Quintessential SYD Restaurants for Entertaining with Great Food & Fantastic Views?
We are going to be in Sydney for only 3 days from 26-29 January 07(we're from Toronto, and in the restaurant business there) and we need to entertain one business couple each night we are there. We don't need the trendiest spots (*although that would be fine as well), but we need to have KILLER views and great food...doesn't need to be the most innovative, just very good. None of the couples we are entertaining have ever been to Sydney before. We have been given some "old standbys" by frequent visitors to SYD: Cafe Sydney, Harbour Kitchen in Bar (in the Hyatt)as well as Otto in Wooloomooloo. Overall, we are looking for a great Sydney experience that will be memorable. $$ not a real concern.
Anybody have some other (or better) suggestions?
Don't need any Asian food unless it's sensational as we are going to Bangkok & Singapore for a few weeks upon departure.
This is a challenge because there are so many:
Quay - great view of the Opera House/Bridge. Very fine food. One of Sydney's top restaurants.
Doyles (Circular Quay) - actually downstairs from Quay so the same view. But it is really a glorified fish and chip shop - OK if that is what you want (there are better). The best Doyles is actually at Watsons Bay (and be aware they have three here - a restaurant, the pub beer garden, and a take away) - if you want to push the boat out (no pun intended) catch a water taxi to get there it looks back down the harbour to the city and is in a nice quite bay (still a fish and chip shop though).
Aqua Dining - on the north side of the harbour so looks back towards the opera house under the bridge. Good food and a bit off the tourist track - locals tend to take their visitors there.
Guillaume at Bennelong - this is in the Opera House. It is actually the smaller "sail" nearest the city. Great views looking out (remember you are "in" the view), and an amazing room, with the soaring ceiling above you. Another one of Sydney's top restaurants and a personal favorite.
Icebergs Dining Room - this looks down Bondi Beach, it is a stunning modern restaurant perched on the cliff with good ocean views. Food is very good, and it is trendy.
Bathers Pavilion - this is out at Balmoral Beach (short/reasonable taxi ride from the city), housed in an old municipal beach changing room. Lots of character, right on a pretty, tree lined beach, looking out onto the harbour. Great food as well, a favorite of the well healed "lower north shore" crowd.
We used to love the "Harbour Kitchen & Bar" but I fear it has lost it's buzz and dropped standards in the kitchen. I also find "Cafe Sydney" is at best average for food, the view is OK, but it does attract a lot of office parties/weddings etc. "Otto's" on the wharf at Woolloomooloo is good if you get an outside table (but not a view of the OH and bridge - this is yachts and the botanic gardens), inside is nice as it is an old wharf but a very limited view.
Other ones to think about are "Catalina" and "Pier" (and "The Pier Tasting Room" - yet to visit, but one review compared to very favorably to "Atellier Joel Robuchon" in style and quality) all in Rose bay and on/over the water. You may also consider "Flying Fish" on Jones Bay Wharf which is atmospheric ,good food (but average view).
Two thoughts. First, go for variety - so choose a OH/Bridge view, then next night a ocean beach view, then the final night a harbour bay view (Guillamine or Quay, Icebergs, and Pier Tasting Room or Bathers Pavilion). Second, look them up on the web - many have web sites with pictures. Third - book - views at good restaurants are popular.
We took your advice and went to Quay on Saturday evening (the day after Australia Day). The food quality did not disappoint. The flavours and textures were wonderful, and the combinations were outstanding. Especially enjoyed the Duck, which was crispy and had subtle hints of ginger...wonderful.
One BIG criticism of Quay in particular, and Sydney restaurants in general: nowwhere in the world have we encountered less value for the money in fine dining restaurants as we have in Sydney.. The portion sizes at virtually all upscale Sydney restaurants (at least by North American standards) are shamefully small. At Quay, the line that was actually used with a straight face: "We carefully design our menu item sizes so that it will be possible for our guests to enjoy 3 or 4 of our wonderful items". Are you kidding...give us a break. At $40+ main course prices, $20+ for salads and the tiniest $22 chocolate cake in the universe, they could at least come up with a better line than that! Add to that, an average NZ Sauvigion Blanc (it costs $11 at a wine store in the US; $21 at a local Sydney Wine Shop and $68 at Quay) and you wonder why people often describe Sydney as the city with the least value for the dining out dollar anywhere...often topping London, which is hard to do.
While the service was pleasant, it was not up to the level of prices charged at Quay...maybe if tipping were encouraged rather than the exception to the rule, it seems (and mediocre waiters weren't paid $15/hr to go through the motions), diners would feel better about forking out $150 per person, and would not feel ripped-off DESPITE good quality food. Overall, Quay's food quality did not disappoint...nor did the view, which is excellent. Despite all of that, however, it's still disappointing to leave having felt like one's pockets were picked. I won't say I wouldn't recommend it for the food quality and view. As for the value? Very bottom of the list. A shame.
I have to say I am a bit suprised by this. Perhaps you are forgetting exchange rates?
For a meal for two, $300 Australian dollars is about typical at the top end for full 3-4 courses inc wine in Sydney. Tetsuyas full tasting menu and wine was about $500 last I went.
Take Paris for example - 600+ euros or $1000 for a top end meal. London £350+ or $900. New York - US$400+ or about $600.
In my experience in Paris and London food quality is about the same as Sydney with certain things done better in each place, granted, service is probably more attentive in Europe (it sounds like you had an uncharacterstically bad experience at Quay though) but rooms/fittings are of a similar quality. I am yet to eat anywhere in Paris or London that has a view like many of Sydneys top restaurants. Wine is overpriced in most fine restaurants all over the world, although I'm sure you would know better than me, I always understood that to be the way to cover the huge labour costs in preparing and serving the delicate meals that are expected in these kinds of restaurants?
I love going to Sydney to go out for dinner (inc at Quay), partly because I think I am getting such GREAT value.....!
I was also a little surprised by the "value" comment (especially as it was stated in the question: "$$ not a real concern").
OK I have had many larger, cheaper meals in North America but rarely any meals of the quality I find in Sydney. I agree with Lazo the cost of high quality meals in France, UK or elsewhere in Europe is far higher than Sydney. Some recent examples of Lunch for two (not more expensive dinner). Taillevent (Paris) $800; Le Clos de la Violette (Aix en Provence) $400; and Auberge d'ill (Alsace) $900. None of the meals had plates overloaded with food, however each was a succession of 5 or 5 course that built to a very filling meal.
Service in Australia is different from North America. I tend to find that you need to understand the service culture in each city and use that as the benchmark. I have just had a lunchtime drink at the Deux Maggots ($90 - how I miss the Opera Bar...!) in Paris and it was interesting to see tourists get irritated by the "off hand, arrogant, slow service". But as a local it was normal. It isn't really slow, simply relaxed. It isn't arrogant but simply the French professional standard. Once you slot into the groove of the place I find you get the most out of the service staff and you enjoy the experience - try and go against the flow and things often don't work, and I suspect service may get poorer. OK there is poor service everywhere, but you have to use the local benchmark, not your normal one from home.
If I go to a restaurant and there is something wrong with the dish I will send it back. However, if I think it is poor value for money I simply don't go back (and I tell my friends). Commenting about portion size (even if it can be done positively and politely) is likely to result in a deterioration of service rather than an extra portion of food...!
All good suggestions but I did not see Cadamus...
At Circular Quay. John Howard is often there. The last time I was there the waiter suggested we were at Denzel Washington's table. Great food and a combination view of the Oprah House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge that is remarkable. Bring money!