Sweeping views of Bondi Beach’s crashing surf from a beachfront location ups the ante on any celebrations. Whether you’re marking a special date, a birthday, an anniversary, or an important milestone, Sydney has a table for you.
A wharfside institution, known for its top-notch Italian plates, has hosted everyone from Beyonce to Taika Waititi. A Mexican restaurant in Glebe offers festive, ceremonial tortillas, stamped with elaborate Aztec patterns.
The best special occasion restaurants in Sydney to book right now – read on for a guide.
For award-winning cuisine at one of the best special occasion restaurants in Sydney – book a table at Ursula’s in Paddington
As Ursula’s prepped for its opening in October 2021, it was referred to as one of the “most anticipated” launches of the year. It later hit number six on delicious. magazine’s list of 100 top restaurants in the state. Phil Wood and Lis Davies’s first solo venue, a worthy backdrop for a range of special occasions, pays tribute to Australia’s past: Golden syrup dumplings with rum, raisin, and malt cream are inspired by the Country Women’s Association; beef carpaccio with makrut lime and spiced chile dressing is an homage to the classic version served at Darcy’s, the dining institution that called this 19th-century building home for four decades. Wood’s award-winning cooking (honed at city hotspots such as Tetsuya’s, Rockpool, and Pt Leo Estate) is innovative as ever. To that, add a refreshed space, imagined by designer Brahman Perera—the custom lights resemble elegant dresses, mid-twirl. The result is a contemporary-chic restaurant with multigenerational appeal, well equipped to host family gatherings, reunions, and birthdays.
For woodfired lobster and oysters – don’t miss Margaret in Double Bay
During lockdown chef Neil Perry did a smashing trade slinging takeaway burgers and fried king prawn rolls from his Double Bay diner, Margaret. But with service back to normal, the delicious casual dishes now share the menu with decidedly decadent fare. Woodfired lobster is served with sambal butter, David Blackmore wagyu steak comes with chimichurri, and Sydney Rock oysters have their own dedicated fridge. Perry came out of retirement to open Margaret, which he named for his mum. It’s a family affair: most nights the award-winning chef oversees the kitchen pass or works the room alongside his three daughters.
For centuries-old Hunan cuisine – don’t miss The Chairman in Darlinghurst
Andrew Bao and Dingjun Li’s Kensington original, Chairman Mao, counted famous chefs like Matt Moran and Neil Perry as regulars, but the move to Darlinghurst has upped its reputation from a suburban institution to a celebratory destination. Traditional, centuries-old Hunan cuisine is on the menu at The Chairman: oversized tiger prawns, abalone stir-fried with chilli and vegetables, and house-smoked pork with garlic shoots. Set in a sumptuous dining room opposite Hyde Park the room is lined with elegant bamboo screens and rosewood chairs and tables perfect for groups to gather.
For a fun celebration with friends and family – try Soot in Barangaroo
Sleek, bright and full of fun, restauranteur David Bae’s Soot is Korean barbeque, slowed down. Following a cocktail-entrée-main format, dinner starts with “banchan” (side dishes) of steamed egg, pickles and kimchi, followed by entrees of hoe (thinly sliced, raw fish) with gochujang vinaigrette and tuna ssambap, followed by the main event: premium wagyu cooked over tabletop smokeless barbeques. Celebrations come in all shapes and sizes, but to get the most of Soot’s menu, best come with a group instead of a party of two.
For French-inspired dishes at one of the best special occasion restaurants in Sydney – visit Bistrot 916 in Potts Point
Elegant with a surprise pop of pink in the tablecloths, it’s clear Bistrot 916 doesn’t take itself too seriously. The French-inspired bistro was hospitality dream team Dan Pepperell, Mikey Clift and Andy Tyson’s first venue together before they went on to open Pellegrino 2000 and Clam Bar, and the menu is full of special-occasion ingredients, like lobster and caviar served with cultured cream and beef fat potatoes. But Bistrot 916 is also playful. Escargot is reimagined in hearty red-wine-based bourguignonne served with bone marrow, and there are plenty of variations on the meat plus fries formula: mushroom frites, duck frites, steak frites and lobster frites.
