As a Melbourne expat living in Sydney, I’m often faced with the dilemma of showing out-of-towners how the NSW capital can do food and culture right.
I learnt about Hilton’s destination travel guides via a friend of a friend, where guests (and non-guests) of the hotel chain can hop onto the website of the city that they’re visiting, and explore a range of custom itineraries in each destination.
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to peruse the list of restaurants they endorse to guests, keen to see whether their recommendations impresses the palette of one very particular eater (me).
Post-renovation bliss in an old Glebe favourite:
The Glebe Hotel is back baby, in all its post-renovation glory.
Formerly known as the Australian Youth Hotel, this heritage listed bar and dining destination has completed seven months of interior and exterior renovation works, which includes a new name, menu, and a pretty jazzy jacaranda mural by Sydney artist, Indigo Jo.
The famous jacaranda mural by Sydney artist, Indigo Jo
After walking through the classic Glebe pub on Bay Street, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to encounter The Stables Bar & Grill: a beautiful, light and airy dining space with exposed brickwork, wooden tables and a bar.
The menu, created by British Head Chef, Ben Allcock, focusses on the kind of gastro-pub fare Glebe has become famous for over the years. For me, the hero was the seafood. Start with an small plate of Octopus, and back it up with the crisp skin Atlantic salmon. Buttery is an understatement.
An Italian postcard in the heart of Sydney’s CBD:
Since opening in 2017, it’s hard to collate a list of Sydney’s best Italian without a nod to Rosetta Trattoria.
Located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, this relaxed, unpretentious space is home to your endless Italian bucket-list.
Unexpected fun at Rosetta Trattoria
First you have the restaurant, which features a menu curated by Neil Perry and Head Chef Richard Purdue.
Expect an extensive antipasti selection, alongside a mouth-watering selection of house-made pizzas and pastas.
Beauty on The Rose terrace
For those who like their Italian from the water, there’s also an impressive seafood selection, best enjoyed with one of the 26 white and red wines from both Australia and Italy.
Outside, the Little Rose terrace bar will transport you to the Cinque Terra cliff sides – just replace views of the super yachts with the sails of the Opera House. Both equally impressive if you ask us.
Soak up the CBD sun with complimentary bar snacks
Every weekday from 4pm to 7pm, diners and inner-city workers can soak up the sun with $10 negronis, spritzes and house bellinis, $7 prosecco, wine and beer and complimentary bar snacks.
The new (old) kids on the block in Glebe:
Have you ever been to The Cottage in the Sydney suburb or Balmain? If so, you’ll know it’s one of Sydney’s best kept secrets – if not for the great pizza, then for their famous espresso martinis.
The chic cocktail bar inside The Charleston in the Sydney suburb of Glebe.
Well, the great news is, the same people responsible for The Cottage’s greatness have opened new digs on Glebe’s busy main street; Glebe Point Road – and let me tell you, one evening at The Charleston, will have you wanting for many, many more.
Part restaurant, part cocktail bar, The Charleston delivers on all fronts. To start with, there’s the awesome menu with a strong Southern influence. Think melt-in-your-mouth fried chicken, gooey, bubbling mac and cheese, cinnamon-coated doughnuts and mouth-watering tacos, complemented by super fresh ceviche and some of the most mouth-watering cocktails in town.
The mouth-watering tacos served at The Charleston, Glebe.
In terms of decor, The Charleston is a little more on the chic side, combining industrial elements with sleek brass, soft pinks and a touch of mint green – not to mention some eye-catching fernery. It’s the ultimate spot to catch up with friends and let the world pass you by.
A stunning summer menu:
The stunning sunset from Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel.
When you think summer, sun and a great day out with friends, many of us will automatically picture the blue and white striped umbrellas that adorn the beer garden of the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel. Pioneers of seaside favourites like oysters, prawns and amazing fish and chips – the Watsons Bay group have actually released a new Capri-inspired summer menu that’ll be a bigger draw card than the frosé.
Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel’s cuisine has always enjoyed an Italian influence and this summer’s menu was drawn from the culinary adventures of executive chef Dave Clarke in southern Italy. Dave said: “I spent time in Capri, Positano and the Amalfi Coast and saw how the Italian ‘beach clubs’ are real eateries on the water – seafood dominates the menus, produce is simple and locally grown and the meals have bold flavours but no fuss. Our new menu follows this mantra, taking each dish back to basics but as good as it can taste.”
For those who enjoy share plates, the calamari and zucchini fritti, prosciutto and refreshing melon and yellow fin tuna crostini served on sourdough will be the dishes to choose. If you’re after something a little more substantial, the king fish and whole barramundi are set to be very popular, and one of Dave’s favourite additions to the main courses is a roasted half chicken with Tuscan rub.
The summer menu is inspired by Italy, with a heavy focus on sustainable, delicious ingredients.
But fear not, you’ll still be able to get your faves! Dave has complemented his Italian fare with popular Watsons Bay classics including beer battered fish and chips, sushi and sashimi plates and the Wagyu burger in a menu to please all palates and appetites.
The Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel Beach Club menu is served from 11:00am till late, seven days a week. The menu will be refreshed mid-summer with a range of coastal specials championing seasonal fruits and vegetables.
A civilised dining experience:
I know what you’re thinking, hotel restaurants have a notoriously bad rep. That’s what I thought too, until I tried Glass Brasserie at the Hilton.
Impressive interiors at Glass Brassiere
Helmed by chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan, the menu provides guests (and many Sydneysiders) with a true culinary experience. Just the interiors alone, designed by New York’s Tony Chi, are enough to get you excited.
The 240-seat space features a 13-metre floor-to-ceiling glass wall, featuring perfectly positioned booths that offer views of the Queen Victoria Building.
Serving modern Australian cuisine, emphasis is placed on local and seasonal produce. Kingfish sashimi and tiger prawns are entrée heroes, followed by an ‘off the grill’ section that will really start some dinner table conversation.
The staff are warm, attentive and helpful – writing the book on how civilised dining should be done.
A quaint (and undiscovered) wine-bar:
It’s rare to find a Sydney restaurant that is yet to be flooded with crowds. In saying that, Dear Sainte Eloise is somewhere that deserves all the recognition it gets.
Mood lighting strikes the right balance at Dear Sainte Eloise
A tiny wine bar down a Potts Point laneway, Dear Sainte Eloise received its name from George Orwell’s memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London.
Featuring a 400-strong wine list, this venue is the perfect place to sit, relax and digest after a day of perusing. And with a menu that changes every few days (based on seasonal availability), it’s also the perfect place to keep going back to.
Before we get to bragging about the incredible cocktails at Solander Dining and Bar, first, a history lesson.
Cocktails for days at Solander Bar
Daniel Solander (1733–1782) was an instrumental figure in the early documentation and collection of Australian plants. Today, the Hilton venue has tipped its hat to the whimsical character in the form of a botanical-inspired restaurant and bar.
Now to the good stuff.
For the thirsty, the venue’s experienced bartenders create bespoke botanically-inspired cocktails, mocktails and serve a range of spirits, wines and craft beers from the stunning emerald green terrazzo marble bar.
Velvet couches and patterned floors strike the perfect balance
And food? Solander Dining and Bar’s emphasis is on modern Australian fare. Belgian chef David Vandenabeele was enticed from Manhattan’s Langham Hotel, creating a menu that boasts the very best regional and seasonal produce that NSW has to offer.
A charismatic restaurant with a large vibe:
Located in the heart of downtown Sydney, Hubert is the kind of vintage hole-in-the-wall that will make you feel as if you’ve accidentally stumbled onto the set of a movie.
The interiors at Restaurant Hubert allow you to truly dislocate from the outside world
Upon entering, 4000 miniature liquor bottles line the spiral staircase that transports you into an alternative post-war Europe universe. The wood-panelled space is dazzling, romantic and topped off with a 100-seat theatre complete with a grand piano perched atop a stage.
Hubert is much about the ambience, good conversation and laughter, as it is the quality of the wine and the food. About which they also have plenty to brag.
Restaurant Hubert seems to be the only restaurant any one is going to
To truly get the grand Hubert experience, we suggest travelling in a group. The banquet menu requires at least four people – and with the amount of food you get, you’ll also need at least four stomachs at the table.
Whether it’s the whole garlic chicken, prime beef tartare or the can’t-leave-without-trying Escargot – make sure you wear your stretchy pants.
A plant-based offering to please the masses:
You may have heard of new kid on the block Alibi, the plant-based dining pioneer making waves out of the Ovolo hotel franchise. Well I had not, and was keen to give it a try.
Take a seat at Alibi
The fresh new menu has been spearheaded by renowned US chef, restaurateur and global plant-based aficionado Matthew Kenney. This is his first venture in Australia and it does not disappoint.
The menu offers a seasonal, colourful and innovative selection alongside plenty of cocktails and wine to wash it all down.
For signature dishes, Alibi offers kimchi dumplings with sesame and ginger foam, heirloom tomato and zucchini lasagne with pistachio pesto, plus kelp noodles and crispy olives.
Spicy Udon, sichuan tempeh, shiitake mushroom, watercress, toasted cashew, togarashi
For dessert (we know you’re interested), think pumpkin chocolate pie with coconut and cardamom cream or apple crumble with vanilla cashew ice-cream and almond maple caramel.
One-of-a-kind waterfront dining:
Just a 50 -minute zip from the city is Berowra Waters Inn: a destination restaurant that has been held alongside Australia’s best since its 1984 inception.
Berowra Waters Inn boasts some of the best views in Sydney
Housed on Berowra Creek, the rugged gorges and gum-tree lined site is only accessible to diners by boat or seaplane.
Views from Berowra waters
Head chef Brian Geraghty owns and runs the space, which boasts a frequently changing menu based on availability. If you’re a stickler for cuisine however, I guess we can all settle on a mix of classic French with modern Australian.
The degustation menu heroes the venue, explained ever so pleasantly by the delightful staff. And with floor-to-ceiling windows, every table has a window seat.