First published on 18 Jul 2009. Updated on 11 May 2011.
10 Glebe Point Diner, Glebe
A focus on local produce and wines with fantastic food and service - letting ingredients speak for themselves - is what separates this neighbourhood restaurant from the rest.
9 Coast, Sydney
Jonathan Barthelmess is a brilliant cook. His restaurant, Coast, often gets overlooked. It may be the location (touristy Darling Harbour); it may be that people just don't know it's there. Whatever the reason, they're missing out - his dishes are faultless, the flavours are fresh and the concepts are interesting.
8 Claudes, Woollahra
Chef Chui Lee Luk's food is complex, multi-faceted and individual. Combining her Malaysian/Singaporean roots and super-fine French skills, each dish is so deceptively simple you might discount it until you taste it. A recent refurb and Marco Taddeo on the floor make this serious French restaurant a dining destination.
7 Est., Sydney
Peter Doyle runs the kitchen, Frank Roberts runs the floor and Franck Moreau pours the wine. It's a gastronomic powerhouse over at their George Street digs.
6 Tetsuya's, Sydney
Long considered one of the world's best restaurants, Tetsuya's offers a 13-course degustation and immaculate, attentive service. The best time to go is Saturday afternoon - BYO wine and best mates for an epic long lunch.
5 Rockpool Bar and Grill, Sydney
Sydney's best new restaurant is set in one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Neil Perry's newest establishment serves up boutique steaks, one of the best burgers the city's ever seen and classic cocktails, including what they're claiming to be ‘Sydney's Best Mule'.
4 Guillaume at Bennelong, Bennelong Point
Guillaumeis better than ever right now. Craig Hemmings, award-winning maître d' and all-round nice guy, is back from Melbourne and the menu is featuring dishes such as light, sweet duck liver parfait sandwiched between rounds of gingerbread and veal rack for two with sweetbread croutons and peas.
3 Berowra Waters Inn, Berowra Waters
Chef Dietmar Sawyere is working in one of the most picturesque restaurants in the country - Berowra Waters Inn, set on the shore of the Hawkesbury. Dishes such as roast marron with a
cassoulette of pork belly, trotters and guanciale are served at a restaurant you can only get to by a tiny little ferry, seaplane or, if you're loaded, your own boat.
2 Quay, The Rocks
Peter Gilmore cooks some of Sydney's most exciting food in one of Sydney's most picturesque locations. Try the likes of Queensland mud crab congee while watching the ferries chug through the harbour. Desserts, though, are what it's all about. The snow egg is a ball of ice cream wrapped in meringue, coated in toffee then dusted with icing sugar. It nests on soft-as-snow granita.
MarqueRestaurant, Surry Hills
Whether you're having the $45 Friday lunchtime special, straight EMD (that's entree, main and dessert) or you go the whole nine yards with the ten-course degustation, Marque Restaurant is bells and whistles the entire way. Chef/owner Mark Best, along with chef Pasi Petanen, creates dishes that are a mix of unrestrained (he once had a tiny Pacific oyster on the menu topped with ‘grilled sea foam' - that was a table divider) and incredibly refined at the same time, thanks to mad technical skills, an extremely solid foundation in French cookery, deft touch and an eye for restraint.
At Marque, you'll find things dried, rehydrated, flash-frozen, jellied, smoked and cured. Sometimes all on the same plate. Unlike many chefs who favour technique over product, Best doesn't offer cuisine that's baby food. It's interesting, playful and has texture. Best of all, it actually resembles food.
Though the menu changes regularly, there are mainstays such as the chaud-froid egg - the egg is very softly cooked then sweetened with a hint of maple syrup and topped with chilled cream then served in a neatly beheaded eggshell. It's served with spidery salt-crusted grissini - the best breadsticks ever. Duck ‘ham' (it looks like prosciutto but is made from duck rather than pig) also appears regularly on the menu, though often in different guises. At the moment, it's served with a mix of braised witlof (yeah!), fresh witlof and parmesan. If you're lucky, the beetroot macarons filled with foie gras mousse will be on - a micro-explosion of creamy duck liver whipped and sandwiched between two perfectly formed, purple whipped blobs, they're as beautiful as they are tasty.
The wine list is as impressive as the food. Sommelier Peter Healy never makes you feel like an idiot even when you ask the dumbest questions. Unless you're a total wine nerd it's not a bad idea to let him do a wine match for you - the dishes tend to be so complex that he's already picked out a few things that work extremely well. Then again, if you love a wine list, you'll have fun with this one - it features all the heavy hitters as well as plenty of fun stuff you don't see every day.
The room oozes quiet sophistication with its black lacquer walls, plush carpet and silent automatic door at the entrance - kinda like entering a Bond villain's lair. The reason, though, that Marque is the restaurant in Sydney you should be visiting right now, is because they're doing the most exciting food in town and it's a class act from first bite to last. They haven't got tickets on themselves; they just know they're good. And now you do too.