Monday, May 06, 2024

Sydney’s best restaurants for a business lunch

Sydney’s best restaurants for a business lunch 

Where to go when you’ve got a deal to discuss, when you want to impress your top client or thank the team – as tested by MEdia  🐉 Dragons  
Got a deal to discuss? Want to impress your top client or thank the team? Here are the best restaurants for business in Sydney – tested by our reviewers with Financial Review readers in mind. Plus some pointers for the wine list from Max Allen.


‍Rooftop views | Creatives | Jatz
Best for business lunch, team lunch 
First, get the Jatz biscuits with smoked butter and anchovy – brainchild of founding chef Mitch Orr – then decide what else you are going to eat. It’s probably going to come from the wood-fired grill, but it may not be the knee-jerk order of a mighty dry-aged rib-eye with sudachi ponzu because this airy rooftop diner offers more seafood and vegetable dishes than most.
Salads are cool, calm collections of cucumber and honeydew melon or zucchini, hazelnut and watercress, and if there’s southern calamari on the menu, order it. Charred on the grill, it’s sliced through for easy serving, in a lemony pool of oregano-flecked salmoriglio sauce.
Views from the 18th floor of the Ace Hotel are over Surry Hills towards the city, and the Fiona Lynch interior is all vegetal tones, stone and polished plaster. You might see Stephanie Alexander lunching with Maggie Beer – yes, it happens.
A DJ kicks in during the evening and while there’s an interesting wine list of textural, orange and skin contact varietals, it’s the sort of crowd that sits on cocktails all night.
Kiln’s grilled Abrolhos Island scallop with preserved lemon butter. 
Supported by a lively program run by the hotel, Kiln has grown into a playground for the inner city’s arts, fashion and creative tribes. The ground floor offers casual diner Loam and an alluring ’70s-vibing bar with a split-level conversation pit all day, every day.

Wine | Snappy, savoury reds suit the mood here: choose something Sicilian like Arianna Occhipinti’s always delicious SP68 or the fragrant COS Cerasuolo.
53 Foy Lane, Sydney,

King Clarence

Pork belly ssam | Bentley boys
Best for business lunch, team lunch, partner or pal
King Clarence’s Abrolhos Island scallops, sunrise lime, tofu cream and nori. 
Open seven days for lunch and dinner, this buzzy Asian diner on the corner of King and Clarence streets is the new baby of the Bentley Group. Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt already have the two-hatted Bentley Restaurant + Bar, the majestic Brasserie 1930 and the wine-powered Monopole for other occasions, but King Clarence fills a need for smart, casual Asian dining.
Against a raw pine, neon and floaty linen backdrop that references Japanese drinking dens, city workers gather over dumplings. It’s Sydney’s Supernormal.
Chef Khanh Nguyen made a name for himself in Melbourne at Sunda and Aru for combining high technique with fresh thinking, and you can pitch your meal either high or low.
If the occasion demands something special, an immaculate 14-day dry-aged roast duck service or Korean-style pork ssam will deliver. Or play with high-voltage snacks such as duck tsukune meatballs on a skewer, and the signature fish finger bao with cheese and pickled chilli.
Conveniently, there are 40 wines by the glass, designed to cope with cabbage kim chi and smoked tamari. The banquet menu comes in under $100, and is one of the most interesting in town. Mark the corner of King and Clarence as a much-needed non-boring option open early in the working week.
Wine | Dazzled by the depth and breadth of the list? Take comfort in a glass of Nanja Monja sake from superstar producer Terada Honke.
171 Clarence Street, Sydney,

The Gidley

The burger | Booths | Poker
Best for business lunch, team lunch, private dining room
The Gidley. 
Not since Rockpool Bar & Grill opened in 2009 has a burger been such a drawcard. The Gidley burger offers up two beef patties of dry-aged dairy cow with cheese and pickles, and you can value-add egg and bacon. Regulars order one to share and have it divvied up while waiting for their steak.
The decadence is as thick as the velvet-cushioned booths (below), and staff are always on hand to carve, slice or – especially – pour.
Gidley shares the no-phones house rule with sister restaurant Bistecca, and many diners book a table here precisely so they can talk (or negotiate) without distractions.
Martinis come with a smorgasbord of choose-your-own-accompaniment – olives, citrus rind and liquor for making yours dirty. It isn’t the place to take someone having an alcohol-free day.
Owners James Bradey and Warren Burns keep things as clubby as a New York grill, with negronis to share and a bread course of hot bagels you take from a pole and slather with cashew cream. Steaks are hellishly crusty, riddled with fat and crunchy with sea salt – in other words, damn near perfect – and extend to prime rib roasts and a rib-eye chop brushed with bourbon.
And if you think private dining rooms are characterless, check out the soundproofed Norfolk Room with its private bar and table for 20, and the eight-seater American oak table of The Library, which conceals a custom-built poker table, for that potential team-building poker lesson with your own private croupier. Well, of course it does.
Wine | Yes, the wine list is broad and deep, but in this setting it’s so tempting to sink into the extraordinary selection of old and rare bourbons.
Basement 161 King Street, Sydney,

