Time Out Sydney

This year's best restaurants tried, tested and served up to you, good 'n' hot

1. Berowra Waters Inn

You’re driving down a perilous road with a sheer cliff face on one side. Cicadas are screaming while bellbirds trill and blip. The slightly terrifying descent down to the yawning Hawkesbury River is about the most fraught drive you’re likely to encounter on your way to a meal within Sydney’s limits. There’s no land access to Berowra Waters Inn but waiting for the restaurant’s own ferryman to take you for a ride from the wharf is part of the adventure. Once upon a time they’d greet you onboard with a glass of Champagne. These days, it’s Adrian Birkensleigh in a Drizabone and an Akubra. The boat is the only way to get to Berowra Waters Inn, unless you came by your own vessel or seaplane (in which case, we’ll let you get back to doing swan-dives into your enormous piles of cash). The building is designed by legendary Australian architect Glenn Murcutt. The main wall looks out to the river and is made up of glass louvres that reflect the water while the room itself is light, airy, open and works in harmony with its outside environment. There’s a blissful feeling of utter seclusion. Dietmar Sawyere’s cooking helps too. This isn’t silly food. The bread is house-baked, the butter is always Échiré. Start with crostini topped with eggplant caviar and slices of smoked ocean trout accompanied by squiggles of potato churros. A little cup is filled with a jumble of Oscietra and salmon caviar and topped with vichyssoise – here, like a sort of cold potato mousse that blends with the briny pop of the fish eggs. Off to the side are a couple of deep-fried oysters on a bed of creamed leek. As much as we’re not really fans of duos and trios of things, this one works. Little ricotta-and-spinach mezzalune (a little half-moon pasta shape) are scattered with juicy little bits of chanterelle mushrooms and shaved truffle. Our only problem with the snacks at the moment is that BWI have joined the ranks of places that refuse you a menu, and instead ask that you go on a bit of a magical mystery tour. We liked it a lot more when the menu was more of a Choose Your Own Adventure. Still, it’s a small gripe in the face of such a winning combination of wine-and-service smarts and sharp cooking. And all in such a spectacular setting. For dessert, a little slice of goat’s cheesecake is accompanied by a single toffeed hazelnut that stands almost a foot tall. But dish of the day goes to the rum baba – a booze-soaked cakelet with slices of roast pear and an incredibly light-yet-rich caramel mousse. You can keep your chocolate desserts – we go bananas over caramel. You know, you could probably shape the entire argument for Dietmar Sawyere’s menu on the man’s use of mint. In the age of borage flowers and micro herbs, Sawyere garnishes with perfect mint sprigs. Some say retro; we say classic. Berowra Waters Inn is special. You can feel it as you approach the restaurant by water, surrounded by bushland and singing birds, jumping fish and the odd bullshark. There is no other restaurant like this in Sydney. Berowra Waters 2082. (02 9456 1027). Lunch Fri–Sun 12 noon–2pm; dinner Fri–Sat 7pm–late. 


2. Rockpool

Time Out’s Best Restaurant 2010 is still kicking goals, with head chef Phil Wood pushing his Chinese-influenced menu further than ever before. He’s even making his own tofu, right there at the table. Thick white linens, impeccable service and a bangin’ wine list combined with some of the best cooking in the city keep Rockpool delivering. Never been? We’re jealous – that first meal at Rockers is one of the most exciting Sydney food experiences you can have. The Rocks 2000. (02 9252 1888). Lunch Mon–Fri 12 noon–3pm; dinner Mon–Sat 6–10pm.



3. Tetsuya's

Ask any food fancier from out of town for the restaurants on the top of their hitlist, and most likely Tetsuya’s will be right up there. Saturday lunch is the best time to go – BYO your favourite Champagne and besties and make it a long lunch. The dining rooms buzz with the excitement of first-time diners (from Sydney and abroad) and veteran long lunchers. Sydney 2000. (02 9267 2900). Lunch Sat 12 noon–3pm; dinner Tue–Fri 6pm–late; Sat 6.30pm–late.



4. Bilson's

Head chef Diego Munoz has changed the game at Bilson’s. It could be a different restaurant. Everything’s younger, fresher and more lively, from the people on the floor to the chefs proudly delivering some of their courses throughout the night. Sydney 2000. (02 8214 0496). Lunch Fri 12 noon–2.30pm; dinner Tue–Sat 6–10pm.




 5. Quay

It’s hard to have a bad meal at Quay. It’s even harder to have a bad view. By day, blue skies, choofing ferries and views of the Opera House greet you through the enormous windows and by night, it’s a fairy-lit harbour. Chef Peter Gilmour creates dishes of equal parts style and substance. He’s a fan of a small flower and a poached meat and there’s no one better in town at making ice cream. Oh yes, and the notorious snow egg. You know you want it. The Rocks 2000. (02 9251 5600). Lunch Tue–Fri 12 noon–2.30pm; dinner Mon–Sun 6pm–10pm.



6. est.

There’s no other restaurant in Sydney that has perfected the art of the six-waiter swoop, delivering the entire table’s food at the same time. Peter Doyle and his legion of kitchen troops work behind the scenes creating dishes with military precision. Sydney 2000. (02 9240 3000). Lunch Mon–Fri 11am–3pm; dinner Mon–Sat 6pm–late.


Gastro Park

7. Gastro Park

This new restaurant delivers with a smart, innovative menu, casual, fun service, and exciting stuff to put in your mouth, to say the least. How about a plate-sized parmesan wafer bejewelled with capers, anchovy, tomato and olive served rising out of a big river stone? Potts Point 2011. (02 8068 1017). Lunch Fri–Sat 12 noon–2.30pm; dinner Tue–Sat 6–10pm.



8. Bécasse

The new look Bécasse is lighter, brighter and more fun. Which is an unlikely call to make when it's located high in the new Westfield building overlooking a Fitness First, but there it is. Sydney 2000. (02 9283 3440). Lunch Mon-Sat 12 noon-2.30pm; dinner Mon-Sat 6-10.30pm.




 9. Marque

Experimental, progressive and fearless, Mark Best doesn’t believe in holding off on serving things that might be challenging – nay – disgusting – nay – delicious – or a mix of all three. This Surry Hills fine diner is one for the books. Surry Hills 2010. (02 9332 2225). Lunch Fri 12 noon –3pm; dinner Mon–Sat 6.30pm–late.



10. Porteño

From their version of ceviche with sweet potato crisps and raw corn, to a whole roast suckling pig’s head or even just a round of tiny hot dogs, Porteño proves time and time again why it’s one of Sydney’s hottest properties. Surry Hills 2010. (02 8399 1440). Mon–Sat 6pm–late.


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