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Seven Epic Starters and Sides That Are Almost Worth the Restaurant Booking Alone

It's perfectly acceptable to fill up on multiple entrees.
By Marissa Ciampi
June 11, 2021
By Marissa Ciampi
June 11, 2021


in partnership with

It's perfectly acceptable to fill up on multiple entrees.

Now restaurants, bars and cafes are back in full swing, we'll take any excuse to eat out — especially when that excuse involves hunting down some of Sydney's best dishes. While mains are normally the star of the meal, we find sometimes the entrees steal the show.

We've teamed up with American Express to bring you a list of our city's most epic starters and sides. These dishes are so tasty they're almost worth the restaurant booking alone, from melt-in-your-mouth bone marrow in the CBD to Big Mac-inspired dumplings in Manly. You'll want to tick this list off one by one.

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    Step back in time at Kittyhawk, the CBD’s post-WWII Parisian liberation-inspired bar. You probably already know it’s slinging some of the best cocktails in Sydney but, when you come to Kittyhawk, nothing should stop you from ordering the bone marrow. It comes topped with a parsley sauce and is served with black garlic and toast. Be sure to spread a generous layer of the marrow on the toast, and, when it doesn’t last, order seconds — it’s worth every penny. If you’re saving up your dollarydoos but want something to wash it all down with, head in for liberation hour from 4–6pm daily. House spirits, wine and tap lagers are all just $6, and three of the bar’s incredible cocktails are priced at $14 each.

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    The sister restaurant to Cronulla’s long-running Albi’s Table, Albi’s Taverna has rustic charm aplenty. Expect a bustling atmosphere with traditional northern Italian fare — and complimentary starters. But don’t fill up on the freebies, tempting as that may be. You’ll need to save room for the spanner crab bruschetta. The crusty Italian bread is topped with plump spanner crab, chilli mayo, iceberg lettuce and pickled shaved carrots. The dish comes with two pieces, so you’ll definitely want to order a few serves. You can also grab this bruschetta on the two- or three-course set menus ($62–72). It sits alongside the likes of pistachio pesto gnocchi with slow-cooked prawn and crab, 48-hour confit pork belly and tiramisu with a coconut twist for dessert.

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    Boasting six locations across Greater Sydney, Al Aseel is a go-to for diners looking for an all-out feast of classic Lebanese dishes. For inner city patrons, the Alexandria location offers an elegant dining room and abundant outdoor seating for sunny days.

    Here, you can nab share plates that include chicken shawarma, shish tawook skewers, falafel and kibbeh alongside flavour-packed dips like labneh and hummus. But the one dish you absolutely must order is the fattoush salad. It’s a mix of cabbage, tomato and cucumber, topped with radish, shallots, garlic and crispy bread. And the special pomegranate molasses dressing drizzled over the top will have you licking the plate well after the salad is all gone.

    Image: Cassandra Hannagan

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    Potts Point’s lavish French diner Bistro Rex has been a local favourite since opening back in 2017. Set on Macleay Street in a former Commonwealth Bank building, the bistro oozes cool — and it also oozes cheese soufflé. This ooey, gooey, twice-baked masterpiece is made using cantal cheese that’s produced in the Auvergne region of central France. This fluffy soufflé is served straight out of the oven in a mini casserole dish, and you’ll want it for entree, main and dessert. If you bother looking elsewhere on the menu, you’ll find plenty of other French favourites like steak frites, chicken liver parfait and pear tarte tatin to round out your decadent feast.

    Image: JDNAS Creative

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    With restaurants in both Sutherland and Cronulla, Alphabet Street is the Shire’s go-to for elevated Thai cuisine. Dishes like lamb shank massaman curry, steamed fish in a chilli and lime broth and crispy pork belly in plum sauce all make the cut. But the dish that’ll truly keep you coming back for more is the miang (betel leaf). You can opt for it served with grilled prawn and coconut or, our pick, tea-smoked trout and tomato relish. This fragrant dish has complex flavours that’ll take your entire experience to the next level. Pair it with a signature cocktail like the Quiet Storm (vodka, lychee and guava) or the Chilli Coconut Margarita (tequila, makrut lime, coconut and chilli). Patrons are also encouraged to BYO wine and champagne (except on Friday and Saturday evenings) for $5 per person, so you can match your A-class eats with any bottle you fancy.

    Image: Tim Ashton

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    If you’ve been searching for a taste of the Deep South, Glebe has what you’re after. The Charleston is inspired by the coastal towns of South Carolina, and boy does it deliver. The laidback venue serves up some of the tastiest southern cuisine Sydney has to offer — from fried chicken with chipotle mayo and barbecue beef ribs with black-eyed peas to a full-on potato salad made with truffle ranch. But it’s a not-so-traditional dish that takes the cake for us. The Charleston’s burrata has an incredibly gooey centre (as always) and comes topped with a spicy nduja dressing, a caramelised balsamic glaze and walnuts for an added crunch. Enjoy your burrata in the front terrace for pure bliss.

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    Manly’s sushi queen Sunset Sabi is serving up non-traditional Japanese fare near one of the best beaches in the city. Come here for Australian takes on nigiri, sushi rolls and sashimi alongside Japanese-inspired tacos and karaage chicken served with a sriracha truffle sauce. The ultimate crowd-pleaser is the Double Double Gyoza. These cheeseburger-flavoured beauties are stuffed with wagyu beef, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes. Plus, every bite oozes with cheese and Big Mac-style sauce. Settle into the venue’s kitschy surrounds with a drink in one hand and your gyoza in another.

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Helping out never tasted so good — shop small to support the local stores that make Sydney so great. To learn about American Express and the Shop Small initiative, visit here. Then, head this way to find more must-visit spots.

Top image: Bistro Rex, JDNAS Creative

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