Top 10 waterfront restaurants in Sydney
Nothing says dinner with a view like sipping a glass of boutique wine and digging into something fresh and delicious while admiring the ripples of Sydney’s glistening blue water just metres away. Australia’s most popular city for tourism is lucky to be home to some of the best waterfront locations in the world and fine dining restaurants have been quick to snap them up. Whether you’d rather tuck into the fresh catch of the day at the harbour or a devour a locally-raised and perfectly grilled steak by the beach, there’s an amazing waterfront restaurant in Sydney to suit you that serves sensational dishes to match the flawless views. Here’s our pick of the very best waterfront restaurants in Sydney, known for their impeccable panoramas, unmatched cuisine and exemplary service.
Where: Corner Paul & Northcliff Streets, Milsons Point
The scene: Aqua Dining is a charming, sophisticated restaurant that treats diners to one of the most impressive vistas in Sydney. Gaze through the dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows for sweeping views that stretch from Luna Park to the iconic Sydney Opera House or reserve a table on the outside terrace to be almost within reach of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The cuisine here is based on local, Australian products prepared in contemporary Italian styles. There’s no straightforward a la carte menu, instead you can choose from two-, three- and four-course menus. But the dishes aren’t set, giving you free reign to choose your favourites from a great selection of meat, fish and vegan starters, pasta dishes, main courses, side dishes, desserts and cheeses. There are plenty of gluten-free and dairy-free dishes on offer, too, so everyone can savour the head chef’s seasonal creations. On a Saturday evening, the a la carte menu is replaced with decadent four- and six-course tasting menus, inspired by the chefs’ world travels and innovative cooking concepts.
Signature dish: With an ever-changing menu, there’s no real signature dish at Aqua Dining. But the restaurant is best known for its tasting menus with optional wine pairings.
Where: Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point
The scene: Boasting a truly one-of-a-kind location inside Sydney Opera House, Bennelong might not have awe-inspiring views of the famous Australian landmark. But the breath-taking backdrop that is the city skyline is equally captivating. Inside the restaurant, wooden arches dominate the space alongside Aboriginal artworks and shimmering lighting, creating an almost spiritual cathedral-like ambiance. Here local produce and wine take centre stage throughout the menus which are divided into restaurant, cured and cultured, pre-theatre, post-theatre and supper, each of which is served in a different part of the impressive building. All dishes are designed to reflect modern Australian food today, with even the simplest plates executed with such creativity and fineness that you’ll be left speechless. The basic-sounding pumpkin starter that’s slow-cooked so it’s sweet and buttery then topped with a mix of toasted pumpkin and flax seeds for added crunch, along with salty Bruny Island C2 cream and just the right amount of shaved Manjimup truffle for a deep, earthy flavour is good enough to convert any carnivore into a vegetarian.
Signature dish: Pavlova: an inverted poached meringue filled with seasonal fruit, decorated with delicately piped alternating rounds of whipped double cream and Italian meringue, topped with crisp meringue sails designed to represent the Sydney Opera House.
Where: 1 Macquarie St
The scene: Treating diners to unobstructed views of the endlessly gorgeous marina, Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Aria Restaurant never fails to impress. You’ve got to make a reservation incredibly early in advance to get a window table, but the wait is worth it for the chance to soak up such seductive surroundings while indulging in award-winning elegant food. The delicate touches, the immense passion and the time dedicated to create such high quality uncompromising cuisine are evident in every word of the menu. The chef’s seasonal tasting menu is reliably awe-inspiring, especially if you splash out for the optional wine pairing. But if a la carte is more your style, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice. From Pacific oysters with fruity mulberries and smoked duck breast with sweet pumpkin to roasted lamb loin with Jerusalem artichokes and partridge with white fig chutney, the cuisine is typically contemporary Australian, with a few strikingly unusual yet unsurprisingly complementary ingredients thrown into the mix to keep things interesting.
