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SXSW Guide: Recommended Wining and Dining Around the Festival Precinct

Restaurants in the SXSW Sydney precinct that are just as impressive as the events you'll be running between.
By Marley Ng
October 05, 2023
By Marley Ng
October 05, 2023


Restaurants in the SXSW Sydney precinct that are just as impressive as the events you'll be running between.

As SXSW descends on Sydney for the first time, you'll need spots to catch your breath after thrilling gaming exhibits, debrief about innovative conference speakers and rest your feet before the next round of live music acts.

SXSW will take over various venues in Chippendale, Ultimo, Haymarket, Darling Harbour, the CBD and Surry Hills for film screenings, conferences, gaming events, gigs and expos from Sunday, October 15 to Sunday, October 22. For non-badge or wristband holders, there's a program of free events happening at Tumbalong Park.

There is no shortage of incredible restaurants in the SXSW precinct. Even so, we've teamed up with Jack Daniel's to compile some standout eateries where you can refuel and recharge between the stacked lineup of events, from quick and casual bites to gourmet dinners.

  • 9

    Since its opening in 2022, the cosy Italian restaurant — by the team behind Bistrot 916 and now Clam Bar — has remained one of the most popular restaurants in Sydney. The buzzy trattoria is conveniently located around the corner from the Hollywood Hotel, which will play host to music acts such as FRIDAY*, Paige and Baby Cool during the festival.

    Start with focaccia, crudo di mare and fritto misto before moving on to more substantial plates such as spaghetti alla chitarra with bay bugs, ravioli with prawns and brown butter and veal alla parmigiana. The delicate crema caramello, presented with a tower of banana-infused whipped cream, is a surefire way to round off your meal and get you rallied for a night of live music and dancing.

    Tables are usually booked out weeks in advance, but you can try to walk in for a very early or late meal, or you might get lucky with a last-minute cancellation.

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  • 8

    The sister to acclaimed Sydney restaurant Ester, Poly serves modern Australian fare and natural wines in a charming pocket of Surry Hills — a short walk from SXSW venues like the Soda Factory, Hollywood Hotel, Event Cinemas George Street, Tumbalong Park and the ICC Sydney.

    Helmed by notable chef Mat Lindsay, Poly’s menu updates seasonally but includes dishes like fermented potato bread with whipped sesame, Moreton Bay bug with fermented hot sauce, barbecue spatchcock and a dry-aged ribeye cooked on the kitchen’s custom hearth. If you don’t know where to start, go for the set menu with all the favourites for $95 per head.

    Bookings are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome, pending availability.

    Image: Kitti Smallbone

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  • 7
    A large pizza with mushrooms from City Oltra.

    For a more low-maintenance option when you’re running between shows, City Oltra has you covered with huge pizzas available whole or by the slice. The casual eatery is situated by Central Station, so you can grab a bite after a gaming session at the EDDY Multi Space or on your way home from the SXSW precinct.

    During the day, City Oltra slings lunch specials like two pizza slices and a can of Poor Tom’s or tap beer for $20, along with sandwiches and salads. For dinner, there are starters like cold cuts and antipasti to enjoy before you dig into their round or square pizzas. Pizza options include Poor Tom’s gin sauce with cheese and basil, hot pepperoni with cool ranch, fried eggplant with cheese and pangrattato and changing specials. Drinks-wise, there are craft beers, Poor Tom’s cans, aperitivos such as a strawberry gin and grapefruit highball or Baba’s rakija and tonic and a selection of fun wines.

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  • 6

    A fairly recent addition to the Sydney dining scene, Porkfat was opened by Chef Narin Kulasai, who grew up in Central Thailand and previously cut his teeth at Long Chim. Nestled in a corner of Haymarket, the intimate Thai restaurant is in the centre of the SXSW action.

