Cuisine: Middle eastern

Almond Bar owners, sisters Carol and Sharon Salloum, have transformed this tiny location with its decor of dark wood and copper lighting into a warm and cosy venue where you will enjoy a selection of fragrant Syrian mezza based on their mum’s recipes and complemented by a decent winelist. Perch on a cube at a rustic table and start with a selection of three dips $19, including muhammara — a blend of chargrilled capsicum, chilli, walnut and pomegranate. The ultimate grazing option is a banquet $45–$52 with dips, meat and/or veg selections, crispy fattoush salad and bread. Try the elegantly named Lady’s Arm if you can manage some sweets. Almond Bar also offers its specially prepared almonds and dips to take home.

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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian

After a year in the shadow of the Hunky Dory Social Club upstairs, it’s now Bruno’s time to shine. This thin, dark wafer of a restaurant has relaunched with a new share-plate menu by chef Daniele Trimarchi (Icebergs/Fratelli Paradiso) that bumps it up from good to impressive modern Italian. A cowhide ceiling and moody, black lightshades set the scene for handholding or hobnobbing over tapas plates that for once in this part of Sydney aren’t bite-sized. Our prosciutto and rockmelon $14 covers a large breadboard, and the olive misto — a trio of varieties including green stuffed with pork, crumbed and fried $10 — could be a meal in itself. Wood-fired pizza $15–$21 is made with love, but the celebrity is the pork belly — four portions with an entourage of braised moscato pear, pomegranate and fennel salad, and squares of crispy rind, topped with a dessert-like crackling crumble $32. Hard to fault.

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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian,Burgers

Who knew so much work went into the common burger? Caramelising onions for five hours and pickling whole beetroots, for example. It’s obvious, here at Burgerman, anyway, that they’re pretty serious about their burgers and you should be, too. After all, how does one choose between a super burger with topside patty, beetroot, gherkin, bacon, cheese and caramelised onion $11.95 and a gourmet lamb rump burger with eggplant, rocket with garlic and basil mayo $12.50? Vegetarians haven’t been forgotten with options such as roasted capsicum, eggplant and goat’s feta or a tofu burger with rocket, cucumber and minted yoghurt $10.95. Have a bottle and make a night of it in the funky surrounds or go retro and enjoy a milkshake with real homemade syrup.

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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian,Burgers,Japanese

Situated among a growing list of flamboyant cafes, bars and nightclubs on Oxford Street, Dondon seems a comparatively modest venue on first glance. During mealtimes, though, this humble provider of traditional Japanese cuisine attracts a cohort of hungry students lured by the restaurant’s affordable feeds and endearingly mismatched decor. Regulars recommend starting with the ultimate budget feed of temaki hand rolls $2 with teriyaki beef or fresh sashimi, salmon and avocado. Next, go for the thinly sliced succulent sukiyaki beef don $9.50, slow-cooked to perfection, or the tender salmon sashimi $12.80 served over rice with a side of miso soup and bonus strands of udon. Securing an instant seat during busy hours is near impossible but their hearty portion sizes make it worth the wait.

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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian,Burgers,Japanese,Modern Australian

The Duke is a good-cooking restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously and hums with the kind of energy and gung-ho bravado befitting the young crew who run the place. The quirky British colonial-style rooms above the pub are the ideal backdrop for the sometimes whimsical, always delicious food. The head chef and pastry chef are ex-Tetsuya’s and Sepia alumni respectively and their share plates feature a refinement and playfulness that’s refreshing. A kingfish “gin and tonic” layered with sashimi-thin kingfish, cucumber ribbons and cubes of gin and tonic jelly $18 is cool and calm and surprises with bursts of sherbet-like fizz. In contrast, cheeky nostalgia and comfort are rife in a dish of crispy fried tater tots, Duke gravy studded with little shreds of oxtail and tiny edamame $15. Fun in spades.

