Who better than Matt Moran, one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, to guide you through Sydney and New South Wales' top food and drink experiences? Here are his picks, from restaurants and whisky bars to farmers’ markets
This is a place that probably every chef in Sydney would recommend. There’s a legion of hungry diners there every night, and a lot of them are chefs, but the tables turn like clockwork.
It’s been around for over 35 years now, so it’s a bit of an institution. It’s open until 4am, and the bigger your group size, the better. It’s just more enjoyable that way. Get the pipis, XO sauce and pan-fried noodles, as well as the crisp-skin chicken or roast duck, though the options are endless.
Locals and travellers drinking outside Opera Bar (Opera Bar)
While it’s often busy, it’s such a friendly place and there’s always a great atmosphere down there. I wanted to create a place for everyone. There’s a mixed crowd of all ages and backgrounds, locals and tourists.
Fresh coffee beans (Dreamstime)
I get up to train at 5am every day, so before I head to work I definitely need my morning coffee: a ¾ flat white. I can’t start my day without it.
While it’s a small place, not much more than a hole in the wall, I reckon Top Hat do some of the best coffee in Sydney.
Glasses of whisky (Dreamstime)
It’s pretty rare these days as my schedule is so busy, but I went to the Wild Rover in Surry Hills the other week and loved it.
I love my whisky and they’ve got a great selection. It’s a relaxed and laidback place too, not so overcrowded, which I like.
This is a great local cafe in the Sydney beach suburb of Bronte and it’s relatively new. It opened just before Christmas time last year.
I often head here for breakfast. The food’s always fresh and delicious. Their dishes are beautifully presented too. Sydney food bloggers are often here taking pictures.
Matt Moran at work in ARIA's kitchen (ARIA)
Pulling away from the casual vibe, I’ve got to mention ARIA my fine dining restaurant in Circular Quay.
I might sound biased, but I don’t think anyone could argue with me that it’s located in one of the best locations in Sydney, right next to the Opera House and overlooking the Harbour. We change the menu every season, showcasing great Australian produce.
It’s the perfect restaurant for Italian food and a great glass of wine. It’s a tiny place in an old Victorian terrace in one of the prettiest streets in Sydney.
The food is exceptional and the wine list is even better, and enormous. It’s always busy but there’s a reason for that, so head there early to get a table. Finishing with a Negroni is a must.
Interior of North Bondi Fish (North Bondi Fish)
No trip to Sydney is complete, especially for first timers, without a trip to Bondi Beach. Icebergs at one end of the beach and North Bondi Fish, which I own, at the other end are the two places to go here for good food with views.
Icebergs is perfect for a more fine dining experience and North Bondi Fish is great for drinks and a bite to eat that’s more casual. The atmosphere, particularly on a summer’s weekend, is great, and the view overlooks the whole beach. Go for a stroll afterwards and grab a gelato from Gelato Messina.
Prawn dish at Muse (Destination NSW)
I visited the Hunter Valley, New South Wales’ famous wine region, with friends just a couple of weeks ago and dined here for lunch. I’ve been before and always return when I’m in the region.
They serve seasonal, delicious food from chef Troy Rhoades-Brown. My entrée of smoked Spanish mackerel, apple, cucumber and wasabi was one of the best I’ve had in a while.
Woman dining at Racine Restaurant (Destination NSW)
This is one of the most respected restaurants in Orange. It’s located not too far from my family farm, so I’ve been here a few times.
Shaun Arantz the owner and chef is a great cook. The food is sophisticated and tasty. The restaurant is in a beautiful setting too, surrounded by a vineyard. Shaun’s wife Willa is also an exceptional baker and she runs the local bakery in town. I highly recommend paying it a visit too.
Fresh fruit at Orange Farmers' Market (Destination NSW)
To me, this is one of the best farmers markets in the country. This region has very distinct seasons and the result is top quality produce that’s really accessible.
There’s a vast array of seasonal fruit and vegetables, condiments like jam, honeys, jellies and chutneys, verjus and olive oil and a big range of local meats. The region's known for its truffles too and a lot of the local winemakers are also at the markets.
Couple dining at Biota (Destination NSW)
This is a very modern, country restaurant in the Southern Highlands, which sources produce from within its own grounds. The setting is picturesque and it’s a pretty sizeable place. There are lots of corners, couches, a bar and a big outdoor area with a fire to sit beside and enjoy a glass of wine.
When I last dined here I had the suckling pig. If ever you pay a visit and they have it on the menu, I highly recommend you order it.
Bartender at The Farm (Destination NSW)
This is a low-key, huge venue on the outskirts of Byron Bay. Some mates of mine own it, but I assure you I’m not just recommending it because they’re mates.
It’s a great, family friendly place with good, relaxed, delicious food. If you’re in the Byron area, I recommend stopping by for lunch.
Fleet is a tiny, brilliant and relatively new restaurant in Brunswick Heads in Northern New South Wales. The menu is really driven by what’s on offer at the local farmers markets, which I absolutely adore.
I love a menu that’s lead by seasonality and local produce. It also has an interesting wine list, mostly organic and by the glass.
Entrance to Tonic (Destination NSW)
The chef, Tony Worland is a great guy. He actually worked for me for about five years, and Gordon Ramsay too.
He focuses on local ingredients. It’s well worth making time for a long, lingering lunch if you’re in the area.
Matt Moran is an Australian chef, TV personality and restaurateur. His Sydney restaurants include the waterside Opera Bar, fine dining ARIA Sydney, the seafood-focused North Bondi Fish and CHISWICK at the Gallery within the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Matt has also sat on the International Culinary Panel of Singapore Airlines for 14 years, helping to create the airline’s onboard menus.
Main image: Matt Moran (ARIA)