Trying to decide where to eat in Darling Harbour? It’s such a popular gathering spot for Sydneysiders and visitors alike with more than its share of restaurants, making choosing one a challenge. Today we share a list of our favourites, after eating at more than half the restaurants in the area these are the ones we would happily return to.
- Finding the Best Darling Harbour Restaurants and Cafes.
- Finding your way around Darling Harbour?
- Finding the Best Restaurants in Darling Harbour for any occasion
- Cheap Restaurants in Darling Harbour
- Family-Friendly Restaurants in Darling Harbour
- Best Darling Harbour Restaurants for groups
- Halal Restaurants in Darling Harbour
- Vegetarian Restaurants in Darling Harbour
- The Best Coffee in Darling Harbour
- The Best Breakfast in Darling Harbour
- The Best Desserts in Darling Harbour
- Fine Dining in Darling Harbour
- Our Darling Harbour Dining Map
Finding the Best Darling Harbour Restaurants and Cafes.
There was a time I went well out of my way to avoid dining at Darling Harbour, it was a tourist trap with pretty average meals that we well overpriced. Over recent years things have changed significantly, and now it’s one of the first places that comes to mind when meeting friends.
New transport connections with the light rail and new housing developments that have attracted a couple of thousand new residents mean venues are now chasing repeat customers, and this can only mean good things for us all!
You can still hit some pretty average food, especially at the northern end but there are some great cheap restaurants in Darling Harbour and even some pretty decent special occasion options. We have decided to do a deep dive into the area to help you find a bunch of new places to eat next time you are in town.
Named after Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling, who was Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831, Darling Harbour was originally known as Long Cove.
Finding your way around Darling Harbour?
Darling Harbour covers a huge area bordered by Barangaroo, Pyrmont and Haymarket (Chinatown). There are 5 main precincts, each with a bit of a different vibe.
Here is how I see it:
Harbourside Shopping Centre is the commercial centre of DH with all the shops and a fast-food court. There are also lots of restaurants facing the waterfront here, and they offer a lovely view of the skyline and the fireworks on Saturday evenings (in season).
This was the first area to be opened at Darling Harbour and timed for the Bicenenttnail in 1988 and refurbished in 2005. It ready for a new facelift. You can find a full list of shops and amenities in Harbourside here.
Cockle Bay Wharf
The second area to offer dining in Darling Harbour there are several restaurants on Cockle Bay Wharf that all look out over the water. The restaurants here often have good lunch and happy hour deals.
Among all the waterfront places here, my favourite is the tapas offerings at Cafe del Mar, on the first floor. It’s a particularly good choice for their weekend sunset sessions.
King St Wharf
King Street Wharf heads north and meets up with Barangaroo. This is where groups from nearby offices head after work and on weekends the hens/bucks night groups decent. It’s also a popular spot for tour groups.
With just a couple of exceptions, this is not somewhere I generally head to eat, but it can be ok at happy hour for drinks.
A little south from the Harbourside complex is the new International Convention Centre (ICC) and Tumbalong Park. On the city side of the area, you will find Darling Quarter. Home to the Chinese Garden and the huge children’s playground. This is the most popular spot for families visiting Darling Harbour.
There are several new casual eateries under the ICC and even a McDonalds over behind the park.
The newest precinct in Darling Harbour, Darling Square joins Chinatown and is home to more than 25 cafes and restaurants and the beautiful Exchange Building designed by Kengo Kuma. The Exchange houses the Darling Square public library and several restaurants and cafes.
Of all the precincts in Darling Harbour, this is the best spot to head when you don’t quite know what you feel like eating. Some of the best restaurants in Darling Harbour are located here, in our opinion. There is a lovely outdoor space with plenty of casual seating and a dozen or so restaurants around it. Adjoining you will find Steam Mill Lane, with lots of casual eateries and some of the areas best cheap eats. Also adjacent is Electric Treat Street (part of Little Hay Street) the laneway to head for desserts.
Finding the Best Restaurants in Darling Harbour for any occasion
Because it comes up a lot in our Facebook group, we decided it was time to do a rundown of the best places to eat in Darling Harbour. The area is home to so many sites and events that it is highly likely at some point you will find yourself hungry while in you are exploring here.
Cheap Restaurants in Darling Harbour
Yes, you can eat cheap in Sydney. Here are our picks for the best cheap food in Darling Harbour. The food on this list is easy to eat and will set you back under $15 per person.
- Marrickville Pork Roll – classic Vietnamese rolls
- Gyradiko – pork and chicken gyros and chips
- Harry’s Cafe de Wheels – meat pie floater and a beer
- Harajuku Gyoza – 5 dumplings
- Lilong – a plate of 8 xiao long bao
- The Port Harbourside – $15 lunch specials (Mon-Thurs)
- Toby’s Estate for a takeaway breakfast under $10
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Darling Harbour
For family-friendly dining there are plenty of fast food options in the Harbourside complex but if you want something a little nicer head to Darling Quarter/Darling Square.
We chose our family-friendly restaurants on a couple of points, kids friendly food that you will be happy to eat too and an environment where you won’t have to worry about them being a little loud.
Our top picks for families:
- Bettys Burger and Concrete Co.
