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Sydney, Australia

Fire and smoke with a touch of finesse

Chief reason to visit: This is one of Sydney's hottest restaurants - and not just because of the huge wood-fired oven in the open kitchen. Ester serves small plates that are big on flavour.

What's the food like? Think charred meat, fermented vegetables and wonderful homemade bread. Stand-out dishes include blood sausage 'sanga' - a small morcilla sausage perched on a piece of bread with a squirt of aioli - and cauliflower dressed with toasted almonds, almond cream and mint. Finish with 'three milks': dulce de leche, ricotta panacotta and sheep's milk foam.

What's the vibe? Simple but not severe. Poured concrete arches, globe lights and a long black bar, plus easy going staff, make for a convivial and welcoming space.

A word on the chef: Mat Lindsay previously worked at influential Sydney restaurants Billy Kwong and Rockpool before opening Ester in 2013.

What else? Ester's wine list is a reason to visit in itself. The line-up changes frequently, showcasing boutique vineyards from around the world with a focus on natural and organic wines.

Bonus point: Lindsay refuses to make pizza in his wood-fired oven, despite regular requests.

Images: Mat Lindsay

On the pass

  • Mat Lindsay

Style of food

  • Modern Australian, cooked in a wood-fired oven

Standout dish

  • Beef tartare, fried egg sauce, fresh horseradish, oysters and mustard leaf