For a festive Chinese feast – book a table at Redbird in Redfern
An alum of early 2000s Billy Kwong, it was inevitable that Hamish Ingham would one day come back to the wok. There was pioneering Bar H, which he ran with his wife Rebecca Lines until they closed in 2017, and a stint as GM of Lotus Dining Group, and now there’s Redbird, a modern Chinese neighbourhood diner. The moody space with its exposed brick walls and dramatic stone bar was planned in consultation with a feng shui master. With harmony in the environment taken care of, all that remains is to feast on platters of pippies with crisp noodles and XO sauce, Sichuan braised Japanese eggplant, and live seafood.
For a getaway to the Turkish coast – visit Maydanoz in Sydney CBD
Vibrant, vegetable-rich cuisine, inspired by Turkey’s Aegean coast, takes top billing at chef Somer Sivğlurio’s Maydanoz, which opened in May 2022. The Istanbul-born chef and owner, a MasterChef Turkey judge, draws on recipes from his mother, one of the first women to cook at Turkey’s meze bars. Sivğlurio’s menu takes cues from traditional special occasion dishes that diners can savour with an intimate group in a velvet banquette. Maydanoz’s festive vibes stretch to dishes such as kingfish collar kebabs with sumac onions, and charred cabbage kebabs; both dishes are also served at Sivğlurio’s beloved Istanbul restaurant, Efendy.
For Japanese specialities in a dramatic setting – head to Rengaya – Yakiniku & Sushi in North Sydney
Rengaya’s timber-lined space, decked out with a dramatic chandelier, looks so modern and sleek that it’s easy to forget this yakiniku pioneer has expertly cooked Japanese food—including various grades of finely marbled Wagyu beef—over coals since 1993. The new spot, which opened in 2019, offers premium sushi topped with caviar or foie gras and lobster sashimi specials, too, ideal dishes for anniversaries, professional milestones, or any occasion calling for extravagance.
For ceremonial tortillas – try No 92 in Glebe
In Mexico, mole, a complex sauce from Oaxaca, is a celebratory dish, served at weddings, parties, and other special occasions. At No 92, executive chef Alejandro Huerta offers his version with ceremonial tortillas, which he stamps with hibiscus-flavoured Aztec patterns. Presented with kingfish and pickled cucumber or salt aged wagyu with pickled almonds and chips, the dish represents his inventive take on Mexican-inspired cuisine. If you’re celebrating with friends in the courtyard, Huerta’s menu offers shareable plates such as Mexican fried chicken with burnt habanero mayo, plus spiced sponge cake with burnt apple cream. For a more private event or party, book the salon spaces—and recruit No 92’s in-house florist to assist with stylish arrangements.
For an elegant seafood at one of the best special occasion restaurants in Sydney – book a table at Garfish in Manly
Garfish is the spot for a long overdue get-together. The elegant seafood restaurant also has a Crows Nest spot, but the Manly location is especially celebration-friendly. It overlooks a pine-tree-lined beach, resulting in a breezy, summery backdrop, made for socialising. Gather over platters of wood-roasted shellfish, seared scallops with grilled pork belly, and chermoula Queensland tiger prawns. And don’t forget to toast with the aptly named elderflower yuzu “catch up” spritz.
For a multi-awarded rooftop restaurant – head to Dean & Nancy on 22 in Sydney CBD
Dean & Nancy on 22 opened in 2022 and was already singled out as Time Out’s Best Cocktail Bar and Australian Bartender‘s Hotel Bar of the Year. The distinctions aren’t surprising. Led by the Maybe Sammy team, Dean & Nancy on 22 contains plenty of wow factors to enhance any date night or anniversary celebration. They include the stunning, 22nd-floor view of the surrounding cityscape and playful cocktails, such as the Rocketman, an edible cocktail from the brand new Above the Clouds drinks menu. The glamour extends to the menu, a mix of sleek, celebratory dishes such as burrata with beetroot, chives and fried eschallots and wagyu with cured egg yolk and black vinegar reduction, crafted by acclaimed chef Alessandro Leveratto.
For a special meal with an idyllic beachfront backdrop – don’t miss Hotel Ravesis in Bondi
Hotel Ravesis has a perpetual, holiday-like atmosphere, thanks to its idyllic beachfront location and Mediterranean-inspired menu. Its plates, a mix of oysters, olives, lamb skewers, pork cotoletta (breaded cutlet), and hand-rolled pasta with blue swimmer crab, also channel a swinging, seaside getaway. Ravesis’s terrace is ideal for group celebrations, such as birthdays. Though it’s just as suited for a more intimate occasion, complete with a bottle of bubbly and spectacular sunset views.
Hungry for more? Explore more great restaurants to try in Sydney on OpenTable.