- Fratelli Fresh
- Lilong by Taste of Shanghai
- The Gardens By Lotus
Best Darling Harbour Restaurants for groups
Darling Harbour is a very popular spot for locals to celebrate. Almost all of the larger restaurants have extensive group dining options. Some we have enjoyed include
- Braza Churrascaria (Brazilian – Meat lovers)
- Cyren Bar & Grill (large portions -extensive range)
- Beer Deluxe – huge beer list with all the eats to match
- Manjits Wharf (Indian)
- Zaffran (Indian)
- Fratelli Fresh (Italian)
- LiLong by Taste of Shanghai (Shanghainese)
Halal Restaurants in Darling Harbour
There are several Halal options within Darling Harbour
- Lal Qila
- Manjit’s Wharf
It’s also worth noting that while not all stores are halal certified that in Sydney all McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Red Rooster, KFC, Subway, Domino’s all use halal-certified chicken and cheese. Some individual stores are certified.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Darling Harbour
Surprisingly there are no entirely vegetarian or vegan restaurants in Darling Harbour. There are however, plenty of “vegetarian-friendly” choices. We have left out restaurants with just one or two dishes or salad only choice.
- Zaffran (Indian) – Vegetarian banquet $53 for 2 ppl – plenty of options al la-carte
- The Malaya (Malaysian) – Vegetarian banquet $61 min 2 ppl – vegetable dishes on the menu but not as many on the list of mains, more like sides.
- Manjits Wharf – (Modern Indian) very extensive list of vegetarian choices for entrees and mains. Definitely not an afterthought here.
- Nok Nok Thai Eating House – Decent range of options
- Olivo (Italian) – over a dozen vegetarian choices on the menu but little vegan choice.
- Cafe Del Mar (Tapas style) – No specific vegetarian menu but enough on the list to make it a workable choice.
- Planar (Modern Australia) – a 4 dish vegan menu and 10 vegetarian dishes on the main menu
- Fratelli Fresh (Italian) – several pasta and pizza options.
Fancy some harbourside dining – check this guide
The Best Coffee in Darling Harbour
When its time for coffee our star choice is Edition Coffee Roasters in Steam Mill Lane.
Solid Coffee choices in other parts of Darling Harbour include:
- Haven Speciality Coffee and Toby’s Estate – Darling Square
- Vesta – Darling Quarter
- Hive – Harbourside
- Lindt Chocolate Café – Cockle Bay Wharf
- Simplicity Cafe on King Street Wharf
The Best Breakfast in Darling Harbour
French-inspired Auvers Café, named after a village when Vincent Van Gogh once lived is home to my current favourite Darling Habour brunch venue. Their Super Rice Bowl with smoked salmon, avocado, roasted Dutch carrot, runny onsen egg, and white soy dressing. Those with a sweet tooth will love the Taro Coconut Sago pudding served with mango, taro coconut meringue, longan, and fresh berries. Breakfast/Brunch is served until 3pm.
Other solid breakfast options include:
- Planar – Lots of healthy options including a vegan big breakfast
- Toby’s Estate – Solid breakfast menu with plenty of avocados and a great coconut chia pudding.
- Edition Coffee Roasters – Japanese inspired menu served alongside exceptional coffee. The souffle pancakes here are very, very good.
The Best Desserts in Darling Harbour
When its time for cake it’s hard to go past Saga Lyte in the Exchange at Darling Square. Other Darling Square options include Messina and the Hungarian chimney cakes from Kürtősh. In Darling Quater, Lindt Chocolate Café is a chocoholic delight and rounding out the list is Pancakes at the Rocks in the Harbourside complex.
Fine Dining in Darling Harbour
If you are looking to splurge or celebrating a special occasion, there are a couple of choices both quite new and both still on our to-do list, so these recommendations are based on friends views and not our own.
XOPP by Golden Century – On the mezzanine level of the Exchange building this Chinese restaurant is a step above most in Sydney. Service is first class, and the decor is lovely. With so much great, cheap Chinese food in Sydney, this is one to save for a special occasion. The pippies in XO sauce, Golden Century’s signature dish features along with some more modern takes on traditional favourites. There are 3 banquet menus beginning at $70pp.
French Bistro Atelier in the new Sofitel Hotel will take you to the South of France and is sure to impress.
Check the Hashtag #darlingharboureats on Instagram for more ideas.
Our Darling Harbour Dining Map
We have colour coded the map by area to help you find the best food in Darling Harbour no matter which part of the area you are visiting. Click through to Google maps to see more detail or save the map for your visit.
Darling Harbour Restaurant Parking
We tend to park at either Wilson Parking at Darling Quarter or Wilson Parking at Market City. Both offer affordable weekend and evening options. Both offer night parking for between $12-15. Darling Quarter has a flat weekend rate of $15. You can also park at the International Convention Centre for $28 after 5pm.
Often about 6pm you can nab a stop outside UTS. During business hours on weekdays, we would never even consider taking a car here.
Before you go you might also like our guide to the best food tours in Sydney and let someone help you find more of the cities gems!
Save this to Pinterest for your next big night out.
Want more ideas for exploring Sydney? Join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group