Oh Sydney, you're really doing it now. Call it the zeitgeist, call it generational, but just make sure you call us for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as the cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants of our fair city just keep getting better and better.
Nowhere is this focus more evident than in our newcomers, so put your hands together in a big Sydney welcome for the second annual goodfood.com.au "best new" award winners.
Picking the best newbies of the year was a bloody hard task for Good Food's team of food commentators and critics. A nightmare for us, maybe, but a dream for diners.
Post your favourites in the comments below and join the discussion. And here’s to 2013.
Best new restaurant
Winner: Cafe Paci
Pasi Petanen's 12 month “pop up” is bright, fun and fresh; with smoky, zesty, fruity, juicy dis-comfort food that will thrill and discombobulate in turn. The Finnish-born, former Marque head chef has done a lo-budget, hi-style fit-out by simply painting the old Cafe Pacifico space 50 shades of grey. A genuinely new and different dining experience, and one that points the way for more adventurous, personal, creative dining in 2014.
95 Riley Street, Darlinghurst, 9368 7000
It sounds weird, but the move of Neil Perry's almost 25-year-old flagship restaurant out of The Rocks and into the atmospheric Burns Philp building has resulted in a brand new restaurant that comes with its own proud history. Rockpool raises a finger to all those who say fine dining is dead, with its lush drapes, double-clothed tables, champagne trolleys, and sublimely balanced, Asian-influenced cooking from talented head chef, Phil Wood.
11 Bridge Street, Sydney, 9252 1888
Best new on-trend restaurant
Headed up by former Billy Kwong head chef, Mat Lindsay, Ester is hot, in more ways than one. The beating heart (and hearth) of the restaurant is a massive wood-fired oven which turns out everything from wood-roasted cauliflower and steamy roasted oysters to fish, chicken, lamb, duck, and blue swimmer crabs. A little cutie of a blood sausage sandwich and a natural-leaning wine list are both highlights. Can't get a table? Grab a seat up at the bar, Sydney's latest dining habitat.
46-52 Meagher Street, Chippendale, 8068 8279
DIY chef Nathan Sasi makes his own cheese, cures his own charcuterie, makes his own vinegars and pickles, and turns out all manner of delicious things from his trusty wood-fired oven and grill. All this, and a killer all-Australian wine list too. Again, a brilliant bar at which to sit and perv on the action in the kitchen.
16 Foster Street, Surry Hills, 9820 3395
Best new under $30
Winner: Cipro Pizza al Taglio
What happens when former Rockpool chefs are inspired by a trip to Rome? In this instance, they open a bright warehouse-y, smart-casual space serving up pizza al taglio. The headliner pizza slices – thick, crusty-based and vibrantly topped (with zucchini, ricotta and mint, perhaps) – are just the start. Also gathering groupies are wood-fire roasted meats, house-made gelato and a very good flourless chocolate cake.
21 Fountain Street, Alexandria, 9698 4183
Runner-up: Prato Cafe + Diner
The team behind Copo Cafe & Diner at Drummoyne have upped the ante with this new cafe housed in a big century-old building with lofty ceilings and breezy verandah seating. Chef Brock Coffey cures, smokes, grows and churns as well as cooking, turning out top shelf dishes: creamy smoked fish pie is a winner.
378 Great North Road, Abbotsford, 9712 5638
Best new global gem
Winner: Khao Pla
Chatswood's food scene is hotting up and this buzzing black-and-white Thai "indie kitchen" is the hottest of them all, in popularity and spiciness. Chef Pla Rojratanavichai's CV includes time at Spice I Am, Mr Wong and Ms G's and his food impresses, from a fiery sashimi scallop salad, to irresistibly sweet and tamarind-tangy pork ribs. Swift and smiling service is a bonus.
370-374 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, 9412 4978
Runner-up: Ramen Ikkyu
The "who does Sydney's best ramen" debate is a feisty one, and this year has seen plenty of new contenders throw their stock pots into the ring. This food court outlet by former Blancharu chef Harunobu Inukai comes out tops in our book. Try the rich Tokyo (shoyu) ramen.
Shop F1A, Sussex Centre food court, 401 Sussex Street, Haymarket, 9281 0998
Best new bar
Winner: Earl's Juke Joint
Well, if we're talking "best bar" in a literal sense, Earl's wins hands down for its whopping 12-metre long timber slab soaked in schooners of Fernet Branca and Wu Tang-inspired cocktails. And even if we're not, ex-Shady Pines manager Pasan Wijesena's New Orleans-style tavern still takes the cake. There may not be a Mary's burger or a Bulletin Place market-fresh cocktail but Earl's is a sum of its parts; a darn fine neighbourhood joint with both comfort and cred.
407 King Street, Newtown, no phone
Runner up: Lobo Plantation
Without a doubt, the most lavish bar of the year. It's a breathtakingly opulent hideout made with Cuban sugar baron Julio Lobo in mind, but an epic rum selection and some seriously good Caribbean street food makes this newcomer more than just a pretty face.
Basement Lot 1, 209 Clarence St, city, 9279 4335
Best new cafe
Winner: Paramount Coffee Project
An alliance between coffee pioneer Mark Dundon of Melbourne's Seven Seeds and Russell Beard of Reuben Hills, PCP is like a coffee co-op, in the coolest possible way. Guest coffee roasters, light roasts and separate espresso and filter bars shake up the coffee programme, and food is American hipster, from double-fried chicken to sweet waffles with peanut butter ice-cream. All corseted by the Art Deco bones and soaring ceilings of Paramount House, home to the Golden Age Cinema.
80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills 0410 311 494
Runner-up: Purple Moose
For awesome Coffee Alchemy coffee in a streetwise DIY space that's all graffitied laneway, artificial lawn, big purple moose head and a do-it-yourself breakfast board of prosciutto, tomato, toast and dukkah.
446 Botany Road, Beaconsfield 9699 6882
Best new pub
Winner: The Henson
A long-neglected Marrickville icon was given a stunning makeover this year and emerged with cool quirks and a great all-day menu. The staff are friendly, the food's great, the beer list interesting and there's a kid-friendly courtyard out back. In an area that's long been missing a decent local, this hits all the right notes.
91 Illawarra Road, Marrickville, 9569 5858
Runner-up: The Oxford Tavern
It's not in the latest Pub Food Guide because it opened too late, but the most drastic makeover of the year has to go the Oxford Tavern, which has gone from topless waitresses and jelly wrestling to pulled pork and hot dogs. One to watch.
1 New Canterbury Road, Petersham, 8019 9351
- With Angie Schiavone, Rachel Olding, Keith Austin