The desire to dine well is seldom an afterthought for visitors down under, especially in recent years. If anything, it is why many frequent food capitals such as Melbourne and Sydney. While the latter might not offer a melting pot of restaurants and coffee shops the former has long been recognised for, Sydney is home to four million seafood fanatics, a world-class harbour and a record-breaking light festival that is Vivid Sydney. And yes, it boasts its share of world-class dining experiences to write home about. It is, after all, the breeding ground for some of the country’s turn-of-the-century tastemakers, the likes of Tetsuya Wakuda, Luke Mangan, Neil Perry and David Thompson.
An increasing variety of cuisines is also being introduced. But for the past five years, locals have been particularly excited about catching up over yum cha at hotspots such as Marigold on George Street. Or so says the local food-loving, AeroPress coffee-obsessed chauffeur I had the pleasure of conversing with when I visited Sydney in May.
It is almost as popular as pizza, he posits. The next question begs to be asked. “Well, these days, fans are heading to Pizza Da Mario,” he shares, which is located at The Cannery Rosebery where one of my favourite discoveries, the splendidly artisanal Archie Rose Distilling Company, is located.
So, the coolest places to dine at are not limited to its central business district. That is not to say that the visiting gourmand should miss the conveniently grand option to lunch at Bennelong located within the iconic Sydney Opera House. Like its older sister, Quay Restaurant, which is located across the harbour at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, the two-hatted restaurant serves up some of the finest interpretations of contemporary Australian cuisine—as determined by renowned chef and Sydney native Peter Gilmore, of course. The main course of slow-cooked beef cheeks from Rangers Valley, located 600km north of Sydney, complemented by the panorama of the harbour, albeit a less touristy one, is hard to top. And diners can still choose to finish with a Chocolate Cake from Across the Water, which is Gilmore’s signature dessert at Quay.
Of course, this is not the only place to take in a waterfront panorama. Over at the inner-city suburb of Barangaroo, a new foodlovers’ enclave is in the making. Located on the northwestern edge of the CBD and the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, new lifestyle developments here are wooing locals and tourists with a fresh view. The land’s traditional custodians, the Gadigal, once hunted, fished and congregated here. So, it is no surprise to find a restaurant like Love.Fish located on Wulugul Walk at The Streets of Barangaroo, dedicated to local seafood, sourced from environmentally responsible fisheries. They serve environmentally-conscious wines too.
That said, if you are in the neighbourhood and crave a quick fix, a Japanese-inspired burger at Ume Burger or a comforting bowl of pho at Phomo is recommended.
It might take some careful planning to squeeze them all in, but some of Sydney’s more electrifying menus are found in the increasingly trendy suburb of Chippendale. This is also where Singapore restaurateur and hotelier Loh Lik Peng’s refurbished The Old Clare Hotel is located. And, between one of Sydney’s hottest tables at Automata, led by coowner and head chef Clayton Wells, and chef Lino Sauro’s nuova Sicilian Sydney outpost, Olio Kensington Street, there are enough brag-worthy meals on this street to make your Sydney holiday memorable.
If, however, you are aiming for a loftier taste of New South Wales, I suggest including a short detour to the Hunter Valley, starting with a short flight from Rose Bay via Sydney Seaplanes (next door to stalwart seafood restaurant Catalina) to Hardys Bay. The view of the capital during the 20min flight southeast of the city is hard to beat. Then, it is a short drive from the sleepy wharf to Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel, Restaurant and Spa where an authentic Italian feast, courtesy of the Manfredi team that opened the restaurant in 2007, awaits. Alternatively, Bells is a 90min drive from Sydney. From here, Chateau Elan in the Hunter Valley is about a couple of hours drive away, and a great base for a weekend encounter with some of the wine region’s finest pours. Now, that usually includes a proper pit stop at 47-yearold Brokenwood Estate, Tyrrell’s Wines and McGuigan Wines. If you’re shopping, McGuigan’s Cellar Select Shiraz 2015, full-bodied with beautiful structure, is worth a spot in the cellar or wine fridge.
There is the option to break for lunch at the charming Muse Kitchen at the Keith Tulloch Winery in Pokolbin. But if you want to eat light and sample more variety, a must-visit-before-it-gets-too-hip gem is located on McDonalds Road close by. Housed in a former church, new addition Usher Tinkler Wines Cellar and Salumi boasts some of the most provocative small-parcel wines in the area, which you can sample with some artisanal cured meats and cheeses. Its Nose To Tail 2016 semillon/chardonnay blend, for instance, aims to offer consumers, particularly those who may not have huge love for, say semillon, something new that they might be more open to trying. The winery’s first vintage was a 2014 but it didn’t open the cellar door until two years later. It doesn’t yet have organic wines to boot but has recently acquired a biodynamic vineyard at the top of the hill that grows Australia’s quintessential varietal—the shiraz.
And that is just what a travelling gourmand likes to hear.