    Porkfat strives to be as authentic as possible to the flavours of Thailand’s Saraburi province, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find a generic pad thai or stir-fry on the menu. Instead, there is papaya salad with salted duck egg, baked tiger prawn with vermicelli, green curry with grilled pork jowl and lychee and a deep-fried whole barramundi with crispy garlic, Thai basil and a rich three-flavour sauce.

    It’s a small space, so bookings are essential.

    Image: Leigh Griffiths

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  • 5

    A Sydney institution, Mamak is known for its hand-stretched roti and affordable hawker-style food. Open until 10pm or midnight, the Malaysian joint is an ideal spot for a quick bite after a long day of back-to-back conferences at the ICC Sydney, a screening at Event Cinemas George Street or live music at the Civic Underground.

    The kitchen slings casual Malaysian classics such as savoury and sweet roti, chicken and beef satay, chicken and fish curries, nasi lemak, mee goreng and nasi goreng. It gets even better — the venue is BYO, so you can crack open a cold one or enjoy a bottle of your favourite wine.

    You’ve been warned — lines can stretch around the block depending on the time, but tables are turned over fairly quickly.

    Image: Alana Dimou

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  • 4

    If you want a low-key pub feed, look no further than Darling Pavilion. The new addition to Darling Harbour sits adjacent to Tumbalong Park, so you can go straight from a free show to a chicken schnitty.

    The multimillion-dollar venue has an extensive menu of pub faves from burgers and sandwiches to steaks, pizzas and, of course, three types of schnitzels. There are also a few Mediterranean-inspired twists, such as the grilled haloumi with watermelon and mint, grilled lamb skewers with cumin and honey yoghurt, pastitsio, pulled lamb burger with tomato, garlic and cucumber yoghurt and slow-cooked pork shoulder with cous cous.

    With space for 350 guests, you should be safe to walk in without a booking.

    Image: Chad Konik

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  • 3

    Italian-inspired restaurant Kindred is a beloved local gem in the Darlington community. Stop by for hearty plates of pasta and organic, biodynamic and natural wines after non-stop tunes in neighbouring Chippendale.

    The rustic trattoria is a neighbourhood favourite for a reason — not only is the food consistently delivered to a high standard (even six years after opening), but the sourdough bread, cultured butter and pasta are all made in-house and the produce is sourced from local suppliers. 

    Seating is limited in the cosy space, so bookings are highly encouraged.

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  • 2

    Spice Alley is smack-dab in the heart of the SXSW gaming and music festivals. Open from 11am until 9.30pm or 10pm, it’s the ideal place to grab a quick bite between game showcases at Mercure Sydney and demos at Fortress Sydney, or when you’re heading home from a night of music and dancing.

    The lively pocket is home to six affordable Asian eateries, from Japanese to Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai. There’s even the option to BYO wine or beer, so drop by the cellar door at Handpicked Wines for a recommendation to pair with your meal, or head to Lil Sis for a bottle of natty wine.

    Image: David Clare

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  • 1
    Main dining room at Nu'u restaurant in Sydney.

    For a pre-gig dinner near the APRA AMCOS, Knox Street Bar or the Powerhouse Museum, look no further than Nu’u. The new kid on the block in Glebe is by the Oaxaca-born team behind Nativo, so you can trust that the food will be just as flavour-packed.

    You won’t find any Tex-Mex here — the two-storey restaurant stays true to its roots with Oaxacan-Mexican plates such as enmoladas (marinated chicken in rolled tortillas with queso fresco and a peanut and garlic crumble), the chef’s choice of tacos, tamal de la costa (a steamed maize cake stuffed with a grilled Moreton Bay bug) and crispy pork belly with cured mole, drunk peaches and mezcal molasses. Complement your meal with a cocktail from the mezcal-forward drinks list.

    We recommend booking a table to avoid disappointment.

    Image: Nick de Lorenzo

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Find out more and purchase a badge or wristband at the SXSW Sydney website.

Top images: Leigh Griffiths, Kitti Smallbone, Nick de Lorenzo

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