Sydney's best waterside restaurants 2017 (2022)

Sydney. A place where water views can actually not translate to Tourist Trap. Well, it can, but it doesn't have to. That might mean dining by the bay and seeing the harbour hard at work; watching the breakers curl and smack Bondi Beach on its sunburnt bottom, or listening to the Hawkesbury bump up against the forest. Whatever your flavour, the 2017 Good Food Guide team presents the best waterside dining in town.

Bathers Pavilion

Sydney's best waterside restaurants 2017 (1)

The artworks are splendid, the floral displays in bell jars impressive but, until the sun goes down, one view dominates and it's through the open, floor-length windows. Looking out over Edwards Beach to the Heads and the entrance to Sydney Harbour, Bathers' Pavilion has an utterly magical location. Tear yourself away to peruse the splendid wine list and set-price menu. Prepare to be intrigued when smooth chicken liver parfait with Nordic-style bread appears picture-pretty dressed with deep red plum dust, curls of crispbread, blobs of champagne jelly and viola flowers. There's a hint of native rosella flavours, offset by basil cream, in slices of kingfish sashimi. Tiny, jammy wild figs and fig puree accompany thick slices of pink duck breast while salmon skin served as crackling accompanies butter-soft king salmon. Whipped white chocolate offset by grapefruit sorbet draws the evening to a close. Waiters are friendly, professional and knowledgeable. Nature provides the backdrop. A very smart restaurant does the rest.

4 The Esplanade, Mosman,02 9969 5050,batherspavilion.com.au

Berowra Waters Inn

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Whether it's your first time catching a private ferry to the Glenn Murcutt-designed sandstone building, or you punted across when Gay and Tony Bilson were forging a new era of Australian cuisine here in the '80s, there's always a tingling sense of excitement based around the fact you're going a have a very nice afternoon. Quay-trained Brian Geraghty is the latest chef to breathe new life into the old girl and while the degustation menu doesn't quite knock it out of the park, there are still enough moments to enjoy in peaceful seclusion on the Hawkesbury. Tasmanian trout (why not use local seafood?) is pan-fried and a little mushy, but wakame crumbs and sorrel leaves are on hand to bring flavour and oomph. Slow-cooked beef short rib is a bit more like it, tender to the fork yet packing a mighty meaty punch, with tempura onion rings, pickled leek and tarragon gel to cut through the richness. While their riff on a classic Waldorf sees celery sorbet and candied walnuts next to a blue cheese cigar, it's a highlight thanks to its clean and defined flavours. Finish with a coffee or cognac before heading back to the real word.

Public Wharves, Bay Road, Berowra Waters,02 9456 1027,berowrawatersinn.com

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The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay

Oh, the joy of being handed a daily changing list of up to a dozen varieties of oysters (and why, pray tell, is such a thing so rare?). From intensely sea-sweet Merimbula Lakes Sydney rock oysters to meaty Coffin Bay Pacifics, it's as celebratory as splashing through the waves at Bondi Beach. The rest of Colin Barker's menu is equally ever-changing, from translucent fingers of alfonsino ceviche dotted with smoked buffalo milk, to a fleshy, crisp-skinned fillet of bass groper robustly paired with cabbage, ham hock and lentils. Only the signature snapper pie, all domed crust and creamy innards, is firmly anchored to the menu. Desserts are also seasonally adjusted, so a whippy, oozy, deconstructed cheesecake mixing strawberry sorbet and black olive caramel appears when strawberries are at their best. The wine list is appropriately fruit-driven, and the dining pace is leisurely – all the better to enjoy the ever-changing views over Blackwattle Bay to the Anzac Bridge and the city.

123 Ferry Road, Glebe,02 9518 9011,boathouse.net.au

Flying Fish

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At the end of Jones Bay Wharf, a million miles from care, it's all about ordering a cocktail at the outdoor bar, then soaking up the views of Barangaroo and the Harbour Bridge. There'll be seafood cooked with precision and served on white tablecloths in a room of creaking dark timber. Delicate Asian flavours run through the menu and the mainstay Cone Bay barramundi curry is always a winner. White anchovies, smoked tomato and a side of toast bring a hint of Spain, tuna tartare and pomegranate are held oyster-like between two crisp wafers and torched tuna pieces with grapefruit and shiso caramel are rich-astringent perfection. Main-course blue eye trevalla is juicy but severe with a twirl of balsamic potato and a dusting of caper powder. Chunky chilli-salted chips kick up the carb factor a few tasty notches. And if you really want to go all-out, there's always caviar, sashimi and mud crab. The setting cries out forlong lunch and as the sun slides behind the window slats, you might decide to stay for dinner. Maybe even the weekend.

Lower deck, Jones Bay Wharf, 19-21 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont,02 9518 6677,flyingfish.com.au

Icebergs

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While we wish the unique offering of a daily bruschetta special was the reason PRs book this restaurant for visiting celebrities, it's more likely because of that kick-arse view. But this is no one-trick pony – the food is simpatico with the distracting vista across Bondi, and echoed in the attentive service that seems to be entirely manned by young Italian men with stylish haircuts. If it was us booking for Oprah, we'd tell her to hope they're serving the fanciest toast you'll eat – bruschetta with sea urchin roe and shaved frozen foie gras. We'd then suggest she progress to the pasta, a perfectly al dente house-made fusilli with chilli, broccoli, seaweed and a thin slice of aged prosciutto, which is draped over the top like a tasty summer throw. It'll then be in her hands to decide between the grilled fish or share the juicy 500-gram black angus 150-day grain-fed boneless rib-eye. With food (and drinks) this good, we'd even travel from the other side of the world to eat it.

