The Best New Sydney Restaurant, Bar and Cafe Openings of 2023

These are the 2023 newcomers that you need to try — or revisit — as soon as you can.
Ben Hansen
Published on December 13, 2023

The Best New Sydney Restaurant, Bar and Cafe Openings of 2023

These are the 2023 newcomers that you need to try — or revisit — as soon as you can.

Can you believe 2023 is coming to a close? Time has truly flown by and during the whirlwind 12 months Sydney welcomed a swathe of brilliant new openings. From ultra-lavish bistros to affordable neighbourhood diners, the year has has been rich with new ideas and passion projects springing forth to elevate our hospitality scene.

Pulling together a list of the year's best openings is no easy feat. The shortlist for this article was over 40 venues long. But after much thought and some robust debate we've narrowed it down to a compact selection of our favourite 15 openings of 2023, newcomers that've been impressive since the day they swung open their doors.

Before we get to the top 15, there are some honourable mentions we wanted to shout out.

Smoking Gringos garnered lines around the block thanks to its juicy birria tacos, Alfie's flipped the idea of a CBD steakhouse on its head, Famelia nailed the wine bar brief, and Nu'u effortlessly delivered a passion for southern Mexican cuisine and small-batch spirits. Poetica blew away North Sydneysiders, as did Chez Blue with Rozelle locals. Caravin and Deux Freres both delivered the moody European holiday vibes, and Bobby's is a sure-fire summer hit in Sydney's south.

Now, without further ado, in no particular order, here are our picks for the 15 best openings in Sydney this year.

 

  • 15

    The Abercrombie has slotted straight back into its place as a hub for music and late-night culture in Sydney. The new iteration of the legendary Broadway hotel features multiple dance floors serving up some of the best DJs the city (and world) has to offer — plus a rooftop bar, a crowd-pleasing pub menu, a natty wine den and a bottle shop.

    It even has a 24-hour license, providing young Sydney partygoers with somewhere to dance that won’t turn off the music once the clock strikes 1am. It’s the jack of all trades that Chippendale — and Sydney in general — has been calling out for.

    Image: Maria Boyadgis

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  • 14
    raja dining room fool of guests - one of the best indian restaurants in sydney

    “I think there is a lot of food that goes underrepresented — not just here but even in India, because it is such a big country it’s just not actually possible to know everything,” says Raja Head Chef Ahana Dutt.

    After cutting her teeth over at Firedoor, Ahana arrived in Potts Point to lead the new offering from the Ezra team, creating a thrilling Northern Indian menu. It’s a journey through bold flavours and fresh ingredients in dishes you’ve probably never had before — a concept that’s seen Raja quickly carve its name out as one of Sydney’s best Indian restaurants.

    Image: Nikki To

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  • 13
    Self Raised Bread Shoppe

    Arriving in Carlton (the Sydney one) from the crew behind My Mother’s Cousin, this welcoming cafe/bakery is fulfilling the carb cravings of southern Sydney with a sunny demeanour to match. Having mastered the art of pizza, with Self Raised Bread Shoppe the team has embraced different types of dough, honing in on all things sourdough and brioche.

    If sweets are your jam, you can devour elite kouign-amanns and bombolini, while the sandwiches here will rival any of the top sambo spots in Sydney. Rounding out the experience are the shelves of providore faves like hot sauces, cold meats, sardines, olives, burrata, coffee beans and cans of iced tea. An out and out winner.

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  • 12
    Longshore

    Sydney took a one-two blow of hospo losses when Hartsyard and Automata closed just weeks apart from each other at the end of 2022. But when one door closes, another opens, and Longshore is the gleaming sliver lining. Hartsyard’s Dot Lee and Jarrod Walsh took over the Kensington Street space formerly occupied by Automata to open a stunning celebration of seafood and the art of snacking.

    The $80 snack tasting flight is the ideal way to approach the menu, guiding you through boundary-pushing bite-sized morsels, like abalone party pies and tiger prawn tarts. Adding to the charm: a sensational wine program, a zero-waste policy and possibly 2023’s prettiest new dining room.

