1 Bent Street by Mike
Mike McEnearney has traded his sorely missed queue-up and serve-yourself canteen business model in Rosebery for a "proper" restaurant on the bent part of Bent Street. Yet there's something subversive going on here, a Helen of Troy approach to sneaking real-food credentials into the cold commercial heart of the CBD. It's there in the open kitchen, the wood-fired oven, the uncompromising sourcing, and the mighty six-metre long communal dining tables fashioned from the blackwood planks salvaged from an old Canberra bridge.
1 Bent St, Sydney, 02 9252 5550, onebentstreet.com.au
Welcome to flavour town, population, you. Grilled lettuce is covered in shavings of roast venison liver swiftly followed by raw plums in dressed in fermented juice and mustard oil covered in nasturtium leaves. An explosion of stracciatella sees shreds bound in a verdant oil, capers and fine strands of preserved lemon. A piece of hapuka, the protein just-set, is probably the best-cooked piece of fish we've seen since Steve Hodges closed the doors to Fish Face.
5 Kensington St, Chippendale, 02 8277 8555, automata.com.au
Mitch Orr and the team behind ACME have transformed the Passage – co-owner Ed Loveday's long, oesophagus-like Darlinghurst bar – into a vehicle for young-gun chef Analiese Gregory, with Moby and the Eurythmics on high rotation. And the crowd is loving it, whether perched at small high tables and stools in the front, lounging on sculptural wooden benches at tables in the middle dining room, or sipping wine from slim-stemmed glasses at a book-end bar overlooking Darlinghurst Road.
231a Victoria St, Darlinghurst, 0450 307 117, barbrose.com.au
Continental Deli Bar & Bistro
Continental has captured the zeitgeist of how Sydney likes to snack: cured meats, stiff drinks, fine wine, cheese, things in tins, on hand at all times of the day, in convivial surrounds that would make a Madrileno feel right at home. The ground-floor deli, with its conservas-lined stacks, and marble-topped, wood-framed bar, makes a convincing case to pull up a stool, order a Mar-Tinny or Can-Hattan (yep, both ring-pulls), and graze on the excellent cold seafood plate or snackable cold cuts.
210 Australia St, Newtown, 02 8624 3131, continentaldelicatessen.com.au
The newly reimagined Dolphin hotel is not so much a pub as an interactive art installation with food and drink attached. Icebergs chef Monty Koludrovic has welded together a sort-of Italian, sort-of retro menu that runs from Sao crackers with anchovy and olives to crisp, thin-based Roman-style pizze including a nicely intense, no-cheese marinara with tomato, anchovy, capers, olives and oregano.
412 Crown St, Surry Hills, 02 9331 4800, dolphinhotel.com.au
It pays to come hungry to this good-times, first floor pub dining room. Otherwise you might be a bit fazed when larger-than-life chef-about-town Morgan McGlone, the driving force behind Belle's Hot Chicken, sends out a good slab of St. Louis smoked pork ribs slathered with BBQ sauce. As an entree. Having cooked in Charleston and Nashville, McGlone is like a revivalist minister spreading the southern food gospel.
40/44 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills, 02 8262 8800, hotelharry.com.au
Sydney is finally falling in love with its basements, and Mercado, from the savvy team behind China Doll, is beautifully ensconced in the lower ground floor of a quite magnificent 1895 building. Here, Nathan Sasi produces his own cheeses and charcuterie, including baby-soft mortadella, smoked wagyu tongue and pickled green tomatoes for the signature brioche jaffle.
4 Ash St, Sydney, 02 9221 6444, mercadorestaurant.com.au
When chef Ben Greeno decides he's going to leave Momofuku Seiobo and roast chooks instead, you sit up and listen. And Sydney definitely did. This is a serious food offering from one of the most serious chefs in the Sydney game. You might start with a special of roast lamb, given the Peking duck treatment, or maybe you'll just cut to the chase and order the chicken. It's rotisserie style, so the skin is deeply golden and flavourful without necessarily being crisp with an extremely tender interior.
380 Oxford St, Paddington, 02 9240 3000, merivale.com.au
It starts with the stairs. Down they go, lined with nearly 4000 miniature liquor bottles, spiralling around and around until they tip you out into post-war Europe. The Swillhouse Group's wood-panelled basement dining room, small bars and cellars are a homage to all that we love about restaurants. Ceiling fans spin above, tall candles drip wax, and Johnny Mathis croons in the background, as gifted chef Dan Pepperell skilfully subverts classic French recipes into a delicious hybrid of Escoffier and Lucky Peach.
15 Bligh St, Sydney, restauranthubert.com
A Middle Eastern bar and restaurant on the infamous Marie-Louise salon site is flavouring Enmore Road with thrills and grills. Downstairs it's a grand bar, and bow-tied waiters. Upstairs it's a little more subdued – dedicated place settings, and raki cocktails. Chef Ibrahim Kasif busts out cicek dolma – stuffed zucchini flowers fried to a deep umber – and patlican salatasi, a rough hewn smoky zucchini dip – perfect on a slice of still-warm soft brown bread. No matter what, though, it's imperative there's rice pudding, with heavily perfumed cinnamon ice-cream and quince, cooked down until it resembles a semi-firm scarlet candy.
135 Enmore Rd, Enmore, 02 8624 3132, stanbuli.com.auThe Sydney Morning Herald 2017 Good Food Guide is on sale now in newsagents and bookstores with all book purchases receiving free premium access to the Good Food app. The Guide is also available for the discounted price of $14.99 with purchase of the September 10 Sydney Morning Herald weekend edition.