Clam Bar

Oysters Rockefeller | Clam frites
Best for business lunch, team lunch, partner or pal 
Clam Bar. 
From the team that brought you the French romance of Bistrot 916 in Potts Point and Italian hot spot Pellegrino 2000 in Surry Hills comes city entry Clam Bar. Their trademark charm is laid on thick in this New York Italian grill pastiche of mahogany booths, leather, parquetry, art and discreetly shaded windows.
What was the acclaimed The Bridge Room (Ross and Sunny Lusted now run the multi-kitchened Woodcut at Barangaroo) now has a real pep in its step, attracting the younger end of the business crowd.
Chefs Dan Pepperell, Mikey Clift and Sam Galloway do their quirky classic-with-a-pivot-thing to the menu, most obvious in the macaroni alla vodka (each tube of pasta standing upright, burnished by the oven) and the tom yum spin on a prawn cocktail. Monday-to-Friday lunch specials are clam frites and cheeseburgers, and there is always a bone-in dry-aged rib-eye to share. The detail is subtle, manifesting in muslin-clothed lemons for pipless squeezing over grilled scarlet prawns.
Co-owner and sommelier Andy Tyson puts his own spin on vintage and very now cocktails, and can talk wine until it’s time to go back to the office. Neptune’s Grotto, directly below The Clam Bar, opens in May, specialising in northern Italian classics and pasta.
Wine | Top marks for the cheeky use of the term “bin-end claret” to describe the short but very sweet selection of rib-eye friendly cabernets.
44 Bridge Street, Sydney,

Mr. Wong

Dim sum | Round tables | Merivale
Best for business lunch, team lunch, partner or pal, somewhere special
Mr. Wong 
The Merivale Group has a place for every corporate type and need: Fred’s for foodies, Bert’s for northerners, Totti’s for teams, uccello for CEOs, The Paddington for the footy crowd. Hotel Centennial is for civilised lunches,
sushi e is for finding somewhere open on a Monday, Felix is for frites, Mimi’s for caviar bumps by the sea.
Neon-hot newcomer Good Luck Club in Bridge Street is going to be big, but the darling of the group is Mr. Wong, powered by frenetic stainless-steel kitchens, roast duck ovens, dim sum makers, and an army of sommeliers for 240 diners. At any given moment, there are celebrations, family get-togethers, business roundtables and foodie tourists. Energy levels run high in the linked ground-floor dining rooms, and nor is it dull in the high-ceilinged basement, where Beyoncé once dined.
There’s a brilliant public-yet-private dining room for eight or 10 on the left as you enter. Otherwise, the best free-range tables are to the right of the entrance. Be sure to order har gau, sui mai and prawn cheung fan at lunch, otherwise it’s all about the immaculate Peking duck with beautifully fragrant pancakes, “char siu” roasted Glacier 51 toothfish, and wok-fried rock lobster with soft and buttery egg noodles. There are fun dishes such as “typhoon shelter-style” fried rice under crisp-fried garlic, but the kitchen’s guiding light is usually that delicate balance of salty and sweet, crisp and melting that marks great Cantonese cuisine.
Cocktails are fragrant and refreshing, the wine list is deep, and the dining experience, while busy, is polished and user-friendly. “The big round table downstairs is our preference for big boisterous family dinners,” notes former Macquarie director Nicola Wakefield Evans. It’s also perfect to celebrate with your work family.
Wine | Rightly renowned for its amazing selection of rieslings, from local stars such as Crawford River to Euro classics like Nikolaihof.
3 Bridge Lane, Sydney,

