SYDNEY has beaten New York and Paris to place third in a survey of top holidays destinations for food lovers by British magazine Which?.
The top city for foodies was San Sebastian in Spain, followed closely by Tokyo, according to a panel of food writers and bloggers who were asked to rate 10 destinations outside Britain.
The results do not surprise the top chefs and food critics who are about to descend on Sydney for the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, starting on October 1.
Nicholas Lander, a leading British food writer, said eating in Sydney had always been wonderful. He recalled a lunch at a Berowra Waters restaurant in 1985 as one of the ''most memorable meals of my life''. His new book, The Art of the Restaurateur, includes Neil Perry in the pantheon of top restaurateurs in the world.
Mr Lander said what made Sydney's restaurants so distinctive was the views, the light, the warmth of Sydneysiders and their growing appreciation of good food, alongside their enjoyment of good wine and ''their enthusiasm for having fun''.
One of the world's most followed food bloggers, David Lebovitz, who raved about Sydney's food when he attended Crave last year, said he avoided ranking things because it was hard to quantify a city (or food, or chefs, or restaurants) in terms of numbers.
''I know folks like lists but places like Billy Kwong are special and it's hard to say it's better [or worse] than other places. It's an experience - and a rather excellent one,'' he said.
Mr Lebovitz, an American who blogs at DavidLebovitz.com and lives in Paris, said Sydney food was exciting because its chefs had an open-minded and adventurous approach, while the food in Paris often had a tendency to sameness.
''It's interesting that the new wave of coffee places in Paris are mostly owned by Australians. It's not necessarily in the French mentality to look at something and say: 'How can I/we do this better?' So there is a sameness to a lot of the food in Paris,'' he said.
Terry Durack, the editor of the Good Food Guide with Joanna Savill, did not quite agree with the Which? rankings.
''Personally, I rate Tokyo and New York as the twin powers of world dining, with San Sebastian over to one side by itself. London and Sydney come in close behind,'' he said.
Ms Savill said Tokyo was an amazing food city because food obsession permeated every level. ''And that's why Sydney does so well, too, because we have all become food obsessed,'' she said.
Crave runs October 1 to 31. Details at cravesydney.com.