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Sydney's Great Wine Restaurants

Brilliant chefs and brimming cellars make Australia's biggest city a world-class dining destination

Susan Gough Henly
Posted: September 12, 2000

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Sydney's Great Wine Restaurants

Brilliant chefs and brimming cellars make Australia's biggest city a world-class dining destination

By Susan Gough Henly


As Sydney finishes grooming itself for the 2000 Summer Olympics, its restaurants stand ready. So many of them are now world-class that visitors who relish food and wine are in for a memorable trip. The most exciting chefs are inspired innovators who take all manner of chances, snatching ideas from the city's multicultural environment to create dishes that are remarkable, surprising and uniquely Australian--the ideal complement to native wines.

Sydney is breezy and casual, yet sophisticated. There is more than a touch of California in the air--the balmy climate is similar, as is the hedonism, the slick self-assurance and the pervasive passion for dining and drink. Its four million residents, their infatuation with cell phones notwithstanding, are remarkably easygoing. American visitors feel very much at home in the lifestyle capital of the land Down Under. Its splendid setting, on an inlet-trimmed harbor, with no less than 15 miles of beaches within the city limits, virtually guarantees a relaxing experience.

Wine lovers don't need the Olympics to get worked up about Sydney; the opportunity to taste hundreds of wines that they can't buy at home may be thrill enough. Even though Australian wine sales in the United States increased significantly last year, only about 300 Australian wineries, from a total pool of 1,200, export to the Americas. Choosing from the lengthy lists available in the best restaurants would be daunting were it not for the enthusiastic sommeliers, who guide visitors to the best of the Australian classics and introduce them to dynamic new wineries in emerging regions.

Traditionally, Australia's best-known wine has been Shiraz (the Australian name for Syrah), which makes particularly good use of the country's abundant sunshine and baked earth. The Barossa Valley, which was never affected by phylloxera, has older vines than the Rhne. (Barossa is the home of the celebrated Penfolds winery.) Coonawarra and Margaret River Cabernets are often compared to those of Bordeaux and have price tags to match their pedigrees. The country's distinctive whites include aged Smillon, with its heady nose and complex flavors, from the Hunter Valley; flinty Rieslings (wonderful with Sydney rock oysters) from South Australia's cool Clare and Eden valleys; and, of course, big, buttery Chardonnays. The outstanding dessert Muscats from the Rutherglen area of Victoria are a must for a voluptuous end to a serious Aussie meal.

Susan Gough Henly is an Australia-based writer and photographer specializing in wine and travel.


Where to Dine in Sydney

ARIA

1 Macquarie St.
Telephone (011) 61-2-9247-4750
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, daily
Cost Entreés $26
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

Customers here think nothing of Opening a Grange or two to go along with an assiette of duck and the splendid view of the Opera House. Chef Matt Moran's menu is sumptuous, replete with ambitious creations such as roasted barramundi fillet with crispy chat potatoes, smoked Pacific oysters, Champagne sauce and poached egg. The strong but pricey wine list includes a page of aged Penfolds. Some interesting Shiraz finds include Water Wheel, Clonakilla and Dalwhinnie from lesser-known regions, plus bottles from small producers in the Barossa Valley such as Greenock Creek and Torbreck.


BANC

53 Martin Place
Telephone (011) 61-2-9233-5300
Fax (011) 61-2-9233-5311
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday
Cost Entreés $23
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

The menu here is well matched to the art deco space, formerly a bank and now a grand, light-filled dining room that's popular with local power brokers. Dishes are French, prepared with a light, modern touch. The 32-page wine list is phenomenal, and staff members know it intimately. Philippe Morin, who has trained them, is a hard-core fan of Australian wines and will wax euphoric in his French accent about a dynamic producer in McLaren Vale or Margaret River. Look for the excellent selection of Western Australian Cabernets, including Moss Wood and Cullen, and try the well-conceived degustation menu with accompanying wines.


WINE BANC

53 Martin Place, Elizabeth Street entrance
Telephone (011) 61-2-9233-5399
Fax (011) 61-2-9233-5311
Open Lunch and dinner, Monday to Friday; dinner, Saturday
Cost Entreés $13
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

Wine Banc, in an arched sandstone cellar under Banc, is Sydney's premier wine bar. The list changes weekly and includes some unusual new finds as well as 20 or so wines by the glass. Everything on Banc's master list is also available here. The bistro menu offers simple, wine-friendly dishes such as prawns linguini, poached salmon and steak frites. There's a full cocktail bar, and live jazz several nights a week.


BATHERS' PAVILION

4 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach
Telephone (011) 61-2-9969-5050
Fax (011) 61-2-9969-4626
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Cost Café, entreés $12; restaurant, three-course menu $50
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

People line up to tuck into simple bistro dishes in the casual entrecafé, located right on the beach, while their kids play in the sand outside. Finer fare is served in the adjoining restaurant--the slow-cooked ocean trout with seaweed, spinach and shimagi mushrooms is a worthy choice. Sommelier Sally Harper offers only the best producers, including some interesting small vineyards in emerging regions such as King Valley in northeastern Victoria and Granton in Tasmania.


BEL MONDO

Level 3, The Argyle Stores, 18-24 Argyle St.,The Rocks
Telephone (011) 61-2-9241-3700
Fax (011) 61-2-9241-3744
Web site www.belmondo.com.au
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, daily
Cost Bar, Entreés $10-$14; restaurant, Entreés $23-$26
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

This airy space, a converted warehouse overlooking The Rocks, offers a fine dining room as well as a casual bar where one can enjoy northern Italian dishes from the same kitchen at a fraction of the price. Although there's an excellent selection of Italian wines, the appeal for the American visitor is the terrific Australian collection. The restaurant's own Nebbiolo-Barbera was crafted by sommelier Franck Crouvezier at Gary Crittendon's Dromana Estate in Victoria. A number of limited-edition aged Australian reds are available: Mount Mary Cabernets Quintet and various Wendouree blends, among others.


