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Six Legendary Dishes That Put These Sydney Restaurants on the Map (and Still Hold Up Today)

Tick these top eats off your culinary bucket list.
By Samantha Teague
May 05, 2021
By Samantha Teague
May 05, 2021


in partnership with

Tick these top eats off your culinary bucket list.

Sydney's dining scene is not only well-known across Australia, it has a reputation around the world as being one of the best. And that's, in part, thanks to a handful of legendary dishes. Our fair city is home to pancakes regularly eaten by the Japanese Prime Minister and a dessert The New York Times described as "the world's most Instagrammed cake".

With the help of American Express, we've rounded up the dishes that helped put Sydney on the map — and still hold up today. Bookmark this list and start ticking them off.

  • 6

    Ripping off a piece of 10 William St’s seeded pretzel and swiping it through the salty, smooth whipped bottarga is one of life’s small joys. Pair it with something pink (a rosé from the Loire Valley, perhaps) or orange (a skin-contact Adelaide Hills number) off the hand-written by-the-glass wine chalkboard and you get a must-have Sydney dining experience.

    This Paddington stalwart is both a bar and a restaurant, so your time here can start and end with the aforementioned wine and snack at the high-top counter. Or, you can make yourself comfy at one of the tables and eat your way through plates like orecchiette with cavolo nero, spanner crab polenta and tiramisu — after starting with the pretzel, of course.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 5

    You can’t go wrong when ordering at chef Junda Khoo’s Chinese Malaysian restaurant Ho Jiak. The laksa is one of Sydney’s best, the Indomie goreng is always a good time and the hainan chicken rice is soul-warming. But the dish that has fans — from near and afar — coming back again and again? The nasi lemak.

    It comes with a mound of fluffy coconut rice, roasted peanuts, spicy sambol, half a soft boiled egg, cooling slices of cucumber and crispy fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies). You can order the normal size or jumbo (if you or your dining companion are particularly hungry) and add on either a chunky chicken curry or the wagyu rendang. With its smorgasbord of flavours and textures, it’s clear why nasi lemak is Malaysia’s (unofficial) national dish.

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  • 4

    O Tama Carey’s hoppers were once only available on Saturday mornings at the Carriageworks Farmers Market. Now, you can eat them six days a week at the much-loved chef’s permanent eatery Lankan Filling Station. The bowl-shaped coconut and rice flour crepes are a traditional Sri Lankan dish made to be eaten alongside an array of curries and sambols. At Lankan, you can tear off a piece of the egg hopper and scoop it through a fiery prawn curry, a potato and turmeric number, a dry black meat curry and sambols such as lunu dehi, raita and katta. You’re encouraged to eat with your hands here, so the hopper is like an edible bowl and spoon all in one. When you’re done with the mains, ordering a scoop of coconut sorbet and a slice of the dense and fudgy love cake is highly recommended.

    Image: Parker Blain

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  • 3

    Originally starting out as a special, Bar Luca’s Blame Canada burger was so popular it quickly became a permanent menu item. Now, it’s synonymous with Sydney’s burger scene.

    Taking its name from the Oscar-nominated song in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the beast of a burger features not only cheese, maple-glazed bacon and maple aioli atop its beef patty, but also poutine. For the uninitiated, poutine is a Canadian delicacy where fries are drenched in gravy and topped with streaks of cheese curds, which is usually served alongside a burger. Here, you’ll find it between your bun. If the Blame Canada doesn’t sound like enough artery clogging in itself, there are a multitude of add-ons you can choose from. Extra patty? Why not. Peanut butter? Yep. Mac ‘n’ cheese? You’ve come this far, may as well go all in, eh?

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  • 2

    On the list of the world’s most Instagrammed desserts, you’d likely find Dominique Ansel’s cult-favourite cronut, Ladurée macarons, beignets from New Orleans’ Cafe du Monde and, according to The New York Times, Black Star Pastry’s strawberry watermelon cake.

    Dubbed “the world’s most Instagrammed cake” by the paper, the fruit-filled masterpiece stars layers of almond dacquoise, delicate slices of watermelon and rose-scented cream, and is topped with strawberry chunks, dried rose petals and slivers of pistachio. First created by pastry chef and Black Star Pastry founder Christopher Thé for a wedding in the 2000s, the cake now has an international fandom, with the Black Star stores selling more than a million slices of the dessert every year.

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  • 1
    bills Bondi

    Opening its OG Darlinghurst location back in 1993, Bills has since become a global cafe chain with outposts in Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu and London. While some credit Bills with starting Australia’s smashed avo craze, the dish with real global cred is the ricotta hotcakes. Eaten by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga “three or four days a week”, these fluffy stacks are a far cry from the bottled pancakes you shake up on a Sunday.

    The hotcakes are served with sliced banana and a generous round of honeycomb butter, which gradually melts and covers the cakes with a sweet and salty sauce. They’re undeniably indulgent and go down a treat alongside Bills’ spiced bloody mary with clamato, Korean chilli and lime. You’ll find them at all three Sydney Bills outposts (Surry Hills, Bondi and Darlinghurst).

    Image: Anson Smart

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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: Parker Blain

Shop Small All Around Sydney

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