The Charles

Decadence | Tableside service | Technique
Best for business lunch, partner or pal
The Charles’ dessert trolley. 
The phrase “go big or go home” was clearly meant for this highly detailed dining room operated by Etymon for Aqualand property group. (It’s little wonder that real estate agent Monika Tu is such a fan.) Note the silver-tray martini service, the carving of aged côte de boeuf tableside, and the gleaming brass duck presses, ready to squeeze the essence from roasted duck carcasses and transform them into glossy sauces.
Behold, also, the dessert trolley that rolls up to the table laden with quietly magnificent cakes, pastries and sweet treats from talented dessert chef Rhiann Mead. “We had one table of six who said ‘give us one of everything’,” says manager Sebastien Lutaud. “They ate all 12 desserts from the trolley.”
Chef Billy Hannigan keeps pushing the menu into more decadence, obsessively perfecting first the pithivier, then the pate en croute; while sommelier Paolo Saccone loves the challenge of sourcing hard-to-find vintages. The Charles Bar is open all day for impromptu get-togethers over coffee or cocktails; handy for those who don’t have a CBD office to host meetings.
Wine | If you really want to go big or go home the list has you covered, from ’82 Mouton ($10,000) to a double magnum of Tignanello ($4320).
66 King Street, Sydney,

Restaurant Hubert

Parisian irony | $11 martinis | Live jazz
Best for business lunch, team lunch, partner or pal 
Restaurant Hubert. 
The three-martini lunch is a grand tradition that began in America, where Gerald Ford once called it the epitome of American efficiency. And in that tradition is Hubert, a candlelit, over-the-top ode to the French bistro with a subversive young chef in the kitchen. It’s absurd that there is live jazz on stage at lunchtime; ridiculous that they promote a three-martini lunch every day from midday; and crazy that hidden behind the restaurant is a grand Theatre Royale for private bookings, with tiered seating for 100.
But that’s Hubert. As soon as you swing down that spiral staircase to the wine-lined basement with its nooks, snugs and bars, daylight disappears and you could be in 1970s Saint Germain-des-Prés. Brendan Fong’s menu brings a light Asian twist to many a French bistro classic such as kimchi gratin. Classic classics include gruyere souffle, and Homard a l’Américaine.
Be warned, Hubert is high-octane and designed for turnover. There’s no hogging the table during dinner service, and they will be specific as to when they’ll need it back. It’s more leisurely at lunch, but the jazz band will be playing. If you’re in a group seated in the middle of the room, no one at your table will hear what you’re saying – possibly not a bad thing if you’ve had three martinis.
Wine | Hubert is a bistro fever-dream, so go with the flow: start with Absinthe Frappé, frolic among the vins naturels, finish with a 35-year-old calvados.
15 Bligh Street, Sydney,

Palazzo Salato

Roman tratt | No fuss | Pasta master
Best for business lunch, team lunch, partner or pal
Palazzo Salato. Edwina Pickles
Everyone is after the same outcome at this tall-ceilinged 120-seater with its long, stool-lined bar. They want to come in, order a plate of mortadella and an outstanding pasta, have a good time, and go. To that end, there are wines by the glass and by the small carafe, and the menu is unfussy Italian from co-owner chef Scott McComas-Williams.
It’s remarkably cliché-free, featuring blue-eye trevalla with XO sauce and ice plant, and a lush dish of Roman tripe spiced with ’nduja and tempered with fat white beans. Pasta is non-negotiable, whether buttery, small agnolotti del plin filled with Wessex saddleback pig, prune and pistachio, or a knockout trottole Amatriciana, spirals of pasta doused in peppery tomato and guanciale.
For a restaurant group best known for small, cosy 40-seaters such as Love, Tilly Devine, Dear Sainte Eloise, Ragazzi and pasta-masters Fabbrica, the Love Tilly Group runs the place with a brisk air of efficiency. By day, light floods in; by night, tables are candlelit.
The booths in the second dining space are hot property, and there’s a very cool long-tabled dining room to the rear, where a group of 20 can keep the drapes open to capture the buzz while still having their own space. Table 14 offers seating for four or five people in a (relatively) quiet corner.
Wine | Settle in with a magnum of Frank Cornelissen’s Susucaru rosato from Etna, – but save room for one of the 50-year-old amaros.
201 Clarence Street, Sydney,