1 Notts Ave, Bondi Beach,02 9365 9000,idrb.com

LuMi Dining

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Who the hell would pipe a glossy black sesame emulsion on top of salt-baked beetroot? And make it look like a party-time continental cake? And make it taste earthy, explosive, incendiary? Only someone like LuMI's Federico Zanellato, in a seamless and wine-friendly amalgam of Italian and Japanese that has people (OK, us) whispering he's the Italian Tetsuya. The harnessed delicacy of his parmesan chawanmushi, the clarity of fine-skinned agnolotti filled with a nonna-like tomato sugo, and the unadulterated pleasure of a smooth, soft fillet of snapper under a foam of potato with the tiniest hint of a praline potato crunch are measures of his seemingly effortless skill. The gleaming glass-walled space on Pyrmont Wharf is lit by a starry ceiling of pendant lights, and service strikes that very Italian note of both informality and care. The poise, balance and romance of LuMi's tasting menus continue through to dessert, a journey through strawberry ice and snow to a creamy yoghurt heart.

56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont,02 9571 1999,lumidining.com

Papi Chulo

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It's easy, it's breezy, it's everything you love about long lunch. "The bar's been playing around and they've decided today's cocktail is the tequila sunrise," says our super-friendly waiter as he places down a couple of elaborately garnished hurricane glasses. It's cocktails and dreams here at this cool daddy where crisp chicken wings are accompanied by a chilli-spiked mayo and they serve the mother of all reuben sandwiches. Here, thick slices of juicy house-smoked brisket are sandwiched with monterey jack and swiss cheeses, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing. Take a page from the book of badassery and share it as a mid-course with a tin of American beer just before a plate of barbecue (you really should, if you haven't before) or half a chicken, barbecuedIndonesian-style –all golden salty chilli-soaked skin and spicy condiments. The message here is make it a leisurely lunch – the food here errs on the salty, fatty side and requires luxuriating over. Order another margarita, a Cadillac or something from the short-but-sharp wine list, kick back and watch the human traffic promenading along the wharf.

22-23 Manly Road, Manly,02 9240 3000,merivale.com.au/papichulo

Pilu at Freshwater

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It's a rare destination that can check boxes for all people, yet Pilu manages the chameleon task with aplomb: breezy sea views to wow out-of-towners, intimate anniversary lunch (ask for a balcony nook), a celebration for 10, or a meal to make a deal over. Then there's the food: fiercely Sardinian, comforting but not homespun, modern yet not fussy. The roasted suckling pig teamed with nothing more than vinegary braised red cabbage is – as it has always been – satisfyingly hearty, as is the luxurious bundle of tagliolini with Moreton Bay bug meat, cherry tomato and house-dried bottarga, both testament that traditional doesn't equate to rustic. There's delicacy in the pecorino consomme with hand-rolled fregola and parsley oil. Likewise in the salad of explosively creamy burrata, fennel and celery heart, and in the crisp honey-drizzled, ricotta-filled seadas. Sure-footed staff fine-tune the package, stepping in with expert recommendations for the formidable Italian wine list. Holiday here annually.

Moore Road, Freshwater,02 9938 3331,pilu.com.au

Quay

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Hot damn but if this isn't Quay at its best. Oh, no doubt, the interiors still look like one of the many cruise ships that moor next to the restaurant, but the beauty is all on the plate, in the glass and service. Between the mud crab congee – the country's most luxurious comfort dish – and a member of the floor staff subtly taking a white napkin to be replaced with a black (just in case the white leaves any threads on a dark outfit) and the smart, snappy matches from sommelier Shanteh Wong, it's hard to find fault here. Chef Peter Gilmore, master of the strange and rare, pairs young albino walnuts with slices of smoked eel, puffed grains and crisp shards of seaweed. Surprising acidity, perfect balance. Poached quail is a perfect example of that signature Gilmore rich softness punctuated with the sweet crunch of toasted hazelnuts. Yes, there's the snow egg and that eight-textured chocolate cake, but a soft focus composition of fresh raspberries, raspberry sorbet, coconut, rose-tainted ice-cream and blushing nitro milk petals blows it all out of the water.

Overseas Passenger Terminal, Hickson Road, The Rocks,02 9251 5600,quay.com.au

Sean's Panaroma

Sydney's best waterside restaurants 2017 (9)

There's really no other restaurant in Sydney quite like Sean's Panaroma. It's to do with its location, which is equally excellent for a post-lunch swim or to weather a blustery storm. Then there's the decor, which feels more like you're eating at a good friend's house rather than one of the city's best restaurants – albeit a pal with great style, a penchant for fresh flowers and a love of art. Then there's that service, which is unfailing thanks to Mel and Bev, who are as much about the experience as chef Sean Moran's memorable and no-fuss produce-driven food. You can bet there will be a soup – it's often cold and always smashing – as well as a pasta and roast chicken with juices you'll want to use your finger to wipe from the plate. And always fruit-laden desserts – as good as any grandma makes. Probably better. In a world where new is cherished, it's Sean's consistency that makes it a perennial favourite.

270 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach,02 9365 4924,seanspanaroma.co

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