Time Out Sydney

Represents everything that makes Sydney one of the best places to dine in the world

Winner: Ester Restaurant and Bar

What makes this modest Chippendale establishment Restaurant of the Year? That very thing. Eating in Sydney in 2014 is as much about the good times as it is about what’s on the plate and in the glass. We don’t just open our wallets and say ‘aaaaah’ anymore. More importantly, there isn’t a single place we want to eat at more. They’re doing something completely their own. Chef Mat Lindsay’s turned up the strange on an untamed menu of wood--fired smoke and funk. And man, that guy’s got a way with a green. He’s doing Brussels sprouts three ways at the moment – shaved, roasted and boiled – tossed with mint and garnished with a coddled egg. Gently braised cabbage tossed with seaweed has a sort of forest--meets--the--sea thing going for it.

While they’re not afraid to get a little experimental, there’s always a solid grounding to their dishes. The kitchen is mostly made up of a giant wood--fired oven, which has its toasty perks. Roasted oysters might be an almost sordid prospect in the wrong hands but at Ester, mixed through with minced raw beef and grated horseradish sauced with fried--then--blitzed eggs, it really works. Especially scooped up with a side of house-made potato crisps. Though the menu is an ever--evolving roll call of rustic originality, there are a few mainstays like the blood sausage sanga: pinkie--sized morcilla on a piece of steamed white bread with a squiggle of aioli – a soft, sweet and giving sandwich with great snap. And if you’ve ever dreamed of walking into a restaurant and ordering a whole head of cauliflower, here’s your chance. Lindsay’s serving his with chopped--up bits of toasted almond, almond cream and a scattering of mint.

Oh, and that’s the other thing: you can eat at the bar if you don’t feel like sitting down for a full meal. They’re extremely glass--and--a--plate friendly here, with subdued, almost dreamy, off--focus lighting and poured concrete. The wine list – as eccentric, smart and funk--driven as the menu – features the likes of the Si Vintners pinot rosé. Only a few bottles of this exceptional Margaret River vino actually make it to Sydney tables – such is the popularity and cult -appeal of the little vineyard. Never one to stand still and rot, Lindsay recently added Friday and Sunday lunch to his repertoire. There’s plenty of the popular evening gear available, as well as a few specials, and a hell of a cheeseburger. A soft, steamed bun holds a patty of chuck, brisket and pork jowl covered in melted cheese and boosted with a little speck jam. As good as Mary’s? We’d say different, but no less tasty. Ester is not a Quay, a Rockpool, a Marque, a Seiobo. Sure, you might not enjoy the same level of arse cushioning, and there aren’t large wads of cash backing it. But the skill in the kitchen is on par, punch for punch. There’s nothing to hate at Ester and everything to love.

We also love...

Bentley Restaurant and Bar

Nick Hildebrandt and Brent Savage are out to impress at their new CBD location, whether you’re here for the no--punches--pulled tasting menu or have just dropped by for a sandwich. Sydney.


Everything you expect from a restaurant of this calibre: waitstaff who are there when you need them and invisible when you don’t, a menu that straddles classic and modern technique, all in ultra--luxe surrounds. Sydney.


Mark Best, one of the most progressive, line-crossing chefs in town, never fails to deliver when it comes to a menu that’s as crazy as it is delicious. Surry Hills.

Momofuku Seiobo

Ben Greeno slings a 10-course degustation as adroitly as the Japanese sandwiches on the bar menu, with a light touch and masses of skill. Pyrmont.

Moon Park

This mod-Korean restaurant from chefs Ben Sears and Eun Hee An continually excites and inspires. We can’t get enough of these guys. Redfern.

Oscillate Wildly

A tiny, progressive restaurant where you can BYO on Tuesdays, they play great music and the food steadfastly remains chef Karl Firla’s own. Newtown.


Here are three reasons to visit Quay and empty your wallet. One: the food is beautiful. Two: the views are world-class. Three: it’s fancy as hell. The Rocks.


The new Bridge Street location is flash and grand, but still accessible (hello, bar menu). And pretty bloody exciting. Sydney.


Last year’s Restaurant of the Year winners continue to impress with their sense of fun, super drinkable wine list and a menu that brings it on every level. Stanmore.


Who won the bar awards?

First published on . Updated on .

By Myffy Rigby   |  
The Baxter Inn

The Baxter Inn

Baxter Inn is the gussied-up inner-city sister of Surry Hills swill house, Shady Pines Saloon

Readers' comments, reviews, hints and pictures

Community guidelines

blog comments powered by Disqus