Sip quietly: a guide to Sydney's dining secrets

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Sydney is a sparkling, sprawling city with jaw-dropping views and iconic sights you can spot a mile away. But how do you navigate the city when your appetite's in the driver's seat? Where do you go when you're in the mood for something specific but you're not sure where it could be? Hopefully these 10 dining recommendations can help:

Viva Las Vegan

Even the most committed carnivore will have to tip their hat to Bodhi once they've sampled the punchy flavours of this vegan yum cha menu, and the park-side location makes for a real feel-good experience. Sitting with a crisp glass of white and a serve of pumpkin and snow pea dumplings while the sun dapples through the trees - heaven.

Kitsch Kitchen

Fed up of 'foam' this and 'sous vide' that? Hankering for some straight up '70s fare? Betty's Soup Kitchen on Oxford St will tick the boxes with packet-fresh fish fingers, mash and peas. Alternatively, the time-warping Oceanic Cafe (312 Elizabeth St, Surry Hills, tel: (02) 9211 1885), run by an elderly mother-and-daughter team, with its wooden booth seating, worn laminex, and menu of rissoles, lamb's fry and the like (for around $5 and accompanied with unabashed white bread) might be your answer.

Bake, Rattle 'n' Roll

When you see the size of the Bourke St Bakery compared to the size of the ever-present queue, it looks like a 'how many clowns can you fit in a Volkswagen' kind of joke. But devotees wait patiently, using their time wisely to decide between the pork and fennel sausage rolls, the creme brulee tarts, the handsome loaves of sourdough or the buttery croissants that look like rolls of antique book pages.

Lash out

Billy Kwong (Kylie Kwong's compact little restaurant) doesn't take bookings so you'll have to queue with the best of them (it opens at 6pm). But if you intend to go for the stylish yet trad Chinese cuisine, try to wander past the restaurant during the day – you'll see the chairs pushed against the walls and the tables all bunched together in the middle, heaving with the fresh produce that, with any luck, you'll be dining on that night.

Pub grub

Sydney has a plethora of great pubs to suit all tastes, from fleapit to fabulous. A classic old-school pub with a country bent is the Erskineville Hotel (102 Erskineville Rd, Erskineville, tel: (02) 9565 1608), AKA 'The Erko'. It's unpretentious, with classic pub fare like steaks and schnitzels. (They've just added a small tapas menu for the more gastronomically lily-livered.)

Food with a view

You might not notice you're accidentally chewing on a napkin, so distracting are the views of that famous harbour. But if you're looking for something to go with your compulsory champagne, Opera Bar's Mod Oz menu offers a broad range of share plates, pizzas, salads and more. If you're at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, make sure you stop for afternoon tea at the onsite cafe, with its surf-white fitout and expansive views over Woolloomooloo.

When the oyster is your world

Sydney's a harbour city, so there's gotta be some good stuff in the water, right? For proof, seafood fanatics should head to Sydney Fish Markets for some freshly shucked oysters, served with a wedge of lemon. Find a spot outside by the water and enjoy these little luxuries at market prices. Can't make it down there? Saddle up at the Oyster Bar in David Jones' food hall instead.

Brunch out

Finding a good place to brunch in Sydney is like trying to find hay in a haystack. The difficulty comes in choosing. If you feel like a bowl of milky coffee and an omelette with a crusty baguette, Le Petit Creme (118 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst, tel: (02) 9361 4738) is the place for you. If you're more into the Slow Food movement, the award-winning Danks St Depot (the onsite cafe of 2 Danks St, a collection of small art galleries) and its pickled sardines on sourdough might suit.

The Hangover Pts 2, 3, 4…

Feeling a little worse for wear? Head to the Annandale, one of Sydney's most enduring sticky-carpet live music venues, and take the edge off amongst like-minded sufferers with an afternoon of genius 'pub cha' in the beer garden. A lazy afternoon filled with bamboo baskets of healing fried and steamed goodness might be just what you need.

In the midnight hour

What do you do when it's 1am and you're itching for more than a geriatric hotdog from a 7-11? Wouldn't a couple of duck pancakes, all crispy skin and sticky-sweet hoisin, really hit the spot? Enter BBQ King, a frenetic Chinese restaurant that is mercifully open until 2am. The perfect no-frills late-night Chinatown experience.

Wake up and smell the coffee

Although Melbourne is known as Australia’s coffee capital, there are some fine brews to be found in the Harbour City. You can smell the roasty goodness of Campos in Newtown before you  turn down the sidestreet. It’s a small, woody little spot, often packed with coffee aficionados, but the staff there are always happy to steer you into the steam-plume arms of your ideal blend. There are some small sweet treats to be had with your short black, and no end of fresh roasted beans to take home with you - a rich taste of Sydney that can make the perfect souvenir.

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

If you want a little taste of illicit Paris while you’re in sunny-bright Sydney, you can always slip away into the Absinthesalon (87 Albion St, Surry Hills, tel: (02) 9211 6632) for a wicked little ritual surrounding the famous herb-based liqueur.  A shot is poured into an ornate glass, you rest a prettily perforated silver spoon across the rim, place a sugar cube on it and sl-o-o-o-wly  drip pure water over it until the cube has dissolved into the absinthe below.

There is a three-drink maximum (Absinthe is amazingly high in alcohol) so you won’t leave thinking you can actually fly with the Green Fairy...