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An Expat’s Guide: Sydney’s Best Restaurants, Bars & Cafes

I know I post non-stop about the beautiful views and iconic landmarks of Sydney – because let’s be honest, I’m totally annoyingly obsessed with this city. But some of the real beauty of Sydney comes in a completely different form. I think after traveling through Central America and Europe, I wasn’t expecting too much from the food and beverage scene here in Australia.

Here in Sydney, they took their food seriously. It’s not just a biological necessity, it’s a gastronomical experience. Restaurants and cafes are about way more than just serving you coffee and food. It’s about the ambience, the decor, the live music, the service. It’s an all around experience that can’t be missed. These are my favourite restaurants, bars and cafes in Sydney. If you’re a serious foodie, you won’t want to miss out on these great local spots:

1.) The Botanist – Kirribilli 


Since I’m based in the North Shore, it comes as no surprise that I’m a bit biased, but the North side has so much to offer when it comes to a unique dining experience. The Botanist is a tavern-like restaurant & bar filled with plants and greenery on the inside. (Get it, The Botanist? Greenery? There goes the lightbulb!) It’s more of a tapas style restaurant with some of the most drool-worthy food I’ve eaten here in Sydney. The Pork Cider Sliders and Plum Cheesecake made me nearly fall out of my chair. So delicious, great beer and wine, awesome decor and a really trendy wait staff!

2.) Shirt Bar – CBD

shirt-bar-sydney-cbd-whisky(pic credit – retailer square)

Shirt Bar is quite literally a bar with shirts in it. By day, it’s a tailored shirt retail shop and a cafe with the most delicious coffee in the CBD. By night, it’s a whisky bar that plays classic rock. They even do whisky tastings! I’ve spent full working days in this cafe getting lost with the music, a little shaky from all of the beautiful coffee and just watching the interesting people come in! It’s located near Wynyard if you’re looking for a great place for your next meeting!

3.) Bank Hotel – Newtown

bank-hotel-newtown-beer-garden(pic credit bank hotel)

I’m a sucker for a sunny day and a beer garden. Bank Hotel has something to offer for everyone. With many levels and rooms, you’ll be sure to find a place for you. My personal favourite is the beer garden on the bottom level. With greenery surrounding you, live music and a tiki bar, you feel like you’ve stepped out of the city and into a secluded island. Bank Hotel also has some of the cheapest beer I can find – $5.80 for a schooner, my jaw almost hit the floor!

4.) Belly Bao – CBD

belly-bao-bun-sydney(pic credit belly bao instagram)

If you’re looking for a quick bite in the city, check out Belly Bao – traditional Taiwanese street food with a modern twist. Belly Bao is known for its street food style with its Bao Buns. The Bao Buns are wrapped in a soft, sweet bun filled with absolutely delicious fillings. My favourite was the Soft Shell Crab Bao Bun! They also offer sweet potato fries with a really spicy sauce, but worth the burning mouth for sure!

5.) Mejico Restaurant & Tequila Bar – CBD 


Mejico is hands down the best Mexican food in Sydney! It’s not just the Central/South American fusion style food, but it’s the entire experience Mejico offers. From smashing the guacamole at the table to offering detailed advice on which tequila shot to order, Mejico’s staff is passionate about the restaurant, which makes a huge difference. The margaritas, tacos, salsa, tequila shots and even the decor are all what makes the restaurant so memorable! The best option on the menu is the “Feed Me” meal, which gives you multiple dishes from each section of the menu, totaling 9-10 dishes, for just $55 pp. Highly recommended – but book in advance!

6.) The Boathouse – Palm Beach

boathouse-palm-beach-restaurant(pic credit boathouse instagram)

While it’s an hour drive North of Sydney, Palm Beach is well worth the drive. Being the northern most tip of the Northern Beaches, Palm Beach offers a completely different Aussie Vibe than the other beaches in Sydney. The Boathouse isn’t exactly on the main strip where the other restaurants are, but its seclusion is what is appealing. Quite literally a boathouse, I loved sitting out on the deck eating what was possibly the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten. The Boathouse is not light on the wallet by any means, but it was a great experience surrounded by serene waters and good music!

7.) Bagus – Northbridge

As I stated, I’m fairly biased to the North Shore, but I believe we have some of the best hidden gems when it comes to food! Bagus is an authentic Malaysian restaurant tucked away in the Northbridge Plaza about 15 minutes north of the CBD! I swear I’ve eaten here at least once a week since they opened a few months ago. Bagus is a family-run restaurant with truly beautiful Malaysian dishes for a great price. It’s also a BYO, which of course I’m a huge fan of!

8.) The Deck – Milson’s Point


The Deck will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the restaurant where my Dad surprised me by visiting! It has arguably one of the best views of the Harbour and Opera House, and has a unique vantage point for sunset. The Deck is known for its fabulous seafood dishes, and I couldn’t recommend it more for a special occasion. If you’re looking for a special restaurant or bar with an unbelievable view, I would book in a table at The Deck!

9.) The Watershed – Darling Harbour


I’ve posted about The Watershed Hotel before, and I stand by everything I’ve said. It’s a great venue for after work drinks, overlooking the city as the sun sets. The Watershed has awesome happy hour specials, great nibbles and food and usually a live DJ! I’ve had some really memorable nights there!

10.) Sushi Rio – Town Hall

I couldn’t get through this list without adding in a sushi train. A concept totally foreign to me coming from Florida, I’ve learned to weed out which sushi trains are a scam or unsanitary and which ones are the rare gems of value and taste! Sushi Rio has absolutely beautiful sushi for $3 a plate on every type of sushi and side! It’s located nearby to Town Hall, and it’s also a BYO, which also makes it a great place to eat and pregame for the night out!

There’s honestly a million more restaurants I could go into detail about, but neither you nor I would want to read all of that! These are my favourite spots I’ve found since being here, and I hope that if you ever visit or even live here now, that you’ll take my advice and give these hot spots a try!


What are some of your favourite bars, restaurants and cafes in the Sydney?!


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