during its hectic lunchtime rush, you'll be treated to some of the city's best laksa and har mee noodle dishes – and for a great price. But don't just take our word for it – they've won countless awards from Good Food Guide to Delicious 100 for their famed bowls. Well worth the wait in our opinion.


10. Continental Deli (Newtown)

Best for: Big bistro energy, mood lighting, tinned fish fanatics.

Open: Daily

Newtown is home to a lot of quote-unquote 'cool' dining spots, but Continental Deli is a standout for us. This two-level European deli-and-bistro inspired joint has a warm and inviting energy that makes you feel right at home, whether nestled upstairs in their cosy dining room, or parked out front, canned "Mar-tinny" in hand. Their selection of sandwiches, charcuterie, imported tinned fish and pastry desserts are delicious without being pretentious – transporting you to the streets of Paris and Rome with every mouthful.


11. Ms. G's (Potts Point)


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Best for: Saturday nights, silly little cocktails, dancing in your chair.

Open: Tuesday–Sunday

Ms. G's in Potts Point is a what we like to think of as a party starter venue – complete with neon lights and an in-house DJ, the vibe is always high here and great for starting a big night on the town with a delicious feed. You can really pick your poison here – a round of house-made paddle shots for the table? A simple glass of red? Either way, they'll compliment an evening spent tucking into an array of Asian-fusion style dishes that include items like their 'Strange Flavour Burrata' and 'Smoked Pork Kombu Fried Rice'.


12. Funkatello (Darlinghurst)


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Best for: Cheap feeds, homey interiors, FREE bread.

Open: Tuesday–Saturday

No frills, just free bread. And two – yes, you read that right, TWO – happy hours. You really couldn't ask for more from a restaurant. Funkatello, nestled into a terrace house in the Stanley Street precinct of Darlinghurst might be unassuming, but it's so easy to love, it's fast become one of the area's most popular, fun and funky spots (as the name might imply). You might struggle to get a walk-in table there on a weekend, so we'd suggest to book ahead, but otherwise the vibe – and bill – is about as relaxed and easy as it gets. Grab your party a couple of carafes of wine, a burrata or two – and maybe even treat yourself to a plate of their rich Polpette Al Sugo.


13. Love, Tilly Divine (Darlinghurst)


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Best for: Secret bars, milk crate stools, laneway wines.

Open: Monday–Saturday

Hidden down a back alley of Darlinghurst, Love, Tilly Divine is the neighbourhood sweetheart bar that you'll find yourself coming back to time and again for your mid-week happy hour fix and the friendly staff. Their $10 mini martinis and negronis go down a real treat from 5–6pm, especially when pared with some of their signature small plates, like french onion dip, curbside Dutch carrots or their "Tilly Dog", which is basically what you've always dreamt your humble sausage in white bread could taste like, but never dared to dream could be real.


14. Bistrot 916 (Potts Point)


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Best for: Neo-bistros, seafood-centric menus, last hurrahs

Open: Every day

One of the dining scene's most celebrated venues is Pott's Point's Bistrot 916. Since it's opening in 2021, it's been considered one of eastern Sydney's trendiest restaurants – always with a buzz but never too hard to find a booking last minute. It's simple, seafood-centric menu of French bistro classics like steak au poivre, boudin noir and duck frites is about the reinvention of new-wave Parisian cool – along with its exacting wine list and an interior that is just as effortlessly sultry. Flamingo pink table cloths and a vinyl-backed bar set the tone for an elegant evening, but sadly this joint is slated to close later this year. But if you're not able to book a table before their demise – be warmed by the fact that they are looking to be reborn elsewhere after closing.


15. Pizza Oltra (Haymarket)


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Best for: Late night slices, American-Italian, burning the candle from both ends

Open: Tuesday – Saturday

Pizza Oltra may have evaded your list of the coolest, trendiest, most fun restaurants in Sydney so far – but only because it's a little out of eye line. A hidden late-night Pizza bar tucked away in the archways of Central Station in Haymarket. While their locale remains somewhat temporary, their popularity hasn't waned – evolving from a bootleg pizza pop-up out of Marrickville's Poor Toms gin hall to now being a licensed (albeit still pop-up) pizza restaurant and bar. Their wood-fired menu of classic rounds (bigger than your average at 16-inches) lean more towards American sensibilities than traditional Italian, and if you're looking flexibility, you can grab single slices to eat in or take away too. Of course there's an expert cocktail list (featuring a lineup of Poor Toms, of course), Grifter Brewing Co beers and a selection of local and natural wines to wash it all down.


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