Signature dish: Lobster poached in champagne, glazed with Pepe Saya butter and topped with Sterling caviar pearls, all on a thick slice of buttery brioche and served with a slim lime wedge.
Where: Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Hickson Rd, The Rocks
The scene: For years, Quay has held its position as one of the most impressive restaurants ever to open up in Sydney and consistently features as one of San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurants. This highly-acclaimed restaurant’s aim is to match the unparalleled harbour setting with the ultimate modern Australian cuisine: a challenge it rises up to and exceeds with every plate. Although the interior is somewhat dated, your eyes will be so distracted by the sparkling Sydney Harbour waters and the mesmerising cityscape that the decor really doesn’t matter. Thankfully, the food here is anything but old hat. The three- and four-course lunch and dinner menus are bursting with carefully put together dishes that combine complexity and subtlety in a way that no other dining venue can compete. From saltwater poached chicken with Oscietra caviar to the master stock duck with pickled pink turnip and the infamous snow egg dessert, there’s nothing on the menu that won’t leave you craving just one more bite.
Signature dish: Mud crab congee served in an aromatic ginger-infused broth with delicate palm heart shavings and a creamy egg emulsion on a melting base of rice and North Queensland crab.
Pilu at Freshwater
Where: On The Beach, Moore Road, Freshwater
The scene: Just steps away from the postcard-perfect beach at Freshwater, Pilu is built inside a huge old weatherboard house with floor-to-ceiling windows that invite beautiful sea views in all-year-round. The only restaurant in Sydney to offer a Sardinian menu, Pilu at Freshwater is renowned for its authentic yet modern take on regional Italian cuisine. A palate-pleasing selection of local, seasonal ingredients are used alongside the highest quality products imported directly from Italy to create the authentic dishes re-interpreted using modern techniques. For big groups there are five- and seven-course set menus designed to be shared amongst the whole table which include mouth-watering delicacies like pecorino consommé with macadamia nuts and flank steak with eggplant caponata. There are also two- and three-course set menus featuring both traditional and innovative recipes, each bursting with equally delightful plates such as snapper with black olives and crumbled hen’s egg with salted goat milk ricotta.
Signature dish: Melanda Park free-range oven roasted suckling pig, served on a cork platter and carved into various select cuts accompanied with seasonal vegetables and condiments.
Where: Customs House, 31 Alfred St
The scene: Café Sydney truly captures the essence of the city from its incredible location perched on the rooftop of Customs House with sweeping harbour views, gourmet food and a relaxed, contemporary interior. The alluring panorama with the Sydney Harbour Bridge front and centre is visible from practically every seat in the restaurant. So no matter where you are, you’re guaranteed a gorgeous backdrop. With a strong commitment to sourcing exclusively the freshest and finest produce in season, the kitchen team produce a continually evolving contemporary Australian menu. With everything from freshly shucked oysters and chilled crustaceans to the hearty pressed wagyu beef cheek and grilled swordfish steak with salmon roe, you’ll be hard-pressed to choose when it’s time to order. To make sure everyone’s well catered for, there’s also an amazing vegan menu with tempting offerings, such as fried tofu with cauliflower puree and mille feuille loaded with seasonal vegetables.
Signature dish: Tandoori roasted king salmon, served with a refreshing mint yoghurt, spiced pumpkin puree, charred corn, aloo tiki and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.
Ormeggio at the Spit
Where: D’Albora Marinas, Spit Road, Mosman
The scene: Ormeggio at the Spit serves up contemporary Italian cuisine in a superb waterside setting, overlooking Pearl Bay and Middle Harbour. From the shaded terrace you can relax and listen to the water ripple just metres away from you and watch the stylish luxury boats pull up to dock. The spectacular food has seen the restaurant receive Chef’s Hats every year since 2009 from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide; prestigious awards rightly deserved. The menus at Ormeggio blend together traditional and modern cooking techniques, bringing a unique dining experience to the table every time. Cleverly named ‘A Little Trip’ and ‘A Trip Through Italy’, the menus really are the closest thing you’ll get to travelling across Italy without hopping on a plane. Each course is inspired by a different region and comes with an optional wine pairing of premium regional wines. Dishes range from the classic eggplant parmesan and organic sourdough bread with homemade ricotta to the more unusual cold spaghetti served with mussels, king prawns and seaweed, offering something for all palates, however adventurous (or not).
