Bigger isn’t always better – just look at the locals clamouring to get into Sydney’s hole-in-the-wall eateries day after day. They may be humble in size, but what ends up on your plate is anything but. From grab-and-go eats to fancy fare, the smallest of spaces are making a big impression. At some cafes, restaurants and bars, it’s standing room only; at others, if you’re lucky, you’ll score a coveted seat.
When it comes to pint-sized spots, these are Sydney’s best.
The Shop and Wine Bar
In Bondi, this much-local haunt can fit around twenty people – and that’s with half spilling onto the footpath. During the day, The Shop churns out coffees and hearty, wholesome meals using ingredients made from scratch (like relishes and mayo) or sourced locally. Come night time, it turns into a small bar. Happy hour runs from 4-6pm every day.
78 Curlewis Street, Bondi
If Marrickville Pork Roll had a mantra, it would be: do one thing, and do it well. In their case: banh mi. On any given day, this tiny takeaway counter has a queue of people wrapped around the block waiting for a crusty Vietnamese roll crammed with pork strips, pate, fresh and pickled veggies, mayo and housemade sauce.
236A Illawarra Road, Marrickville
Tucked in a tiny alcove behind the Louis Vuitton store in the city, Joe Black X is as cosy as it gets. The coffee shop is takeaway-only, with everything except the desserts made to order. The menu is scrawled on butcher’s paper, and features breakfast paninis and a housemade maple and cinnamon muesli. At midday, roast chicken salads and sandwiches take over.
70 King Street, Sydney
For plump, juicy dumplings and ice-cold beer, go to Happy D’s in Redfern. The narrow space is kitschy, with a sound system blasting 60s and 70s disco, and a faux fish tank that stretches the length of the bar. There are usually nine different dumplings on offer (like prawn and mixed mushroom), and a DJ takes over the decks on Saturday nights.
169 Regent Street, Redfern
On Kirribilli wharf, this ferry-station-turned-café doesn’t have walls; it has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the harbour. Inside, it’s quaint and rustic, and diners nearly knock elbows digging into the all-day brunch menu. Celsius’ spin on eggs benedict is a must-try, with poached eggs, braised lamb, raw almond dukkah, and a generous drizzle of Japanese yuzu hollandaise.
Kirribilli Commuter Wharf, 1/2 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli
Hong Ha Bakery
Another contender for the best banh mi in Sydney, this Mascot bakery has sold the same rolls since the day it opened over 30 years ago. They’re that good. The line snakes down Botany Road, but moves quickly. Try the pork roll – which is made with three different types of pork – or switch it up with the chicken schnitzel roll.
1151 Botany Road, Mascot
10 William Street
When happy hour rolls around, make a beeline for 10 William Street – it’s a tight squeeze, so you’ll want to get there early! The small bar is buzzing every night thanks to its strong Negronis, sophisticated wine list, and menu of Italian delights (did we mention it’s owned by the same team behind Fratelli Paradiso?). You can’t go wrong with the handmade pasta.
10 William Street, Paddington
Over in Manly, Momo Bar was one of the most interesting openings of 2017. It pumps out Nepalese ‘momos’ (dumplings) and Hawaiian poke, and locals are loving it. It’s not only a colourful fusion, but a healthy one: the momos are gluten-free and stuffed with chicken, pork, lamb, lentils or mixed veggies, while the poke bowls are piled high with brown rice, sashimi and veggies.
28 Market Lane, Manly
Crows Nest’s Japanese scene is thriving, and Yakitori Yurippi is at the centre of the craze. The space is about the size of a walk-in wardrobe, but it’s homely and strategically set up, so no one really notices. Once you’ve settled in to a seat, sip on a Japanese wine, sake or whiskey and order a feast of chicken, pork, veggie or cod yakitori.
7 Falcon Street, Crows Nest
Chef Yu Sasaki’s new restaurant is sandwiched into a city laneway, and tends to book up weeks in advance. It’s a Zen den, with a beautiful minimalist interior, and a menu that pays homage to Sasaki’s hometown of Shimane in the Japanese countryside. Dishes change daily to make the most of the freshest local produce – if the red miso soup is there, don’t hesitate!
102/21 Alberta Street, Sydney