The Changing Face of Sydney’s Restaurant Scene

By Franz Scheurer


Since my wife has started her Masters in Gastronomy through the Adelaide University, our house is littered with food and wine reference books, history books, almanacs, charts, restaurant guides and photocopies of relevant texts, from the obscure to the well known, are strewn about from the bathroom to the attic.  From Apicius to Zinfandel, you will find it in our abode, somewhere!


What did catch my eye, however, was a copy of ‘Eating Out in Sydney’ compiled by Robert Rosenblum and published by Angus and Robertson, in 1980, lying right next to ‘The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2001’, edited by Mathew Evans and Lisa Hudson.


Comparing the two guides gave me a good snapshot of what has happened in the last twenty odd years in the Sydney Restaurant Scene and it’s fascinating!


In 1980 there were a total of 367 restaurants listed in the guide, compared to 421 in 2001. Not a huge difference, I grant you, but looking closer this is what I found:


In 1980 there were 82 French restaurants listed compared to 12 in 2001, which are also now segmented into Modern, Bistro and Provincial.


In 1980 there were 58 Chinese restaurants, in 2001 32, again, broken up, into Cantonese, Fuzhou, Northern, Szechuan, Seafood and Modern.


In 1980 there were a mere 6 restaurants listed as Australian, in 2001 we have 86 under the heading of Modern Australian.


The Japanese restaurants in 1980 numbered 3 and grew to 24 in 2001


Greek restaurants dwindled down to 3 in 2001 compared to 10 in 1980, similarly Seafood restaurants went from 30 in 1980 to 10 in 2001


Steakhouses, one of the stars of the 1980s with 11 entries are barely represented with just 1 entry in 2001.


Theatre Restaurants do not fare any better with their numbers reduced from 12 in 1980 to a whopping zero in 2001


Italian restaurants, ever popular, going from 37 in 1980 to 42 in 2001 and the last but not least, the International category went from 58 in 1980 to just 1 in 2001.


The above differences really do illustrate the way we eat today. Our preferences for Asian influenced food and the fact that we, as an eating nation, are a lot more adventurous. The Sunday smorgasbord lunch is no longer something the whole family waits all week for. We are far more likely to have a quick Thai dinner or a Sushi lunch. We still go to the theatre, but we dine at Wharf or Aria beforehand.


We’ve come a long way!