Sydney's most exciting restaurant openings of the year so far

The al fresco Whalebridge in Circular Quay is great news for people who love to eat outdoors all year round.
The al fresco Whalebridge in Circular Quay is great news for people who love to eat outdoors all year round.  Photo: Jarryd Lyons

Most exciting openings of 2022 in Sydney.

Ante in Newtown on 20 January, 2022. Photo: Brook Mitchell

Ante ups the ante for 'the small bar that could'. Photo: Brook Mitchell

Ante

As dark as Japanese charcoal and as pure as Junmai sake, Ante ups the ante for "the small bar that could". With the double whammy of owner Matt Young's obsessions for sake and jazz on vinyl, and a thoughtful chef like Jemma Whiteman (Pinbone, Lankan Filling Station) in the open kitchen, there's a distilled purity of expression here that makes it a standout. Robata-grilled arrosticini lamb skewers with roasted bamboo salt, and prawn casarecce pasta with fermented chilli and clementine are typical of the playful, textural dishes, each balanced on a knife-edge with umami and acidity.

146 King Street, Newtown, ante.bar 

Parlar - GOOD WEEKEND - Pan tomate, Gilda toast &
Anchovy churro at Parlar in Sydney Potts Point on the 15/04/22

Pan tomate (left) and anchovy churro at Parlar. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Parlar Restaurant

Big sister Franca is settling into its skin as a lively, luxe restaurant and bar, but little Parlar, two doors down, is the surprise packet. Owner Andrew Becher and chef Jose Saulog went to Catalan tapas for inspiration, although don't expect anything humble, or indeed simple. The room has a heavenly '70s vibe, with its broad marble bar (and Sydney's best bar stools) and swirling tapestries. Luxury ingredients and almost fanatical technique elevate golden croquettes of salt cod topped with caviar and a Daliesque hot seafood platter of lobster, spanner crab, scampi and toothfish.

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81 Macleay Street, Potts Point, parlar.com.au 

Viand restaurant. Owner-chef Annita Potter has opened her Woolloomooloo restaurant. 24th Feb 2022. Photo: Edwina Pickles / Good Food

Owner-chef Annita Potter at her Woolloomooloo restaurant. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Viand 

Viand is a testament to one woman's startling skill and self-belief. Former David Thompson executive chef Annita Potter has set up a contemporary Thai pavilion in the lower reaches of Crown Street, bypassing cliches and cutting straight to the intrinsic balance and harmony of Thai cuisine. A pungent lon of duck egg and scampi acts as a relish to sticky pork, simmered for hours in palm sugar caramel, and is the highlight of the eight-course set menu. A masterclass in doing things the Thai way, and one of a growing number of absurdly good female chef-led kitchens.

41 Crown Street, Woolloomooloo, viand.club

Lamb neck schwarma, tarator, pickles, saida saj. Aalia restaurant. 15th March 2022 Photo Louise Kennerley GOOD FOOD SMH

Lamb neck schwarma at Aalia at Martin Place. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Aalia

The latest baby of Ibby Moubadder and Jorge Farah's ambitious Esca group (Nour, Lilymu, Henrietta), Aalia sits at the heart of 25 Martin Place, the brave new face of Sydney CBD dining. It's a dynamic space of circular booths and soaring wooden columns, with tables spilling out onto the terrace. Chef Paul Farag goes beyond the obvious, serving flatbreads with caviar from the Caspian Sea, reimagining stuffed vine leaves as perilla with sea urchin, and slow-roasted lamb neck as shawarma. 

Shops 7 & 8, 25 Martin Place, Sydney, aaliarestaurant.com

Terry Durack review at Loulou Bistro at Milsons Point. Pate en croute du jour. Duck, pork & fig. 20th Jan 2021. Photo: Edwina Pickles / SMH Good Food

Pâté en croute du jour (front) with moules frites at Louou. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Loulou Bistro

In keeping with 2022's survivalist mode, Loulou has eggs in a lot of baskets. Sebastien Lutaud (Merivale, Solotel) has built a battle-proof business model with a bakery and traiteur (deli), as well as a big, bustling bistro and bar. Drop in for pain au raisin and St Ali coffee, pick up a roast chicken, or sit down to talented chef Billy Hannigan's lighter, brighter bistro classics. Loulou is smart, considered, contemporary and agile – there's even a pâté en croute du jour. A bistro for our times.

