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Justine Grill

Run by husband and wife team Luiza and Marcello, Justine Grill sits unexpectedly on a leafy corner of Hunters Hill. Exposed brick, white paint and dark wood fit out a cosy, modern interior that feels a bit like a rural gastropub. To start, Crispy Quail ($25) is too tempting to go past, and sufficiently moreish to result in unbecoming bone-gnawing.

The Gantry Restaurant & Bar

Raw materials are a definite focus at the recently refurbished Pier One Sydney Harbour. Interior designers Bates Smart have done wonders with reclaimed timbers; creating a stylish maritime playground stretching from the brass-caged boating clubhouse bar to the nicely substantial dark wood dining room, including tables extending seamlessly onto the pier (if you dare).

Nel Restaurant

“People try and reinvent the wheel sometimes, and you don’t have to,” explains owner/chef Nelly Robinson when I quiz him on his beetroot, white balsamic and goat’s cheese dish.

One6Eight Balmain

Balmain boy, Chef Leigh McDivitt, has come home to roost. Being back on the peninsula - along with his wife and front-of-house dynamo Amanda McDivitt - clearly suits him.

The Governor’s Table

Cease your search for the quintessential place to bring visitors and introduce them to modern Australian cuisine.

Gazebo

The Gazebo dining room runs in a gentle curve from grand piano to kitchen, the ceiling studded with low-hanging lights.

Ester

The austere minimalism of the room makes you concentrate on the subtlety of what's in the glass and on the plate. Against a limited colour palate – even the kitchen and floor teams wear alternating navy and dark grey – I find myself leaning in to capture a whisker of smoke from the exquisite Roasted Oysters ($4/each).

Café Opera

In the shadow of their popular buffet, lies one of Sydney’s most underrated restaurants. Despite being missed by both the SMH Good Food Guide and Gault & Millau, the dishes here warrant attention.

Front Restaurant

You only have to glance at Watsons Bay on a sunny day to see that we Sydneysiders are wedded to water views. However after you spend an hour cruising for a park, you might appreciate me pointing out a waterfront spot that slides quietly under the radar?