Signature dish: “Piemonte, Brasato”: Charcoal wagyu beef cooked sous vide-style and served with seasonal accompaniments.
Where: Shop 4, - 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
The scene: Delivering the ultimate Sydney dining experience to guests from the historic Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo, China Doll boasts impressive views of the city skyline that really come to life at night. As soon as the sun dips into the horizon and darkness descends upon the sky, a million twinkling lights flicker into being throughout the bustling metropolis across the water, creating a spell-binding and romantic atmosphere that makes China Doll a top spot for date night. This popular eatery showcases a modern twist on traditional culinary techniques from South East Asia, Japan, Hong Kong and China. The extravagant banquets are never disappointing, with 10-11 courses of pure gourmet heaven in the form of delights such as ocean trout sashimi with blackened chilli dressing, pork belly with chilli caramel and chilli salt squid. The a la carte menu is just as astounding, made up of a vast array of cold appetisers, dim sum, sharing plates and must-try mains, like slow-braised wagyu beef Penang curry, tea-smoked duck with tamarind and spicy Korean fish fillet with gouchujang.
Signature dish: Alaskan crab wok-fried with a perfectly-balanced ginger, shallot and garlic sauce with a drizzling of house chilli oil and cognac.
Where: 69 Bynya Road, Whale Beach
The scene: For a real sense of tropical seaside dining, it doesn’t get any better than Jonah’s. The main dining room and outside terrace at this eatery offer unbelievable views of the aquamarine ocean lapping on the golden shoreline. The only feature worthy enough to divert your attention away from the nautical paradise is the food. The multi award-winning restaurant prides itself on its excellent contemporary Australian cuisine blended with an Italian flair. Choose from seasonally-changing two-, three- or four-course menus, brimming with enticing fish and seafood options including fried zucchini flowers stuffed with prawns, tagliatelle with Morteon Bay bugs and bass grouper with apple and lemon vernema puree. Don’t worry if you’re more of a carnivore: dry-rubbed aged beef rib eye with grilled spring onions, roasted duck breast with puy lentils and quails wrapped in pancetta are sure to satisfy your cravings.
Signature dish: Fruits de Mer: a selection of fresh seafood for two comprised of Sydney rock oysters, ceviche, salmon remoulade, house-smoked salmon, seared scallops, prawns, fish of the day and grilled marron, accompanied by an assortment of condiments and side dishes, served exclusively in the bar and on the terrace.
LuMi Bar & Dining
Where: 56 Pirrama Road Pyrmont
The scene: Owned by the previous head chef from Ormeggio at the Spit, LuMi Bar & Dining offers guests the feeling of dining on the water without getting so much as a little toe wet. The exclusive setting and tall sliding glass doors really do give you the sensation of floating on the harbour, surrounded by the gentle undulating waves of the water that provide the perfect soundtrack to your meal. The interior of the restaurant is decorated with mid-century Italian purple and green textiles which contrast starkly against with the concrete and timber furnishings, reflecting the style of cuisine which is also an eclectic fusion of ideas most often referred to as Italian-Japanese. The food selection is limited to one five-course and one eight-course tasting menu, with dishes based on market availability and seasonality. Due to the nature of the changing menu, you never know what to expect, apart from a taste bud-tantalising blend of Italian and Japanese ingredients and cooking techniques that will force you to practise incredible self-control as you refrain from licking the last morsels from your plate.
Signature dish: Chawanmushi: a Japanese steamed egg custard with a silky-smooth texture floating in a clear, meaty broth along with chunky green beans and just a hint of parmesan cheese.
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