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  • 11

    If you find yourself in the centre of the natural wine, Australiana-kitsch, retro-inspired cocktail Venn diagram, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better Sydney spot to wile away the hours than Enmore Country Club. The rousing neighbourhood bar from The Little Guy crew brings 70s nostalgia to the former Cottonmouth Records home on Enmore Road.

    While the checkerboard floors and bowling shirts will draw you in, the drinks are what kept us coming back. The specialty is the house-made spiked cherry cola, but there are plenty of fun creations, including spritzes made with DOOM JUICE Fizz and a new-age revamp of the classic Midori Illusion. A lot of fun, zero pretense.

    Image: Angus Bell Young

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  • 10

    The Swillhouse team has done it again. The team Restaurant Hubert finally opened this ambitious new venue in The Rocks and, wow, have those efforts been rewarded. Le Foote functions as part wine bar and part elevated Euro-style bistro all in the shell of a historic pub — and nails every element.

    You can grab a table in the intimate front bar and enjoy a glass of chilled red or two-sip martini before heading to a gig at Mary’s Underground or the MCA. But out the back, it’s the lavish dining room where the magic really happens. A menu without fault, a superb wine list and service with a twinkle in the eye. The impressive food and drink are balanced out by a feeling that nothing should be taken too seriously, a welcome sign of the change at The Rocks.

    Images: Kristoffer Paulsen

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  • 9

    When Golden Century closed down, it left a yum cha-sized hole in the heart of Sydney. Thankfully, its former home wasn’t flipped into apartments or high-end boutiques but instead reemerged as Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant, an expansive 600-person Cantonese restaurant with dining until 3am, live seafood tanks and yum cha.

    It’s all here — reviving the space with three levels including an a la carte dining room, a yum cha zone and a private dining floor. And all the classics are on offer: pipis in XO sauce, Singapore chilli crab, Peking duck pancakes and mango pancakes. Change, who needs it?!

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  • 8
    The busy Promenade restaurant at Bondi Beach - home to one of the best private dining rooms in Sydney that's great for group bookings.

    After seven years, Bondi Pavilion finally reopened late last year with a host of new venues. One that stood out among all the excitement is Promenade, the sand-side restaurant Bondi’s been crying out for from the team behind Circular Quay’s Hinchcliff House.

    For a more casual affair you can grab a spot in the Front Yard bar for nostalgic cocktails, moreish share plates, pizzas and ocean views. Head inside, and there’s a luxurious dining room celebrating ethically sourced seafood just metres from the beach. There’s even a kiosk where you can pick up coffee and snacks from 7am. It’s an ideal all-occasions venue for bustling Bondi.

    Image: Jiwon Kim

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  • 7

    The Love Tilly Group has been championing small bars and intimate eateries for years now at venues like Love, Tilly DevineRagazzi and Dear Saint Eloise. But the group finally expanded their scope with the most ambitious space yet: the 120-seat Palazzo Salato on Clarence Street.

    Palazzo Salato maintains the prime date night energy of the group’s smaller venues, but its size means you can throw a rowdy group catch-up, too. The Roman-inspired menu has handmade pasta at the core (the spanner crab mafaldine is a must-try), and the impressive 600-bottle wine list has been curated pulling together drops from across the world, both traditional and new-age. This excellent, ambitious restaurant is the logical next step for the award-winning venue group as it continues to expand without losing its charm.

    Image: Nikki To.

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  • 6

    David Spanton might just be Kings Cross’ biggest fan. Not once but twice now, Spanton has saved a beloved venue in The Cross that has gone up for sale. First, it was Piccolo Bar. This year, he rescued the former Cafe Hernandez on Kings Cross Road. The spark of the cafe has been preserved as it was transformed into a love letter to all things vermouth.

    Much like Piccolo, Vermuteria showcases a small specialised drinks menu and a range of terrific bites, with fortified wine at the heart of the booze offering. If you’re new to this world, just ask the staff; they’re oh so happy to guide you through the wonders of vermouth as you sit among walls lined with playful memorabilia like signed celebrity photos and rare vermouth bottles. There’s so much passion oozing from Vermuteria, you can’t help but get caught up in it.

