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Perching at the bar with a robust negroni, not sharing a parmesan-laden bowl of fresh cacio e pepe is a largely unpretentious dining experience that cuts to the core of hospitality. Perfect for solo dining or a delayed catch-up with your long-lost friend, this type of dining had been lacking in Sydney until recent years. Nowadays, Sydneysiders aren't so intimidated with dining solo, sitting right in front of the chef, and foregoing a strong-backed seat for a humble stool. These restaurants and bars will let you pull up a pew in front of the action, and won't judge you on a table for one.
Image: Bar Topa, Kopper Finch
Take a seat up front, whether you're dining solo or finally having that long-delayed catch-up.
The Ester team's highly anticipated Surry Hills restaurant and wine bar.
The Arcadia Liquors team's third Redfern joint is an upstairs Euro bistro full of kitsch and neighbourhood charm.
A breezy indoor-outdoor Japanese diner with views out over Manly Cove.
The 35-seater offers a changing 11-dish menu over two sittings each night.
Surry Hills stalwart Bishop Sessa has swapped fine dining for a casual bar set-up.
$10 lunch specials, retro Bollywood films flickering on the walls and a self-serve beer fridge in the old 4Fourteen site.
Sister to Matteo Double Bay, this Bond Street restaurant boasts a dedicated mozzarella bar, a weekday aperitivo hour and a terrace primed for people-watching.
Pair quality cuppas with innovative, Japanese-inspired brekkies at this inner-city cafe.
Maurice Terzini's Bondi bar (within a bar) serving fried pizza and natural wine.
The Italian chain has opened its first outpost in The Shire.
A stunning Japanese fine-diner in an lesser-known inner west suburb.
An underground CBD restaurant specialising in one cut of steak.
A pint-sized tapas bar serving up innovative snacks and $8 half-size cocktails.
A ramen joint by day, an innovative izakaya by night.
Hunters Hill's new all-day eatery from an ex-ARIA chef is serving up standout in-house meals and healthy lunches to-go.
This hacienda-inspired restaurant has taken over the old Rum Diaries space.
One of Sydney's most under-represented Southeast Asian cuisines gets a shot in the spotlight at this Darlinghurst eatery.
Barangaroo's new small bar serving up rare Champagne and charcuterie boards.
Neil Perry's harbourside eatery serving late-night Mexican fare and $100 margaritas.
An 1800s-inspired pub with over 500 spirits and a solid menu.
Serving pizza and award-winning cocktails up the hill from the beach.
The jewel in Barangaroo's ever-growing crown, Barangaroo House is made up of three levels — we reviewed them all.
A Roman osteria and bar from the team behind Popolo.
The Riley Street Garage team's new Rosebery restaurant.
A neon-lit izakaya den inspired by 90s alternative rock.
Offering regional Mexican dishes in wicker chairs and a packed menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails.
Sydney's first outpost of Melbourne's famed loud, punchy and queue-inviting Thai eatery.
An oasis in the sweeping Four Seasons hotel atrium.
Fans of the Bondi favourite now have a second venue to get their share-style Chinese cuisine fix.
Chifley Square's 200-seat bistro serving up generous portions of French fare.
A Potts Point art deco eatery with all the makings of a great local.
A lavish but casual French bistro in Potts Point where you can have truffle shaved over everything.
Waterloo's newest Italian eatery is dishing out expertly executed traditional cuisine.
Some of Sydney's best Japanese fare is being served out of this hole-in-the-wall behind a police station.
A quaint Provençal bistro on Bourke Street.
Snack on mussels on toast and choose from over 350 wines at this Potts Point bar.
Barangaroo's sprawling 230-seat restaurant (with a late-night dessert bar).
Paddington's friendly neighbourhood pub.
New Orleans-style Sazeracs and smoked meats with a view over the Sydney skyline.
A gem of a restaurant stepping up North Sydney's fine dining game.
An all-day Asian diner that truly transforms from day to night.
Surry Hills' 1950s-inspired bar dedicated to The Fonz.
Redfern's tiny hole-in-the-wall dumplings and beer bar.
A New York-style steakhouse with acclaimed chef Stanley Wong behind the wheel.
A Darlinghurst wine parlour from the Buffalo Dining Club team.
Guillaume Brahimi's Woollahra French bistro has explanded to the lower north shore.
A lively, old-school pub in the backstreets of Glebe.
Camperdown's resurrected pub.
Sydney's first dedicated vermouth bar and bistro.
