With its glistening harbour and vibrant atmosphere, Sydney shines in summer.
Take advantage of warm days and balmy nights by heading to one of the city’s myriad rooftop restaurants, where top-shelf views are matched by equally tantalising foodie experiences – from hidden oases in the concrete jungle to casual lounges perfect for cocktails and grazing.
Photo by: Steven Woodburn
We’ll start this list in Sydney’s oldest district, The Rocks. The Glenmore is one of the oldest rooftop venues in the city and boasts one of the best panoramic views of the harbour, which is why it’s worth booking ahead on weekends. True to The Glenmore’s old-meets-new vibe, you can expect pub menu classics such as burgers and chicken parmis alongside more creative dishes such as spiced barramundi or cooling soba noodle salad – perfect for a summer’s day in The Emerald City.
96 Cumberland St, The Rocks; +61 2 9247 4794
Tucked away in the backstreets of stylish neighbourhood Potts Point is this leafy terrace restaurant that pays homage to the vibrancy of Ibero-American culture. Settle back in a wicker chair and take in full city skyline views (a rarity in a city with so many rooftop spaces!) as you work your way through a zesty share menu, featuring tacos, empanadas, and charred corn with chipotle emulsion and a sprinkle of paprika. 123 Victoria St, Potts Point; +61 2 8376 1870
Circular Quay’s Gateway Dining Precinct enjoys an enviable position along the harbourfront, so it’s just as well you can enjoy the view from its rooftop Bar Ombre! Deliciously refreshing cocktails pair oh-so nicely with the house-made cheese and variety of antipasti on the menu. This is a top spot for sundowners – and a bit of dancing, if you hang around long enough. Level 3, Gateway Building, Alfred St Sydney
Take the nondescript elevator directly off Pitt St Mall to Babylon’s sprawling terrace bar and restaurant. Located on the roof of the Westfield shopping mall Babylon feels a world away from the bustle of life below. The décor, music and menu pay homage to its ancient namesake. The list of small plates and hearty mains is helpfully divided into vegetarian, fish and meat sections and, in true Levantine style, is best enjoyed shared. Level 7 Rooftop, Westfield Pitt Street Mall, 188 Pitt St Sydney; +61 2 8014 5663
Henry Deane at Hotel Palisade
Another stalwart of The Rocks heritage district is Hotel Palisade. It’s rooftop lounge, Henry Deane, is as popular with the locals as visitors, not least for its prime panoramas over Sydney Harbour and Barangaroo. While the venue is technically spread out over two floors, try and nab a spot on the balcony to make the most of the sun and views as you graze on chef Cian Mulholland’s menu of share plates including glazed pork, marinated pipis and fresh cucumber salad. 35 Bettington St, Millers Point; +61 2 9018 0123
MCA Sculpture Terrace
Photo by: Anna Kucera
Like your city views with a side of culture? Take in the rotating works at the Museum of Contemporary Art before heading up to the sundrenched rooftop for a postcard perfect position over Circular Quay. The cafe menu boasts enough brunch favourites to keep everyone happy, including light wraps, salads and classic fish and chips. Just make sure you leave room for the salted caramel mud cake. 140 George Street, The Rocks; +61 2 9245 2400
Perched atop the iconic Barangaroo House in Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct, Smoke Bar is more than just a place for fancy waterfront cocktails. What to pair better with a glass of champagne than a plate of fresh rock oysters? If you’re feeling particularly peckish there are plenty of modern Asian flavours on the menu including karaange chicken with a kick of hot sauce, and eggplant baos with wasabi mayo.
35 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo; +61 2 8587 5400
A sunset view over the city is a must – and Zephyr, found on level 12 of the Hyatt Regency - is one of the best spots to catch it. Sydney’s daytime summer heat can be intense on the sundrenched roof, but balmy evenings are just the right vibe. The menu is a crowd-pleaser featuring everything from charcuetrie to tacos, sliders, and lamb churrasco. Zephyr also boasts one of the most extensive drinks menus in the city (G&T lovers can particularly rejoice), so you’re bound to want to stay a while.
Level 12, 161 Sussex St Sydney; +61 2 8099 1234
Old Mate’s Place
Clarence Street in the CBD is a treasure trove of hideaway bars and dining spots, where half the adventure lies in the journey. Find the discreet entrance to Old Mate’s tucked just off to the side of a nondescript office block. Scale the stairs to the rooftop terrace and you’ll see why it’s a favourite for both romantic dates and casual group catch-ups. Come for the heritage-library-style décor and skyline views, stay for the assortment of mouth-watering cheese steaks – perfect to help digest a cocktail or two. Level 4, 199 Clarence Street, Sydney
Breezy coastal Mediterranean vibes await at this icon of the Coogee Beach entertainment precinct. There’s something about being by the sea that brings on the hunger pangs; luckily the Coogee Pavllion Rooptop kitchen, Jimmy’s Chicken, delivers the goods, with moreish mezze platters and juicy charcoal chicken served with all the trimmings.
169 Dolphin Street, Coogee; +61 2 9114 7323
Laidback vibes and parkside views abound at Slim’s Rooftop. Perched atop Hyde Park House, Slim’s brings a taste of Palm Springs chic to the CBD. Sip on spritzes and graze on Japanese-inspired small-plates (think: sushi, bao, sashimi) and take in the casual yet lively atmosphere, which certainly ramps up with a live DJ on weekends.
47-49 William St, East Sydney; +61 2 8377 3650
Kiln at the Ace Hotel
Photo by: Nikkito
Surely one of the most hotly anticipated openings of the year, Kiln is now open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. On the 18th floor of the also-recently-opened Ace Hotel in Surry Hills, Kiln and its head chef, Mitch Orr, takes the Italian dining experience very seriously. Start with the grilled Abhorlhos Island scallop with preserved lemon before moving on to hearty Stracciatella, beef carpaccio or alfonsino crudo with peach and tomato jelly.
47-53 Wentworth Ave, Sydney; +61 2 8099 8799
Sky Bar at Shell House
Since opening a year ago Shell House has become a firm favourite on Sydney’s dining scene. Sink into one of the plush couches on the Sky Bar rooftop and take in the skyline views as you tuck into charcuterie, burgers and fries and creative cocktails. Reservations are recommended, but if you find you can’t get a table the chic terrace dining area is a great alternative.
37 Margaret St Sydney; +61 2 9158 4000
This stylish rooftop in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is currently undergoing a minor refresh in time for summer. It’s hard to decide on the highlight of this place – the leafy terrace with city views or the signature wood-fired pizzas. Though, we must say, the 4-cheese toastie gives the pizzas a run for their money.
Cnr Oxford St & Jersey Rd, Woollahra; +61 2 9357 0888
If you’re spending time in the eclectic neighbourhood of Newtown then the backyard-style rooftop at Websters is a great place for a food pit stop. The menu features a great line-up of ‘pub grub’, including pulled beef nachos, pan-fried haloumi and chicken and waffle ‘soldiers’, which you can pair with the 16 craft beers on tap, wines, or a serve of some 600 whiskeys behind the bar.
323 King St, Newtown; +61 2 9137 9796
The Old Clare
This Chippendale hotspot boasts a very stylish poolside bar, with a snack menu featuring pork and fennel sausage rolls, burgers, chips silverbeet and Manchego croquettes. Settle down with a drink under the poolside cabana (pool is for guests only) and take in the interesting architecture of the University of Technology and Central Park. 1 Kensington Street, Chippendale; +61 2 8277 8277