Some happy news, mate: Sydney is open again. Since Australia lifted some of the tightest COVID-19 border restrictions anywhere, the Emerald City has come roaring back—reviving the easygoing, inclusive culture it’s so famous for. That means new boutique hotels that have Sydneysiders in mind as much as they do visitors. Top chefs are channeling their energies into inventive casual restaurants.
And then there is the nightlife: The wildly unpopular lockout laws that decimated Sydney’s once lively after-hours scene for nearly a decade have been repealed, leading to new openings and 24-hour licenses. You’ll get a taste of the city’s buzzing new energy at this month’s World Pride, a parade of drag shows, cultural programs, and general cheer that celebrates Sydney’s thriving gay community and its impact on LGBTQ+ culture around the world. But if you can’t get down here now, no worries: Aussies know how to make a good thing stick around.
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Some of Sydney’s best chefs are swapping formal service for casual, approachable dining. In recent years, Sydney’s food scene has reached a level on par with Melbourne, usually thought of as Australia’s culinary capital. Now the masters behind the city’s rise are shifting gears, creating more accessible spaces to enjoy their excellent dishes. Among them is Lucky Kwong, a lunchtime canteen-style restaurant by acclaimed modern-Chinese chef Kylie Kwong, where the small menu features modern Cantonese dishes with native Australian ingredients.
Superstar Neil Perry has opened Next Door, a pocket-size walk-in bar adjacent to his elegant fine-dining establishment Margaret, with cheeseburgers, eggplant parmigiana, and antipasto plates. Inland in Surry Hills, Liquid & Larder, whose opulent restaurants include Bistecca and The Gidley, has taken over the legendary institution The Rover, serving a seafood-inspired bistro menu. At Mod.Dining, at the spanking new Sydney Modern Project in the Art Gallery of NSW, Clayton Wells, who cut his teeth at the high-end Automata, is slinging casual plates of fried-prawn sandwiches, salt-and-vinegar puffed pork skins, and spanner-crab noodles. And, coming soon, Australia’s acclaimed fish butcher Josh Niland and his wife, Julie, are taking over much-loved Paddington pub at The Grand National Hotel—which will become home to his restaurant Saint Peter, with 14 guest rooms attached.
Below Ben Graetz, co-creative director of World Pride 2023, weighs in on his favorite LGBTQ+ spots for the celebrations and beyond