Find blues, soul and cocktails inspired by the notorious historic locals of Potts Point at this neighbourhood speakeasy.
Hatted farm-to-table dishes made in a stunning Tuscany-inspired kitchen.
Contemporary Lebanese with a twist on Crown Street.
The three-tiered Darlinghurst pub gets new life with an upstairs sports bar and rooftop terrace.
A cloud-shaped Barangaroo restaurant from the Bentley team.
A Paddington terrace filled with tequila and tasty South American morsels.
An Italian restaurant that blends the flavours of Piedmont with food photography.
Crows Nest's tiny six-table yakitori joint.
Sydney Harbour's Cuban-inspired vista bar.
Combining a French military aesthetic with an end of war party vibe, and stocked with over 900 spirits — expect banging cocktails.
A gleeful burger-laden homage to the city that never sleeps.
Deus Cafe has moved into more mature territory — with an ex-Bistro Moncur chef no less.
High-class French food in a subterranean space on Bligh Street. The chicken fricassée is the stuff of legend.
Double Bay gains another quality vino spot, helmed by an ex-Guillaume head chef.
Watch the sun go down with some killer sushi rolls.
Creative snacks and cocktails in a damn good-looking bar.
Dine in your own private opium den
Roast chook, parmesan custard and a cocktail bar — this is the Oxford Street pub like you've never seen it before.
Perfect pizzas have arrived on Enmore Road.
Where drinking cocktails gets that much better because they're served in cans.
Bondi's beloved Asian-fusion joint has expanded to the Hills.
A Surry Hills izakaya that nails the brief.
Bennelong is more casual and relaxed than ever before — but that doesn't mean the food isn't show-stopping.
Spiked lassis, '90s R&B and fancied-up Bangladeshi street nosh in Surry Hills.
No gas. No electricity. Only wood-coal fire.
Like partying at a wildly rich grown-up’s house.
Fresh pasta plus Aperol Spritz and Negroni on tap equal Casoni's formula for a good night.
Arcadia Liquors' European kitchen and a GDR-themed back bar with a relaxed vibe and highly impressive menu.
With a wood-fired oven as the restaurant's core, Ester's hearth produces food with heart.
An Italian restaurant challenging traditional ideals of how the cuisine should be executed.
Drinking classy means having a 'champagne bell' alert the waitstaff when your glass gets empty.
The location is great, the atmosphere is just what you want and the food? More than worth the journey.
In a minimalist, well-designed setting, you’ll enjoy Japanese cuisine in a reimagined izakaya style.
A place where cheese gets the recognition it deserves.
Put your Blackjack money back in your wallet and save it for a fantastic night of unconventional eating.
The loved CBD fine diner has a dedicated vegetarian tasting menu.
Dig into moreish cured meats, cheese-wheel caccio e pepe and wines from the Buffalo Dining Club team in this charming converted cottage.
An authentic Italian bar vibe on Surry Hills' eat street.
Raw, edgy and impossibly chic, Riley St Garage brings a slice of the New York Meatpacking District to Woolloomooloo.
Spring Street Social is Bondi's next big thing, a hole in the wall hiding an underground club.
Next time your throat is dry and sunstroke has you seeking shelter, grab a Neighbourhood Bloody Mary.
'Nomad' appears to be a misnomer: this is one place we'd be very content to set down some roots.
A Walsh Bay ode to the dumpling.
Devour an American burger and shake, just down the road from the Prime Minister's lodge.
Regent Place continues to flourish with this party room where the sake flows.
Bondi is not just for summer, with a Notorious P.I.G and mulled Batlow cider there to lift winter spirits.
A rock 'n' roll Newtown stalwart, with standout Maccas-style burgers and natural wines.
Glebe Point Diner is perfect for a casual graze, an intimate first date or a well-overdue catch up with mates.
Sokyo, the Star's Japanese child, does elegance extraordinarily well.
A fairy-lit small bar with a sweet little courtyard out the back.
From the team behind Fratelli Paradiso comes Paddington's beloved converted storefront eatery.
A refined, NYC-inspired bar sending you back to the 1950s with champagne, plenty of cocktails and $1 oysters every Thursday.
Take a typical tapas bar in Barcelona then polish slightly, adding cut crystal glasses and a pinch of Almodóvar references.
Doors have shut on Cleveland Street as a new chapter for the meatmasters begins.
Red vinyl stools, a curved bar and the chalkboard menu conjure 1950s Americana at this throwback eatery.