Cafe Sydney

Location, location | Seafood
Best for business lunch, team lunch, partner or pal, somewhere special, private dining room
Cafe Sydney. 
The table anxiety is real at Cafe Sydney, equal to that at similar high-flyers Aria in Circular Quay and destination fine diner Catalina, overlooking Rose Bay. Will you get a spot on the terrace with Opera House, bridge and views across the rest of the harbour?
If you’re inside but near the window, rest assured that some think these are the better tables; outside can be too hot or too cold. And if you’re on the slightly elevated dais to the rear, congratulate yourself for getting into the dress circle.
Wherever you are, you have entered a professional hospitality zone run by operations director Jan McKenzie and her 150 well-drilled staff. From the welcome to the knowledge with which wines are described, you’re in safe hands. Chef Sarahjane Brown’s menu is conservative in a good way, with fish and seafood the strengths.
Start with oysters or crudo, then go big with a knock-out shellfish platter, grilled swordfish with peperonata squid, or crackling-fringed roast pork and fregola. The private dining room reframes Sydney Harbour into a postcard – a “wow” moment for all. “It’s a hidden gem that gets forgotten,” says Scott Baker of Ironbark Asset Management.
Wine | The list is peppered with trophy wines, from Grange and Hill of Grace to Rockford Basket Press Shiraz.
31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay,


Neil Perry | Double Bay | Whiting
Best for team lunch, partner or pal, somewhere special, private dining room
Margaret’ s King George whiting with lemon and Margaret x Cobram Estate Hojiblanca olive oil. 
Veteran chef and former Rockpool restaurateur Neil Perry is building his own sovereign city-state in swanky seaside Double Bay. Like Monaco, the self-governing House of Perry is family-run.
Wife Samantha and daughters Josephine, Macy and Indy bring warmth (and glamour) to the restaurant team, and the large corner restaurant is named for Perry’s late mother, Margaret. “You feel like you are in a family restaurant – because you are,” notes hedge fund manager Doug Tynan.
Next door is the casual-but-quality Next Door bistro, and cult Baker Bleu bakery and sandwich bar, in which he partners with bakers Mike and Mia Russell. The two-hatted flagship restaurant is always full, always buzzy. Perry’s menu is driven by the ever-burning charcoal grill and by long-term connections with Australia’s finest producers and fishing families.
Bruce Collis’ King George whiting gleams under a dribble of extra virgin olive oil; wagyu rump from the pioneering David Blackmore comes with anchovy butter, and the Hereford rib-eye from CopperTree Farm is dry-aged.
The wine team is confident enough to aim high with its suggestions from the list – wine director Richard Healy has skin in the game, making his own wine in Western Australia and running an import business with Perry. It all adds up to that money-can’t-buy sense of being in the right place, at the right time. Except money can buy it.
Wine | The well of Euro classics is deep, but it’s more fitting, surely, to dip into something local: an old Vat 1 semillon, say, or a By Farr pinot.
30-36 Bay Street, Double Bay,

Berowra Waters Inn

Seaplane | Showstopper | Murcutt
Best for somewhere special, partner or pal
Berowra Waters Inn. Sebastian Mrugalski
In a city that excels at separating people from their money, this is one experience that will never give you buyer’s remorse. Book the seaplane from Rose Bay and land on the Hawkesbury River before gliding up to the Glenn Murcutt-designed building that houses Berowra Waters Inn.
Forever linked to Tony and Gay Bilson in the 1970s, its current custodian and chef, Brian Geraghty, offers a six-course tasting menu at a leisurely pace. It’s a bit of a statement for a workday lunch, but trust us, it’s possible; allow 30 minutes for check-in, 20 minutes for the flight, three hours for dining and 20 minutes to return to Rose Bay. Maybe put on the out-of-office to be safe.
The food is perfectly pitched for an immersive Australian experience, and indigenous plants bring oomph to the layering of flavours. Desert lime, for instance, sharpens the broth for a crisp-skinned finger of snapper, and Geraldton wax brings a lemongrass tang to a perfect line-up of mango over ice-cream in vibrant blueberry syrup.
Geraghty reveals that whole restaurant buy-outs are not uncommon, with corporate groups sailing up the Hawkesbury on a chartered superyacht for lunch, and partying all the way back. Sure beats a ferry.
Wine | This list is so good, so replete with incredible drinks – from Hurdle Creek Pastis to Crittenden Macvin – you won’t even notice it’s all-Australian.
Via East and West Public Wharves, Berowra Waters,


