Let’s cut to the chase. If you take expanding your foodie horizons as seriously as we do (and that would be very) then you need to up your hide-and-seek game. Forget your run-of-the-mill, in plain sight eateries. We’re all about Sydney’s best hidden gems that’ll have you either walking several times around the block because they’re tucked away down some dark (and delicious) alley, or hidden deep inside a car park. Sounds fun doesn’t it? We thought so.
Sydney’s food juggernauts aren’t making finding your new favourite place any easier. But on the up side, the feeds are definitely getting even more awesome (if that’s even possible).
Praise the culinary Gods for handing down these delicious treasures, here’s 15 foodie gems you should be treating yourself to, like right now.
In 2017 street level eats are damn old school and delicious feeds in a loft bar are where it’s at. The rooftop garden bar at Zebra Green is the ultimate oasis to snack on sticky BBQ chicken wings to cure those hangover feels, or feast on herb crusted lamb shoulder and wine for dinner with the entire squad. With a cute lil’ retro fit out and a wall showcasing Bondi art, there’s no doubt this will become your go-to neighbourhood noshery.
Casa do Benfica
Don’t bother with a Google search for this one, Casa do Benfica is so well hidden it’s online presence is, well, non-existent. It’s the standard Tennis Club at the front, epic Portuguese mecca at the back (you’re right, this is actually a first). And this one’s well worth a visit because it’s one of the only places you’ll score some good old-fashioned Portuguese food, cooked the right way. That means generous portions, seafood dishes on point and Portuguese wines paired with all the bread and olives.
Yes. Laneway food. Otherwise known as “food that’s so delicious it deserves it’s own quaint and quiet street”. Sure, you might walk around the block a few times and miss the entrance completely, but it’s all kind of worth it to fit in a few extra dishes and make up those calories lost. And what lies at the heart of this smouldering goldmine? A Southern Pride Smoker shipped straight from Tennessee. These guys churn out smoked meats and treats on the reg and guys, there’s no shame here so you should definitely be ordering up the maple Berkshire ham. It’s ginormous. You’ll love it.
Unless you find the silver door and ring the blue doorbell, you’ll never get into this tasty Scandinavian joint. That’s right, Norsk Dor is the Pitt Street portal leading you into a pretty secret (although popular) underground Nordic-themed bunker. If that doesn’t sound awesome AF, we don’t know what does. Plus, these guys serve up some finger-lickin’ good bone marrow, and don’t even get us started on the Scandinavian rye bread. It’s amazing.
Look, we know that you know, where it is. But does your mum? Didn’t think so. And don’t pretend like you found Mary’s on your first try either. This one still goes as one of our all time favourite hidden(ish) burger vaults. Why? Because crunchy fried chicken in a basket and burgers so juicy you have to lick the condiments from your elbow never get old. Ever. If American food on steroids (think all the delicious grease in the world) is something you could get used to on a weekly basis like us, then yes. Mary’s is your jam.
The first thing you need to know is that there are more than 20 pizzas on the menu. Sold yet? Of course you are. You know that carbs are life. This Surry wood fire pizzeria, which doubles as an epic cocktail bar, is tucked inside a residential complex (sneaky guys) on Church Lane. And when pizzas are based off Nonna’s recipes, you know they’ve got to be damn good. Oh and that cocktail bar? It’s focuses on aperitivo and digestive cocktails. We’re pretty sure that means we can eat and drink twice as much, right?
You can bring more than a faulty moped to this workshop (empty bellies are encouraged too). Behold, the hybrid backyard workshop and Japanese inspired in-house cafe. The team here is a seriously talented bunch, mastering all things when it comes to bikes, bentos and burgers. And um, on a side, their latest dessert offering included caramelised white chocolate ice cream with miso crumb. And that’s why you need to go.
We totally forgive the creators of Hubert for making us do a spot of cardio before entering this classy French basement. Besides, it’s only a flight of stairs lined with nearly 4000 miniature liquor bottles and before you know it, you’re right in the heart of speakeasy vibes of yesteryear (and then a few more years before that). It’s charming and pretty damn shmick if you ask us; and it’s brought to you by the very same team that brought to light the Baxter Inn, Frankie’s Pizza and Shady Pines. And heads up, you certainly won’t regret ordering the 1kg Rangers Valley rib-eye. No one has.
Grasshopper Eating House And Bar
“I found the Grasshopper!” said no one ever. No joke, you’ll need knapsack, a litre of water and some hiking boots to find this shindig. Just kidding, a sharp-eye and patience ought to do the trick, especially because it’s down the very back of Temperance Lane, a small side street often blocked by cars and trucks just off of George Street. But once you find your way into the Grasshopper eatery and bar, you’ll be well looked after. Perfect for post-work drinks (but it would definitely be a crime not to order up braised pork steamed buns), all cocktails are numbered and served up in glass jars.
The Garden, Ashfield Leagues Club
It’s no exaggeration that when you walk into The Garden, your jaw literally drops to the floor. After you go and pick that jaw up, you can go ahead and really take in this epic garden sanctuary. There is no doubt you’ll feel like you’re feasting on an epic farm-to-fork meal inside the fresh realms of an absolutely incredible greenhouse. And the jaw-dropping fiasco does not stop here, wait until you see their menu: wood-fired pizzas, a whole rotisserie cooked chicken topped with gravy and slow cooked lamb. We literally don’t have enough drool in our lives to cope.
The hunt for Latin street food and tasty cocktails will be on with this one. Hint: when you spot the graffiti entrance and start heading down a narrow corridor entrance and then descend down a flight of stairs, you’re getting hotter. And it’s sure to be an exciting time for your belly with chargrilled corn, cheeseburger tacos, wagyu beef cheek tacos, mojitos and sangrias to match on the menu.
Neighbourhood vibes and alfresco dining like no other, Circa Espresso is making dining out in a garage… kind of hella awesome. With speciality coffee, graffiti murals inside and out, along with a menu posted on butcher’s paper, the team here has a rep for churning out one of the yummiest breakfasts around (we can confirm the French toast with brulee banana and mascarpone is as delicious as everyone says it is). And can we just say their peanut butter cookies are the reason we don’t have abs. Period.
You’ll find this gem at Horwood Place, right in the city centre car park. Because naturally, that’s where you would pop a secret bar. And what kind of cocktails do you find at a super secret New York style dive bar? Epic ones. This means cornflake infused Bourbon with almond milk finished with the scent of a flaming cinnamon stick. Did we mention the underground negroni? Gin, sweet vermouth and campari mixed with hints of beetroot and truffle flavours is too good to make up.
Balgowlah Wine Room And Bar
This speakeasy-style wine room offers up a backdrop worth Instagramming (yes, we went there). Cue fine wines, fireplaces, leather chairs, wooden floors, barrel tables and share platters you won’t really want to share. Yep, you can expect to devour all the chargrilled ciabatta on offer or dig into a plate of sizzling prawns, tomato, garlic, chilli and toasted sourdough.
To wash down all that delicious food, try out these 6 cocktails for sun-drinking this summer.
Zebra Green | Image credit: Federica Portentoso