The Case For This Sydney ‘Cafe’ Being Best In The World
It might be a slight exaggeration to say that Cafe Sydney is the greatest restaurant on the planet (indeed, the term ‘Cafe’ in the title, as misleading an undersell as it is, would seem to be a disqualifying factor for a start), and yet it is, for me, consistently the second best.
Many moons ago, I was lucky enough to eat at a New York restaurant known as Windows on the World, which sat, magnificently, on top of one of the Twin Towers. It was so high up (108 storeys, to be exact), that you could see the curvature of the Earth from your table, which made it a magnificent place to take a Flat Earther for a meal.
While the views, and the room, were memorable, it was the food, the service and the phonebook-thick wine list that complemented and completed the ultimate dining experience.
Perched atop the lovely facade of Customs House and thus perfectly positioned to take in the full sweep of Circular Quay, Opera House and Bridge, Cafe Sydney offers much the same sense of occasion, particularly if you snare a table outside, which makes you feel like a part of that magnificent view yourself.
It’s also a wonderful place to take anyone who’s ever argued in favour of the Cahill Expressway, or the Toaster.
The whole experience is magical, from the moment you arrived downstairs to find a miniaturised Sydney CBD constructed under a glass floor, providing you with a bird’s eye view of the city, and even the 174-year-old building you’re inside.
It’s always wise to arrive a little before your table is booked, so you can sit in the bar area at the rear of the restaurant, allowing yourself a few pre-emptive glances at the brilliance of the dining room, and the view, you’re about to enjoy.
And a glass of something enlivening as well, of course, because the cocktail menu is fulsome and the drinks are sensational. The Mexican Standoff, which combines Patron tequila, creme de citron ginger liqueur, fresh lime and house-made ginger syrup is my personal favourite, but the Toasted Coconut Margarita is always tempting as well.
Much like Windows on the World, Cafe Sydney has a kind of theatre-seating arrangement, so that if you don’t get one of the primo seats out on the balcony (which can be a slightly less premium option in mid-winter), you’re always positioned so that you can see the view, with those at the rear on raised platforms.
Find yourself facing away from the vista – because you’re a nice person and you wanted your partner to enjoy it, for example, and you’ll be faced with large glass panels so you can reflect on it instead.
The only difficult part of the evening is when you are confronted with the menu and forced to choose, as the desire to eat everything goes to war with both your waistband and your back pocket.
While the Sydney Rock Oysters and the Seafood Platter are hugely tempting, the wise move here is always to go with what’s coming out of the restaurant’s Tandoor oven, which changes regularly, but usually features at least one fish – Ora King Salmon for example – and one meat dish, like Twice Cooked Beef Cheek, which we tried, and which made us cry big, meaty tears of tender joy.
The naan breads, particularly the Spiced Caramelised Onion one, are also not to be missed, while the Creamed Potato is spud-tacular.
The wine list is, if anything, even trickier, and you can push the boat all the way out here to bottles valued in the thousands, but fortunately, there is always a hugely helpful sommelier to suggest something you’ll like, and something that will match your food perfectly.
If you have room after your epic feast, the dessert menu awaits, but be aware that these confection concoctions often look almost too much like artworks to eat. You can always just Instagram them. Obviously, the Dessert Platter is the way forward, so you don’t miss out on anything.
As you would expect, the coffee at the end of your meal is of the highest Italian standard, and then, fully sated, it’s time to sit back and drink in that view one last time, and to appreciate how lucky we are to live in Sydney, and to have a restaurant like this to gaze down on its magnificence from.
(All images: Cafe Sydney / supplied)
Published 14 August, 2019