Lamb shawarma | Martin Place
Best for business lunch, team lunch, partner or pal
Aalia’ s salted sesame leaf with aged and fermented mounds of rice topped with ocean-fresh sea urchin. 
Aalia is Arabic for “the highest point” and serves to mark the ambition of Ibrahim Moubadder and Jorge Farah of the Esca Group in opening this glamorous modern Middle Eastern restaurant in 2022. Key to that ambition is chef/spice-whisperer Paul Farag, who balances creativity and innovation while triggering all those things we love about Middle Eastern and North African food.
Opening onto the terrace overlooking Martin Place, the glass-walled restaurant is an elegant space with plenty of options. At one end is a curve of cocktail bar for drinking or dining; at the other, a sleek semi-private dining room for up to 20. Or slide into a comfortable booth sheltering under a wooden canopy designed by Matt Darwon to reference the mushroom of Harry Seidler’s original Martin Place theme.
There is nothing casual about the food here, even if you are rolling salted sesame leaves around creamy sea urchin and fermented rice, tearing into the puffy Khorasan bread, or forking up smoky, slow-roasted lamb neck shawarma. The wine list is genuinely interesting, with a feature of the wines of the Middle East and plenty of non-alcoholic offerings. An express menu is available for lunch and dinner and service is smooth.
Wine | Lebanese orange wine? Moroccan shiraz? Amphora-aged arak? Say yes to all of it and have your mind – and tastebuds – blown.
25 Martin Place, Sydney,


Utzon | Sydney Harbour | Service
Best for business lunch, partner or pal, somewhere special, private dining room
Bennelong’s signature pavlova. 
The crisp meringue sails of the pavlova for dessert are designed to remind you where you are. As if you could forget – you’re in a soaring cathedral-like space within the Opera House itself, and Sydney is on stage.
Basically, whoever you bring here is already sold, long before the three courses of immaculately designed food appear. It’s a clever business model, with choices across entrée, main and dessert for a set price, complete with luxe ingredients and sides – and a two-hour dining rule gives the whole room energy and oomph.
Chefs Peter Gilmore (of Quay fame) and Rob Cockerill put Australia on the plate with refined, well-balanced dishes. Those in the know go for the crisp-skinned Maremma duck, tickled with Kampot pepper and teamed with Hunter sausage and grapes, or the richness of mud crab congee on a shimmering chawanmushi custard.
“Great service levels,” says one frequent diner. “Jeremy Courmadias’ team is elite.” You’ll get a better table if you know host Johnny Rockstar, and be sure to engage with the sommelier for entrée into the ever-changing wine list.
Tables on the window are sought after, but those on the banquette envelop you in the theatre of dining, as if you’ve crawled inside those pavlova shells.
Wine | Another place where drinking mod Oz classics is arguably obligatory. No shortage of options, too, from Bindi to Cullen to Tolpuddle.
Circular Quay,


Flat bread | Mix’n’match | Hip crowd
Best for business lunch, team lunch, partner or pal, private dining room
Nomad’s green split pea hummus and flatbread.  
Large, loud and always busy, Nomad is where groovy kids with a Surry Hills office address like to lunch; think venture capitalist Niki Scevak or PR supremo Sue Cato. It’s a popular choice for a table of three, four, or a crowd, when you can cover the table with snacky dishes and puffy flat breads.
Everything on the menu goes with everything else, which means you don’t have to worry much about composing the right order. Start with fried green olives, and maybe split pea hummus with flatbread. The slow-cooked half lamb shoulder spiked with sweet-and-sour currants is easy to pull apart with a fork – team it with a spectacular whole baharat-spiced cauliflower and a bottle of Tasmanian pinot noir.
Owners Al and Rebecca Yazbek spent big money on soundproofing so that even in a group, you can hear yourself talk. Or lock yourself in to the Wine Cave; great for product launches or discreet conversations for up to 26.
Most diners end with the signature olive oil ice-cream sandwich with halva, pistachios and honey, but our money’s on a round of duck fat caramel mini Magnums for the table.
Wine | Love the extra “Sommeliers Selection” of five wines by the glass, each chosen and evocatively described by a different member of the wine team.
16 Foster Street, Surry Hills,


  • Business lunch
    When you have things to discuss. Great food, comfortable, attentive, not too noisy.
  • Somewhere special
    When you need a wow factor to impress, celebrate, or say a big thank-you.
  • Team lunch
    The focus is on fun, food and sharing, the price is right and the vibe casual.
  • Partner or pal
    The best places for the best people in your life.
  • PDR
    Private dining room
Restaurants were visited over the four months to April 2024, with writers paying their own way.