Where to try Sydney's finest food for a fraction of the cost

More for less: Barbecue wagyu spare ribs from Bentley's new bar menu.
More for less: Barbecue wagyu spare ribs from Bentley's new bar menu. Photo: Supplied

Frugality and fine dining seldom go hand-in-hand. Braised abalone, 10-course meals and golden steaks are not for the budget conscious, after all.

But as labour and supply-chain issues push the price of living to record levels, there are a group of skilled Sydney chefs offering a taste of fine dining for a fraction of the cost. 

Chef and co-owner of the hatted Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Brent Savage, recently launched a new bar menu that includes snacks from $8 and small plates from $12.

"We have been operating Bentley Restaurant for more than 16 years, and during that time we have been slowly pushing the boundaries of what modern Australian fine-dining means," Savage says.

"It feels great to be in a position to create a more approachable style of dining so people can drop into the bar and experience what we do each day at The Bentley. 

"Our vision is to offer guests something special and luxurious that still reflects the restaurant style but in a more modern, relaxed bar setting."

Bentley Bar scallops tartare 08/04/22

Scallops tartare is one of many beautiful items on Bentley Bar's menu. Photo: Supplied

In Chippendale, Sicilian-born chef Lino Sauro has opened a casual, takeaway restaurant serving the same handcrafted pasta found in his fine-dining establishment, Olio, from just $12. 

Sauro says Str'eats by Olio utilises his main kitchen to produce "real, authentic Italian pasta with the best Italian flour", serving it with sauces such as wagyu beef brisket ragout and cured pancetta with wild fennel and chilli. 

Advertisement

"I can afford to offer quality pasta at a cheaper price because there's no service, there's no seating and there's no crockery," he says.

"It's just very casual, so we get students from UTS alongside our Olio regulars coming down for a Monday lunch."

Str'eats by Olio pasta 08/04/22

No-frills takeaway means Str'eats by Olio can offer authentic Italian pasta for less. Photo: Supplied

Highly acclaimed chef Federico Zanellato, says he takes the same approach with his Surry Hills pie shop, Lode, as he does with his two-hatted restaurant, LuMi. 

"The main thing for us is to always get the best produce we can get our hands on and apply the best technique to the product," Zanellato says.

"You can't achieve a good product with average ingredients, we always also try to evolve and constantly question ourselves on how we do things."

For those with a taste for the finer things in life, here's where you can sample the work of some of Sydney's most acclaimed chefs, without the sticker shock.

Fine dining for less in Sydney

Bentley Bar (Bentley Restaurant)

While the snacks at Bentley Bar start at $8, head chef Brent Savage says diners are more often drawn to the seafood platter. At $90 it isn't cheap, but it does offer comparative value for money with enough Sydney rock oysters, Spencer Gulf kingfish sashimi, Tempura Bay lobster and scallop tartare to feed two people. For wine connoisseurs, co-owner Nick Hildebrandt has made champagne and sparkling a little more accessible by offering one of Sydney's most comprehensive selections by the glass. 

27 O'Connell Street, Sydney, 02 8214 0505, thebentley.com.au

Lode Pies (Lumi, ELE)

Zanellato and LuMi graduate Lorenzo Librino bring new flavour profiles to classic pastries at this boutique Crown Street bakery. For between $6 and $20, you can try their croissants, sausage rolls and their signature pithivier, a wagyu beef and shiitake mushroom pie served with chicken jus and cream sauce. It may not be as high brow as waiters serving ELE's dry-aged Murray cod in an evolving art installation, but it certainly is decadent. 

487 Crown Street, Surry Hills, lodepies.com

Str'eats by Olio (Olio)

For the price of a greasy meal at a fast-food chain, you can instead dine on fresh, handmade pasta at this hole-in-the-wall takeaway restaurant on Kensington Street. Sauro says he slashed the price of his pasta to demonstrate how it's possible to eat well, even when you're on the run. Prices range from $12 for the aglio olio peperoncino to $18 for con le sardine, with wild fennel, sardines, saffron, pine nuts and raisins. 

30 Kensington Street, Chippendale, 0451 484 660, spicealley.com.au/streats-by-olio

Charlie Parkers (Fred's)

Can't get a booking at the popular Paddington farm-to-table restaurant, Fred's? You're in luck, because outgoing head chef Danielle Alvarez also prepares the snacks at Charlie Parker's, the bar downstairs. Alvarez employs her signature, sustainable and seasonal approach to small plates such as chicken liver parfait, smoked mackerel pate and steak tartare. Prices range between $8 for snacks to $38 for the assorted cheese plate.

380 Oxford Street, Paddington, 02 9114 7332, merivale.com/venues/charlieparkers

Fish Butchery (Saint Peter)

Sample some of Sydney's finest seafood at Josh Niland's Fish Butchery, where fish and chips get a little bit fancy. The Butchery team stores the fish in a static coolroom, allowing it to age and reach its full potential, then dry handle the fish to achieve a more savoury, complex flavour. While charcoal-grilled, line-caught Eden wild kingfish and chips is unquestionably more expensive than the whiting at your local, at $24 it's a far cry from spending $175 per person for Saint Peter's acclaimed tasting menu. 

388 Oxford Street, Paddington and 965 Bourke Street, Waterloo, fishbutchery.com.au

Senpai Ramen (Sokyo)

One of Sydney's highest-profile Japanese chefs, Chase Kojima, dialled down the traditional omakase to just 90 minutes at his new Chatswood restaurant, Senpai Ramen. 

Kojima made a name for himself at the hatted Sokyo restaurant in Pyrmont, where diners fork out $270 per person for 23 dishes, including scallop ravioli and smoked scampi. At Senpai Ramen, the experience is significantly cheaper at $65 per person for seven courses, but the freshness and quality of the ingredients remains the same. 

G05/88 Archer Street, Chatswood, senpairamen.com

Bar food at Little Felix in Sydney. 08/04/22.

Snack like a Parisienne at Little Felix. Photo: Supplied

Little Felix (Felix)

Felix head chef Mike Flood's classic French fare is being served at Little Felix from just $12 for a small plate. The produce-driven bar menu boasts everything from foie gras au torchon with pickled rhubarb for $20, to tomato tartine for $15. Its location on Ash Street makes Little Felix a great option for pre- and post-theatre snacks.

2a Ash Street, Sydney, 02 9114 7372, merivale.com/venues/little-felix

Chiswick providoor selection 08/04/22

Recreate Chiswick's signature roast at home. Photo: Supplied

Providoor (Chiswick)

A little bit of assembly could save some serious money when it comes to feeding the family. Celebrity chef Matt Moran's packaged up everything you need to recreate your own banquet, including Chiswick's signature slow-roasted lamb, harissa-spice butternut pumpkin, and burrata with heirloom tomatoes. Providoor offers both pick-up, delivery, and minimal cooking skill – once you've got your meal home, all you have to do is heat it up. The whole package serves two hungry people and will set you back $170.

sydney.providoor.com.au