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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian,Burgers,Japanese,Modern Australian,Tapas

Overlooking the Coca-Cola sign, this street-corner spot has taken on many different guises over the years but we hope this one’s a stayer. Its elegant black and white sandstone façade creates a welcoming first impression and a cosmopolitan Sydney experience, whether you’re on the terrace taking in views of the city skyline or cosied up inside on a leather couch. Start with a cocktail $14 or choose from the solid local and imported wine list. Share plates are mod-Oz favourites calling themselves tapas $8–$16 in main or starter size. Look out for Vietnamese crab cakes with fennel and chilli, or mushroom polenta with truffle oil and candied walnut, both from $10, and whisky-basted pork ribs with parsnip puree $24. Dessert is given equal attention with beauties such as sweet white chocolate creme brulee with salted walnut and olive oil icecream $11 taking the cake.

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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian,Burgers,Japanese,Modern Australian,Tapas,Eastern European

We wouldn’t call it an iron curtain but something has been blockading Eastern European cuisine in Sydney from showing the elegance of food found in better Slavic restaurants abroad ... until now. Food Society gives us the fine-dining versions of meat and potatoes (and then some) in a rustic country-home setting made cool with retro paraphernalia. Sharing is the idea. You might start with pierogi (dumplings) $10.50 or the Polish golabki (cabbage rolls) $13, both stuffed with organic pork. For mains, a must is the 10-hour braised (read: velvet) lamb shoulder with white bean puree and field mushrooms $26. Russian pashka — a delicate hunk of ricotta-like cheesecake with rhubarb compote $12 — is designed for devouring. About 30 slivovitzes (brandies) and vodkas — make ours smooth cherry — raise the curtain further on this underrated cuisine.

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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian,Burgers,Japanese,Modern Australian,Tapas,Eastern European,Vegan/Vegetarian

The chance for a bit of old-fashioned canoodling adds spice to the ever-wholesome food at Govinda’s. A Sydney dating scene fixture, the meal and movie deal is a romantic’s steal. For $19.80 (plus $10 extra for the movie) plentiful, Indian-inspired vegetarian food is served buffet-style to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content. The menu changes nightly but regulars such as pasta, potato bakes and vegetable curries are always there to fill you with homely joy. Dhal soup is a winner with its gentle flavours, and cauliflower pakoras will somewhat magically keep piling themselves onto your plate. After eating, it’s time to recline on the red, pillow-studded lounges inside the cinema. Romance never goes out of style.

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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian,Burgers,Japanese,Modern Australian,Tapas,Eastern European,Vegan/Vegetarian,Tapas,Spanish

The arrestingly bold decor (think chocolate-box pinks, clashing blues and a gaudy floral feature wall) suggest confidence and flair, and the deliciously accented waiters let you know you’re in for an absolutely authentic Spanish tapas experience. Classics include champiñones en crema con ajillo $13 (creamy garlic mushrooms), croquetas de bonito $14.50 (tuna croquettes) and pollo a la plancha $16 (barbecued chicken with Spanish onion and paprika salsa), or try barbecued lamb and pear skewers $19.50. Paella piled with seafood, chicken and chorizo $52 will leave two hungry diners completely stuffed. Accompany your meal with a jug of sangria $22 and finish with some of Sydney’s best churros $12 with thick hot chocolate and caramel fudge.


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Cuisine: Middle eastern,Modern Italian,Burgers,Japanese,Modern Australian,Tapas,Eastern European,Vegan/Vegetarian,Tapas,Spanish,Italian

Is this the best wood-fired pizza in Sydney? We’ll leave that to you to decide but it’s certainly the most elegant pizzeria. Sitting outside on a balmy night in Republic Square (there’s only one table inside) with charming black-clad waiters whisking orders to and fro you could be in Italy. From a well-stocked menu we chose antipasto for two $26, which was not only generous but excellent, with prosciutto-wrapped melon, supplì, eggplant and croquettes among the offerings. There are 18 pizzas in all. We tried the gutsy napoletana smothered with tomato, anchovies and capers on soft succulent crust $17 and the gentler rustica with provolone, potato, sausage and rosemary $19. The pizza is definitely up there.

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