In what will hardly be news to anyone who has ever set foot on its history-soaked cobblestone lanes, The Rocks is a beautiful place. But navigating the food and drink options can be a bit of a challenge
The good news is for every tourist trap, there's also a place worth visiting. Some are loud and proud on the main drag, others may take a little more hunting to find. Here are some of our favourites.
Start your night at the new-look Cruise Bar. Or, more precisely, at Junk Lounge, located on the first floor of this classic spot for a quayside quaff at the Overseas Passenger Terminal. There's a hot-Shanghai-nights theme to Junk Lounge, but you probably won't notice it too much when the sun's setting over the harbour, everything has turned to gold and you can wave goodbye to the cares of the day.
If you're keen for a dance into the wee hours, The Argyle has you covered. There might be a queue at its archway entrance on the weekends, so be prepared.
In hibernation for the last seven years, The Hotel Palisade quietly stirred back to action in July, transforming into one of the most gorgeous pubs in Sydney, with the assistance of designer Sibella Court. The beef brisket sandwich that comes with a side of salt-and-vinegar chips is reason enough to visit and there are also takeaway hampers and cider available if you feel like strolling down to the Barangaroo foreshore for a picnic.
The Fortune of War is Sydney's oldest continuously licensed pub and and it's worth dropping by on a Saturday afternoon for the people watching if nothing else. The view from The Glenmore's rooftop is breathtaking on a sunny day when the harbour sparkles and the Opera House sails are billowed like fat, white spinnakers. In colder weather there's few better ways to spend a few hours than next to a fireplace at either The Lord Nelson or Hero of Waterloo. The Lord brews its own beer, The Hero has old-time jazz on the weekends and both pubs are full of ghost stories, tall tales and sandstone.
Hotel Palisade, 35 Bettington Street Millers Point, 0421 001 474, hotelpalisade.com.au
The Fortune of War, 137 George Street The Rocks, 02 9247 2714, fortuneofwar.com.au
The Glenmore, 96 Cumberland Street The Rocks, 02 9247 4794, theglenmore.com.au
The Lord Nelson, 19 Kent Street The Rocks, 02 9251 4044, lordnelsonbrewery.com
The Hero of Waterloo, 81 Lower Fort Street Millers Point, 02 9252 4553, heroofwaterloo.com.au
The classic sausage roll at La Renaissance Patisserie deserves to be heritage-listed with the rest of The Rocks thanks to its spot-on pastry and perfectly seasoned pork and veal mince. All the pastries here are excellent, regardless of whether you're taking away a beef bourguignon pie or enjoying in the courtyard with a Little Marionette coffee and a macaron. For a breakfast to help ease the pains of any late-night Argyle revelry, head to The Fine Food Store and devour nduja sausage and kale pesto on sourdough with a poached egg and ricotta cheese. Dozing happily on Kendall Lane (The Rocks' oldest laneway) this slightly hidden cafe is serious about the black stuff too, rocking cold drip and pourover with Coffee Alchemy beans.
Creperie Suzette has also joined the cold-drip club and serves Double Roasters' coffee alongside delicious crepes that don't go easy on the Nutella. If you like a harbour view to accompany your caffeine then you can't go past the Museum of Contemporary Art Cafe and its outdoor sculpture terrace. The burger isn't at all shabby here either, or the banoffee pie, and on Thursday night it opens its doors for dinner and drinks al fresco.
La Renaissance Patisserie, 47 Argyle Street The Rocks, 02 9241 4878, larenaissance.com.au
The Fine Food Store, Corner of Mill and Kendall Lanes The Rocks, 02 9252 1196
Creperie Suzette, 34 Harrington Street The Rocks, 02 8220 9999, creperiesuzette.com.au
MCA Cafe, 140 George Street The Rocks, 02 9250 8443, mca.com.au/visit/mca-cafe-sculpture-terrace
Chef Peter Gilmore might be dividing his time equally between Quay and Bennelong these days but that doesn't mean Quay is slipping in quality. Gilmore and (Quay owners) The Fink Group are more committed than ever to ensuring Quay remains the unparalleled, three-hat world-class dining experience it always has been. Not the cheapest restaurant, sure, but this is the ultimate Sydney night out.
Feel like a sushi, sashimi and shumai banquet? Make a beeline for Sake which (and local office workers take note here) also has a takeaway menu if you feel like jalapeno kingfish or wagyu dumplings to go. Ananas is your spot for les fruits de mer and other French classics, and brooding basement The Cut Bar and Grill is an epic shrine to meat. It has a beef trolley that likes to lap the room and gee whiz – there's nothing that gets the old pie-hole watering like a slow-roast wagyu-rib lovingly carved side of table.
Pony Lounge and Dining down the road isn't too shabby for a steak experience either and closer to the water Sailors Thai is still on hand to provide big-flavoured curries and knockout wine after more than 20 years. It can turn into a pricey night at Sailors quite swiftly so if you are on a budget but after something with more panache than a meat pie, William Blue Dining is totally worth a look. Located at the old Rockpool site, it's a working classroom for hospitality students. where any service stumbles are more than made up for in the price. Three courses come in at $38 and include dishes such as steamed snapper with shaved squid, snowpea, cucumber and black fungi. Bargain.
Quay, Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal The Rocks, 02 9251 5600, quay.com.au
Sake, 12 Argyle Street The Rocks, 02 9259 5656, sakerestaurant.com.au
Ananas, 18 Argyle Street The Rocks, 02 9259 5668, ananas.com.au
The Cut Bar and Grill, 16, Argyle Street The Rocks, 02 9259 5695, cutbarandgrill.com
Pony Dining Lounge and Dining, Corner of Argyle Street and Kendall Lane The Rocks, 02 9252 7797, ponydining.com.au
Sailors Thai, 106 George Street The Rocks, 02 9251 2466, sailorsthai.com
William Blue Dining, 107/109 George Street The Rocks, 02 9492 3290, williamblue.edu.au