Sydney's top tables: 4 restaurants you must dine Down Under

Sydney's top tables: 4 restaurants you must dine Down Under

In a city sparkling with award winning restaurants, how do you decide where to eat to bring home delicious memories? I have three days in Sydney and an aching ambition to experience the best of gourmet Sydney. Being kiasu, I go for a safe bet: start with the food icons of the city.

A must-do is dinner at Quay at The Rocks as Peter Gilmore is one of the city's chefs of the moment. The decision is also motivated by my admiration for his book.

Quay is one of the most beautiful I have in my cookbook library: every dish a work of organic beauty and technical perfection.

His "nature-based cuisine" alludes to a style pioneered by Frenchman Michel Bras, and others like Andoni Luiz Aduriz of Mugaritz in Spain.

Also on my wishlist is Rockpool, a Sydney fine dining institution. I imagine it would be interesting to see how the old - Rockpool started over 25 years ago - stands amidst the newer fine dining establishments.

For a third destination, I hesitate between Pier and Sepia. Pier is on my radar once again due to its beautiful cookbook, but in the end, it is Sepia, and it turns out to be a stellar dining experience.

Martin Benn may not be up there with the celebrity chefs - proving that icon chef restaurants are not the only fabulous places to dine at in this city - but his cooking is as electrifying as it is original. I walk out with a copy of his cookbook, of course.

A lunch destination recommended to me is Cafe Sydney, a restaurant held in high esteem by locals and travellers alike for its good food and views.

In Sydney, seafood is ace and in many restaurants, chefs know to show off its freshness and delicate sweetness by not working it much and just allowing its flavours to shine through; at the fine diners, it is much more.

Dining in this beautiful harbour city cannot be left to chance and bookings must be made ahead as there is often a waitlist at the best restaurants.

However, you can also experience Sydney seafood without any reservations at the Sydney Fish Market, the southern hemisphere's largest seafood hub.

A perfect flaky fish and chips - why not?

Dining with a view at Quay, at The Rocks.

QUAY

Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks. Phone +61 2 9251 5600, or go toquay.com.au.

There are two great reasons to come to Quay: Peter Gilmore and fabulous views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Quay is best experienced by night, with the eight-course degustation menu (A$235)(S$243) with classic wine pairing (add A$95).

Gilmore's food is a search for perfection. Each plate is made up of a series of complex recipes that come together to offer a highly refined and original cuisine, but one that is not always easy to understand.

Gilmore pays great attention to everything, from the sussing of ingredients like heirloom vegetables to experimenting with new combinations. To the avid gardener, every part of a plant can be used: from the first baby shoots to flowers, leaves, fruit and seeds.

Peter Gilmore's amazing Snow Egg dessert.

Texture is as important to him as flavour and this is evident in every dish, achieved through a judicious choice of ingredients whose texture he may then alter by using different cooking methods or slicing techniques.

In congee of Northern Australian mud crab, fresh palm heart and egg yolk emulsion, mouthfeel is changed using a crushed Japanese sticky rice for a denser consistency, and egg yolk emulsion to layer on a luxurious creamy feel.

His most famous and spectacular creation is the Snow Egg, a dessert combination of fool, granita and ice cream filled with poached meringue. The snow egg is coated in a maltose biscuit which gives a sensation of cracking through an egg. The 'shell' gives way to a soft meringue filled with ice cream. Sensational!

Cafe Sydney's Confit Duck Leg with Duck Sausage, Braised Red Cabbage and Pickled Thyme Carrot.

CAFÉ SYDNEY

5th Floor Customs House, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay. Phone +61 2 9251 8683, or email reservations@cafesydney.com.

Sixteen, going on 17, Cafe Sydney is one of the city's dining mecca, located as it is on the fifth floor of the historic Customs House.

Great food and great views, and a CBD location, ensure the large and airy restaurant is always bustling for lunch and dinner, filled with a corporate clientèle and well-heeled travellers.

Bright and modern Australian food is on the cards and the kitchen champions the flavours tagged to the harbour city: chilled crustaceans, oysters freshly shucked, grilled ocean fish and quality cuts of meat.

More brasserie than cafe, its Parisian-style seafood platter is a good way to savour the city's Pacific bounty. Oyster, crab, Moreton Bay bug, scampi, prawn, marron on ice, mayonnaise and cocktail sauce repose on a fancy tiered tray (A$135).

Super fresh seafood with a clean, sweet taste is what our starters are about: Fleurty Point pacific oyster with lime and salmon roe (per piece A$5.50) and salad of Moreton Bay bug, prawn, avocado, gazpacho, trout roe and crème fraiche (A$27). Sometimes, food doesn't need to do more than present itself in its absolute nakedness; fresh is an appetising proposition.

Buttermilk Pannacotta at Cafe Sydney.

The crisp Berkshire pork belly with morcilla sausage, pork confit croquette and celeriac puree is a ploughman's dream lunch but a bit heavy for someone who didn't do a morning of hard labour - unless you count an enjoyable walkabout in the historic precinct of The Rocks, where the first immigrant arrived in Sydney, as hard work.

My companion orders a confit duck leg with duck sausage and braised red cabbage. Both well-executed and gorgeous dishes, we congratulate ourselves for the choices - truth be told, I suspect anything you order will be equally splendid here.

Warning: To snag a spot on the terrace where you have a smashing view of Sydney Harbour, you need to book way ahead - for weekends, make that three months ahead.

Where we were sitting, you could almost stretch out and touch the Sydney Harbour Bridge - great for taking selfies with the bridge.

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