Experience No.014 in Australian Traveller Magazine’s 100 Greatest Australian Gourmet Experiences. Aria is much more than just another “hatted” Sydney fine dining restaurant. It occupies a significant place in the Emerald City’s self-identity. This was highlighted by celebrated restaurant critic Terry Durack, who reviewed the restaurant for its 10th birthday and posed this knotty existential question: “If you have a birthday that is not celebrated at Aria, have you really aged?”
“Good consistent product in a spectacular location.” – Alla Wolf-Tasker
Walking into Aria is like strolling onto a movie set designed to make you fall in love with Sydney. The harbour and iconic structures are inset so perfectly that the ghosts of Utzon and Bradfield would smile. The curved dining space is warm and cosy, bordering marginally on the corporate, with the best tables the window seats on the harbour side of the building.
But the food is what you’re here for and it is no mean feat to be a two-hatted restaurant for eight years (six in a row), with a wine list that under Head Sommelier Matthew Dunne is probably even more awarded.
Any food here must rival the setting, and it does. The nine-course tasting menu is the signature experience and the signature dish for head chef Matt Moran has to be the various incarnations of Pork Belly. Moran’s mains are known for being big (for fine dining) and meaty, served with very little fuss and some flourishes. The Kitchen Table was purpose-built to put the diner right in the action, in order to better perceive the unfolding of the culinary opera that entails.
While chef and co-owner Matt Moran is often likened to Gordon Ramsey, the affable Moran is everyone’s friend and has fashioned a fine media profile from the Aria kitchen. He’s often to be found walking the floor and recently opened the second Aria – more a grill experience – in Brisbane.
Where: 1 Macquarie St, Sydney. (02) 9252 2555, www.ariarestaurant.com
Did you know: Matt Moran has cooked for the James Beard Foundation in New York, which pioneers gourmet experiences and is a centre for the culinary arts in the US.