It might not boast its own Michelin Guide, but Sydney boasts one of the finest (and most unfairly maligned) food scenes in the world. A cosmopolitan, multicultural melting pot that benefits from a wide variety of cuisines as well as the unparalleled quality of Australian ingredients, it’s not hard to eat well in the Harbour City.
But it can be hard to do so on a budget. Sydney is fast becoming one of the world’s least affordable cities, thanks to its outrageous property market, high cost of living and bougie tendencies. When was the last time you were able to get smashed avo on toast at a Sydney cafe for less than $12? While there are definitely still good cheap eats around (if you know where to look), finding an honest-to-goodness fine dining experience that you don’t have to spend six months on a waiting list or pay a small fortune for is increasingly difficult.
Some would say that ‘cheap fine dining’ is an oxymoron, but we beg to differ. There’s one eatery in Sydney that not only serves up some top notch haute cuisine but does so at a reasonable price – whilst not feeling (too) cheap.
What’s the catch? It’s run by students. But before you throw your signed copy of Food Snobbery at our heads, consider this: not only is this place great value for ballers on a budget, but it’s also the sort of risky foodie experience everyone – truly loaded or not – can benefit from. The late great Anthony Bourdain himself said exceptional dining experiences only come to those who indulge in a little risk. This is your chance.
William Blue Dining, on George Street in The Rocks near the Museum of Contemporary Art, is one of Sydney’s most underrated foodie gems. Located at the former site of acclaimed chef Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurant, William Blue is a cozy yet elegant spot, with minimalist decor and seats for 60. If you didn’t know any better, you’d just assume there’s nothing special about it – other than its prestigious location.
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But that’s where you’d be wrong. As we mentioned, it’s actually a student-run kitchen; part of the William Blue College of Hospitality Management at Torrens University, one of the best culinary schools in the country. It’s a brilliant idea, really: vocational students get the chance to hone their skills in a real restaurant, serving real customers, and diners get the chance to eat great food at a fraction of the normal price. William Blue has short, frequently rotating menus that focus on fresh ingredients and showing off the technical prowess of their chefs.
The price isn’t the only advantage. You’ll never get bad service at William Blue because the students are eager to please. The focused menu allows the chefs to really nail each dish, rather than suffer under a bloated list of fatuous recipes. And because it’s so affordable, it also gives you the opportunity to be bolder than you might normally be and order things you’ve never tried before. Where else in Sydney can you get a three-course fine dining dinner for less than a $50?
Currently open Tuesdays to Saturdays for lunch and dinner, William Blue Dining is Mecca for price-conscious fine dining enthusiasts in Sydney. Don’t resign yourself to pub schnitties and Fratelli Fresh every date night: lift your game and eat some classy nosh. Check out the menu and book a table online here.