CICADA

29 Challis Ave., Potts Point
Telephone (011) 61-2-9358-1255
Fax (011) 61-2-9358-3609
Open Lunch, Wednesday to Friday; dinner Monday to Saturday
Cost Entreés $16
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

Peter Doyle, one of the original champions of new Australian cuisine, has created a restaurant that feels like a neighborhood hangout but has savvy customers streaming in from all over town for bright, fresh creations such as seared tuna steak, with cherry tomato, caper and olive salsa. For dessert, try the caramel pot de crme with passion fruit. Sommelier Nick Allchurch has created four user-friendly pages that newcomers to Australian wine will appreciate, an at-a-glance selection of particularly interesting reds and whites.


FORTY ONE

Level 41, Chifley Tower, 2 Chifley Square
Telephone (011) 61-2-9221-2500
Fax (011) 61-2-9221-5243 Web site www.fortyone.com.au
Open Lunch, Sunday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday
Cost Three-course menu $50
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

This is a celebration-view restaurant with a Champagne list and luxurious food to match. The wine list is encyclopedic. Many older Australian vintages are available through a relationship with Anders Josephson Cellars; and Stephen and Prue Henschke of the renowned Henschke winery have furnished the restaurant with some of their rare museum wines. Go for the six-course tasting menu, featuring dishes such as Yamba prawns in potato waistcoats on a sauce of Indian spices and whipped brie mille-feuilles with olive bread toasts and watercress.


MG GARAGE

490 Crown St., Surry Hills
Telephone (011) 61-2-9383-9383
Fax (011) 61-2-9383-9384
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday
Cost Entreés $12-$25
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

There's more to this place than the cars and the bucket seats; it's one of Sydney's sleekest dining rooms, offering an exciting selection of dishes done with Mediterranean flair. The guinea fowl baked in clay, with pancetta, mushrooms and barley pilaf, is a favorite. The reds on the list tend toward the bigger end of the spectrum, with some outstanding Australian options such as Penley Estate Cabernet and Rockford Black Shiraz. There's fine selection of magnums as well.


PARAMOUNT

73 Macleay St., Potts Point
Telephone (011) 61-2-9358-1652
Fax (011) 61-2-9357-3012
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Sunday,
Cost Entreés $25-$28; six-course tasting menu $65 (with selected wines $98)
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

Chef/owner Christine Manfield, another leading light on the Australian cross-cultural food scene, started her career in the kitchen at the Petaluma winery in the Adelaide Hills. Since that time, wine has always figured strongly in her work. On the degustation menu in her polished, modernistic dining room, you'll find some inspired pairings: a salad of blue swimmer crab and tropical fruits matched with a Tasmanian Riesling from Stefano Lubiana, rare-roasted venison in a hot and sour tumeric sauce served with Mitchell's Peppertree Shiraz '98, from Clare Valley. The wine list includes some interesting lesser-known labels (20 or so of them by the glass) such as Mitchelton Viognier Roussanne and Primo Estate Il Briccone Shiraz-Sangiovese, which have been selected to marry well with a spicier cuisine.


SALT

229 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
Telephone (011) 61-2-9332-2566
Fax (011) 61-2-9332-2530
Open Lunch, Sunday to Friday; dinner, daily
Cost Entreés $18
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

Luke Mangan's food is daring and the wine list eclectic at this ultrafashionable boutique restaurant in the lobby of the trendy Kirketon Hotel. Emerging regions such as Gippsland, Cowra, Mansfield and Mt. Barker are well represented, and there are some rare varietals available--Verdelho and Chambourcin, among others. One also finds wines like Veritas and Grosset here, due to the strong personal rapport Mangan and his partners have with top boutique vintners. Unusual wines call for unusual food. Dishes like veal fillet with cabbage and sweet corn, wild garlic, Corella pear and cinnamon sauce are real attention-getters.


ROCKPOOL

107 George St., The Rocks
Telephone (011) 61-2-9252-1888
Fax (011) 61-2-9252-2421
Web site www.rockpool.com.au
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday
Cost Entreés $18-$26
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

Founded in 1998, Neil Perry's flagship restaurant is now an institution. The menu remains as Pacific-Rim in character as it ever was, with a strong Western backbone. The stir-fried squid with black-ink noodles, garlic, chili and coriander is representative. Local producers of cheese, beef, seafood, herbs and vegetables play a starring role here, supplying the restaurant with the best they have to offer. Many wines on the list were bottled specifically for Rockpool as well, with Perry's cooking in mind. Look for the Smillion and Shiraz made by David Lowe and Jane Wilson, the Riesling and Chardonnay by Jeffrey Grosset and the Cabernet-Merlot blend from Joe and Dina Grilli.


TETSUYA'S

729 Darling St., Rozelle
Telephone (011) 61-2-9555-1017
Fax (011) 61-2-9310-4824
Open Lunch, Tuesday to Saturday; dinner, Tuesday to Friday
Cost Entreés $22
Credit cards Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club

Tetsuya Wakuda is an Australian original whose bold creativity and impeccable technique have won him admirers the world over. Try the lobster ravioli with seaweed vinaigrette or the roasted deboned spatchcock with daikon and bread sauce. Sommelier Jerry Jones has fashioned a 13-page list of wines that complement such cooking, with plenty of Champagnes, Pinot Noirs and Rieslings. There's an excellent selection of underappreciated Australian Rieslings, including a well-priced 1984 Leo Buring Reserve.


For more information on Australian travel, please refer to our Australian Travel Package

To find hotels and resorts for your stay in Sydney, refer to our Hotel Database

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