    Image: Chris Pearce.

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  • 5
    Clam Bar - one of Sydney's best CBD restaurants

    Sydney has experienced a recent influx of sleek bistros and flash steakhouses, but none are leaning into the opulence quite like Clam Bar. The Bridge Street brasserie from the team behind Bistrot 916 and Pellegrino 2000 sets itself apart by combining modern sensibilities with a playful fondness for the menu items from fine diners of yesteryear. Seafood towers, prawn cocktails, egg salads and oysters three-ways — they’re all here.

    All of this is housed within a CBD space that also rides the line between modern stunner and tastefully kitsch throwback. Golden finishing, playfully mirrored wall installations, wood panelling and antique light fittings invite you into a space that’s primed for you to pair an excellent New York strip with a side of pan-fried crab cakes.

    Image: Jason Loucus

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  • 4

    From cooking up a storm in The George to popping up at Grifter Brewery to opening a tiny lockdown restaurant in Chippendale, Toby Wilson has slowly been building up to the new Ricos Tacos for years. This iteration of the beloved taco truck is as grand as they come, taking over both levels of The Norfolk Hotel in Redfern.

    The multi-storey taqueria is split into two distinct spaces — a bright yellow dining room and beer garden downstairs and the nostalgia-laden Club Ricos upstairs. The kitchen pumps out Ricos classics like the fan-favourite hashbrowns, tacos, chicken tortas and zucchini flower quesadillas, but they’re now paired with a full bar sporting an extensive mezcal collection, craft beers on tap and playful cocktails. It’s the space that Wilson and the team were always destined for.

    Image: Steven Woodburn

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  • 3
    Jacksons on George - one of the best Sydney CBD restaurants

    This September, Jacksons on George reemerged after years in the wilderness following a multimillion-dollar renovation. Comprising the ground-floor public bar, a flash new French bistro and the sleek cocktail-fuelled rooftop bar, the new Jacksons on George gives you a clever lineup of options.

    Both the pub and rooftop bar provide top spots to grab a drink in the city, and in turn, have been consistently heaving with patrons since opening. But it is Bistro George that is the most impressive, serving up inventive European fare framed by panoramic views of the city skyline. The must-tries are the shared starters, including clams casino, woodfired potato bread and chicken liver parfait. And if all that wasn’t enough, the ground floor has a killer happy hour featuring $7 beers and wines between 4–6pm on weekdays. What more could you want?

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  • 2
    Derrel's

    Head Chef over at The Lady Hampshire and former Baba’s Place team member Brendan King is carving out his mark as one of Sydney’s most exciting young chefs. Derrel’s is his nostalgic neighbourhood Indian-style diner that’s arrived in Camperdown with affordable, flavour-packed feeds and late-night opening hours.

    A bright pink countertop, an office panel ceiling and the cricket World Cup playing on the 2000s-era TV welcome you to the dining room that pays heavy homage to Western Sydney takeaway spots. The menu is kept simple with snacks like samosa chaat and a selection of curries paired with rice, roti, lime, onion and chutney. Notably it’s BYO, so grab a few beers from Camperdown Cellars across the road or bring a bottle of your favourite natty wine to pair with your tandoori chicken plate. Hard to beat for a casual rowdy Friday.

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  • 1
    Shadow Baking

    Gee, that Gelato Messina crew sure know how to stay busy. Three of the brand’s head chefs added even more to their plates this year, teaming up and turning their attention to baked goods. Open just three days a week, Shadow Baking is located next to the Victoria Road Messina outpost, and from 8am Friday–Sunday you can head in to discover that day’s baked goods and sandwiches.

    Expect custard tart danishes, reuben croissant sandwiches, and pandan brioche doughnuts. An unexpected highlight: the vegemite scroll, topped with creamy guacamole, fermented chilli and pecorino. It’s not your standard combo, but it’s somehow an absolute match made in heaven.

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Top image: Nikki To

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