61 Lavender Street, Milsons Point, loulou.sydney

Chicken liver parfait and madeira.

Chicken liver parfait and madeira at Oncore. Photo: Edwina Pickles

More, more, more

Last year ended with the gastronomic equivalent of fireworks – the opening of Oncore by Clare Smyth at Crown Sydney, Barangaroo. With its staggering harbour views, luxurious leather-bound tables and service of almost military precision, it's the closest you'll get to three Michelin star dining in a country with no Michelin Guide.

Then came Shell House Dining Room & Terrace in Margaret Street, where Brett Robinson's The Point Group orchestrated a multi-level cabaret of bars and dining that nails the energy, music and good times we needed in the CBD. 

The most recent high-end opening is ELE by Federico and Karl, a bold move from Federico Zanellato and Karl Firla. Or rather, three bold moves, as you dine progressively from bar to dining room to kitchen counter. That might sound alarming, but the chefs work hard to make it flow at this ambitious restaurant in The Star Sydney's former Momofuku space.

GF/SHORT BLACK: Just Open - City, 330 George Street. 9th December 2021, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald. 
Merivale restaurant MuMu
Dan Hong's new south-east Asian restaurant MuMu opens at the Ivy

Merivale's MuMu is a trip around south-east Asia. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Still more …

  • The al fresco Whalebridge in Circular Quay is great news for those who love to eat outdoors all year round. 
  • Josh and Julie Niland's big new Fish Butchery in Waterloo is this century's version of the old Sydney fish cafe.  
  • Odd Culture in Newtown is a dog-friendly space that merges beer, cocktails and dining in a just-right mix.  
  • The Merivale Group's vibrant new MuMu in George Street is a trip around south-east Asia without having to get on a plane. 
  • Fans of Bistro 916's twist on French food are loving the same group's small and seductive Italo-Australian Pellegrino 2000 in Surry Hills. 
  • Jane is pretty much the template for the ideal neighbourhood local diner with serious food. 
  • Maydanoz in the CBD is winning hearts for Somer Sovrioglu's mostly plant-based share dishes inspired by coastal Turkey.
The Rover in Surry Hills. Standover Man cocktail & No-Groni. 29th April 2022. Photo: Edwina Pickles / SH Food.

Standover Man and No-Groni from The Rover in Surry Hills. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Top bar openings

Bar Planet

Just what the doctor ordered: a shrine to the dry martini in a swingin' intergalactic bar from the team behind Cantina OK! and Tio's. There's no kitchen, but Saray next door will deliver dips, salad and Turkish pide.

16 Enmore Road, Newtown, barplanet.com.au    

The Rover

The new Rover, born of The Wild Rover, is now a little more grown-up, with seasonally adjusted cocktails, an entire honour board devoted to oysters, and chef Pip Pratt's fish finger rolls with curry mayo.

75 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, liquidandlarder.com.au 

Tiny Kings Cross veteran venue Piccolo Bar is reborn as an aperitivo bar
Designer Michael Delaney (blue shirt)
New owner David Spanton (apron)
Supplied

Veteran venue Piccolo Bar has been reborn as an aperitivo bar. Photo: Supplied

Piccolo Bar

This tiny red-light cafe-turned-cocktail-bar opened in late 2021 with all of 12 seats and an obsessive devotion to vermouths and aperitivi. A nostalgic little charmer.

6 Roslyn Street, Kings Cross, piccolobarkingscross.com.au 

The Bar at the InterContinental

A love affair with the hotel bars of old inspired Maurice Terzini's residency at the InterContinental in Double Bay. It's a romantic mix of live jazz and small tables, gold-leaf olives, Ana Page cocktails, and a supper club menu that lists coal-roasted marron with crepes.

The InterContinental, 33 Cross Street, Double Bay, doublebay.intercontinental.com   

Lobby Bar at Ace Hotel

The best hotel bars let you slip from coffee to cocktails without even thinking. Sink into the sunken lounge at Sydney's new Ace Hotel and revel in art by Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran and Nadia Hernandez, and barbecue octopus and shishito peppers from chef Heidi Flanagan. Plus, a laneway wine bar to come, from P&V's Mike Bennie. 

47 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney, acehotel.com