Birthday Dinner MUST TRY in Sydney!
Yeah, avoid Rockpool. My tips for a quintessential Sydney restaurant that won't break the wallet:
* Sean's Panaroma
* North Bondi Italian Food
* Cafe Sydney
* Billy Kwong
* Pilu at Freshwater
They each have their pros and cons. Sean's Panaroma is still the place I take visitors if I want to show them Sydney at its best - really delicious, well cooked food by Bondi Beach (no view though) in a casual, relaxed setting. It's fairly pricey, but by no means at the Rockpool level. Mains are about $36-$40. And from memory I think you can BYO, but the corkage fee is high.
Longrain still defines Sydney better than any other restaurant - glamorous, flash, pan-Asian influences. It's a communal table and you can't book ahead, but there's a great bar you can drink at while waiting for a table (which you will almost certainly have to).
North Bondi Italian Food also doesn't take bookings, and will also make you wait for a while in their bar. On a sunny day, the views over Bondi Beach and brilliant, but note - only a few tables actually get the view. My tip is to get there about 6pm and bags one of the beachside tables before anyone else does. The food's pretty good and it's always a swinging (noisy) atmosphere.
Cafe Sydney is the best bet for views of the Harbour Bridge. It's a very stylish, attractive restaurant, and not all the dishes always work. And at $39 a main it's possibly a bit overpriced. But you're paying for the view and the theatrical atmosphere which is pretty special. Of all the suggestions on this list, it's probably the most touristy too. But many locals go there as well.
Billy Kwong is absolutely brilliant and delicious. Possibly my favourite restaurant in Syd in terms of food. It's a cosy shoebox Asian restaurant in Surry Hills, where the diners are crammed in on tiny chairs but - again - they don't take bookings. And a queue of competing diners usually starts each night from 5.30pm. You're best bet is to get there early on a Mon-Wed. If they're already full, they'll take you're number and send you to the pub across the road and ring you when a table comes up. It's worth the wait. Maybe not for the birthday dinner, but you should definitely try to get there while you're in Syd.
Finally, Pilu at Freshwater is a really beautiful restaurant outside of the city on the northern beaches. You'll have a table looking out over the waves of Freshwater beach, and dine on fantastic Italian food. It's much less manic and hip than North Bondi Italian Food. Great for a special occasion, but the catch is - it would be a $40 cab fare getting there from the city. Maybe you could get the ferry to Manly, then just get a cab the rest of the way. And then cab it home of course. Certainly worth checking out.
Hope you find something nice!
We've only tried Rockpool once. The food was good, but not mindblowing (the mindblowing bit was the bill).
We like The Wharf in The Rocks area - very reasonably priced for what it is: great food, great views of the harbour and the Harbour Bridge. Tim Pak Poy, formerly of Claudes in Woolahra, is one of the owners. Mains around $35.
The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay is a bit more expensive (mains $35 - $45), but dependably beutifully cooked, beautifully presented fish. The oyster menu, which varies by what is in season, is amazing. Not to be missed if you are a fan of those wobbly bivalve mollusks.
My apologies. I guess not too expensive, but very Sydney? I was looking at all of the nicer restaurants like Rockpool, etc, but my fiance doesn't want to spend that much. We're huge foodies and I'm armed with everything from this board. I just didn't know how to narrow my choice to 1!