When you think of fine dining, the first thoughts that spring to mind are fancy, formal and above all – expensive. But with Sydney’s new wave of humble fine diners, you can find mouthwatering menus, lavish tasting feasts and even Chef-hatted lunch deals, without blowing your entire month’s wages. Thankfully, the days of unaffordable – and unobtainable – gourmet dining are well and truly behind us.
From lunchtime bookings to pre-theatre menus (don’t worry, no need for tickets), we’ve done some digging to reveal Sydney’s best kept restaurant secrets – here’s your guide to finding the fanciest fine dining experiences in the city, on a purse-friendly budget. You are welcome.
The swansong of Matt Moran and Bruce Solomon, the two-hatted restaurant delivers ‘haute cuisine’ and champions local produce. Just steps away from the Opera House, the food and location are equally iconic. To dine under $100 per person, book in a two-course meal either for lunch during the working week or a pre-theatre seating (5:30pm-7pm). You’ll get to select your own dishes, with the option to add sides. If you can swing it, opt in for the creamed royal blue potato.
1 Macquarie Street, Sydney
One of Sydney’s best French eateries, Restaurant Hubert is a firm favourite with the food set. The bistro is a Parisian post-war wonderland, and in typical French style, the wine list is illustrious and the food, exceptional. For the budget-conscious, dine at the bar during aperitif hour between 4pm and 6pm. You can enjoy heavily discounted snacks like their parfait ($5) and signature Normandy burger ($10) along with half price negronis and G&Ts. Winning.
15 Bligh Street, Sydney
In Rushcutters Bay, ACME has carved out a niche thanks to its cool vibe and creative menu. This hip eatery serves up inventive fare that’s Italian in origin and Asian in flair. Leave it up to the Acme team to curate your dinner with their ‘crush me’ menu. You will dine like royalty with a selection of their signature snacks and pastas for $65 per person. Trust us, you and your dining crew will be more than satisfied but make sure to leave room for dessert (think nashi pear granita and coconut rice cream).
60 Bayswater Road, Rushcutters Bay
The fanciest of degustations along Kensington Street, Automata, in the Old Clare Hotel, offers an everchanging three, five and seven-course menu built on local, seasonal produce, executed with European flair. For the best value, book your next Friday or Saturday lunch at Automata, and dine from their three-course menu for just $60 per person. With that huge saving, treat yourself and order a bottle from the wine list- go on, you deserve it.
5 Kensington Street, Chippendale
Chef-hatted since 2011 and run by celebrity chef and restauranteur Luke Mangan, glass brasserie is fine dining royalty. Known for their degustation offering, during the week you can eat lunch at the wine bar for just $29. Available from Monday to Friday between 12-3pm, the menu features classics and favourites including minute steak and wagyu burgers, plus a complimentary beverage. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not – we’ll meet you in there.
Level 2, 488 George Street, Sydney
Set within the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House, Bennelong is one of Sydney’s most sought-after fine dining experiences. Peter Gilmore’s fine diner offers a variety of dining experiences, but for budget-conscious foodies opt in for either a pre-theatre or Cured & Cultured experience. Make a booking at 5.30pm, 5.45pm or 6.00pm throughout the week for a pre-theatre two-course dinner ($90 per person). Or if you don’t mind dining at the bar, the Cured & Cultured menu allows you to either dine a-la-carte (no set menu) or experience the chef’s tasting menu ($65 per person).
Bennelong Point, Sydney Opera House, Sydney
Meaning blank canvas, Blanca showcases a flavour-filled romance between European ingredients and Japanese cooking. While all the food on the a-la-carte menu is designed to be shared, don’t shy away from the tasting menus. Sit back, let the chef do the hard work and dine from their seven-course tasting menu for just $77 per person. Make your way through Blanca’s signature faves (i.e. bonito pastrami and saikyo miso monkfish), without the guilt of overspending.
75/79 Hall Street, Bondi Beach
A highly sought-after dining destination, Momofuku Seiobo is a three-hatted restaurant specialising in Asian-European fusion cuisine. It’s edgy and exclusive, with crowds lining up to sample Executive chef Paul Carmichael’s signature tasting menu. If you aren’t ready to part with $185, you can try and score a spot at the bar (only five seats) and dine from their limited a-la-carte bar menu from Monday-Saturday, 6pm-10pm.
The Star- Level G, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont
With a hat to its name, Chin Chin provides the ultimate destination for lively dinners. Everything in this trendy Asian-fusion palace is intoxicating, and their inventive take on Thai cuisine is the icing on the cake. The menu is extensive and full of hero dishes, making the decision process a tough one. Save time and money by ordering the ‘Feed Me’ banquet ($69.50 per person) to indulge in all of Chin Chin’s favourites (the massaman curry of braised brisket is essential). Sitchu tip:don't be discouraged by the queues, the wait is well worth it.
69 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
Awarded two Chef’s Hats and boasting uninterrupted views of Middle Harbour, Ormeggio is the epitome of fine dining. The modern Italian fare sets out to take patrons on a trip through Italy, with each dish on the five-course ($129) or seven-course ($159) tasting menu’s hailing from a distinct Italian region. So, you can spend less time worrying about money, and more time indulging in delicious food, Ormeggio have their ‘Stressless Sunday’ offering. Book your next dinner on Sunday night and let the team serve up their five-course chef’s degustation for only $79 per person. From the Hiromasa kingfish crudo, to the bottoni filled with parmigiano Reggiano, your tastebuds and wallet will be thanking you.
D’Albora Marinas, Spit Road, Mosman
If you have a penchant for saganaki cheese and charred calamari, then The Apollo is the Greek restaurant you need to visit. Their take on Mediterranean flavours (with a strong focus on Greek food), along with a smattering of dishes cooked over wood and charcoal, is out of this world. And indulgent. You’ll be left wishing you had a spare stomach. To get the most out of your experience, opt for ‘The Full Greek’ that showcases The Apollo’s best of the best. For just $65 per person, you will be beyond satisfied with the eight-dish banquet – think baked saganaki cheese, tangy Greek salad and slow-cooked lamb shoulder slathered in creamy tzatziki.
44 MacLeay Street, Potts Point
Equal parts playful and chic, Cho Cho San is where the cool kids go for Japanese. With a menu designed for sharing, it’s a great place to go with a group, so you can order a bit of everything. To sample the best dishes and save some coin, the Cho Cho San feast for $80 per person is the way to go. With ten tantalising dishes to try, starting with the salt and vinegar seaweed crisp and ending with black sesame ice-cream mochi, be sure to pace yourself to get a taste of each dish.
73 Macleay Street, Potts Point