Travel favourites – Sydney
If you’re not a big city fan like me, food is Sydney’s biggest redeeming feature. However, in some ways it’s not hugely worth listing favourite places, because Sydney’s so huge it’s not worth “following” any particular list. Public transport is designed for commuters travelling hair-raising distances, not for the tourist wanting to avoid the fifth forty-minute walk to their next destination. Another reason to abandon any lists or maps (as I quickly learnt) is that a lot of the best places either have bizarre opening hours, or waiting lists.
If you’re a foodie, you can probably immediately tell if a place is going to be good or not simply looking at the exterior, the menu, and what people are eating (except perhaps for a few Asian places that defy this generalisation). So my advice for Sydney is to explore whatever is nearby, go with your mood, and relax. I found this a lot less stressful, but it also explains why places like Bourke St Bakery are not on my list! If you do happen to come across the following places though, I would strongly suggest you don’t pass them by! Or if you do want a map, here’s the one I put together before leaving.
Delicious stumbles (literally…yeesh we did so much walking):
If you’re feeling a little adventurous but your dining companions aren’t, Toku Toku will please everyone. From weird but wonderful roast cabbage with shoyu & white truffle oil, to classic crispy pork belly with sumptuous sauces, this place nails it (to see some pictures, check out this awesome Sydney dining blog I found!). The drinks menu has an impressive range since they’re an izakaya, so you’re sorted whether you want cocktails, hard-to-find and really delicious plum wine, or a well known wine. Each item we ordered on their “tapas” menu was really generous (especially for anywhere with Japanese aspirations), making their prices really competitive. Start off with one dish per person if you want to fit in drinks and dessert!
If you’re looking for the smoothest, creamiest gelato that still falls under the category of “real food,” this is it. Each flavour is true to its name – my coconut and pandan was made with actual coconut and pandan, and each gelato is made from scratch each time to accommodate for each new ingredient. Flavours change regularly too. Despite this meticulous approach, Messina’s gelato costs less than a Ben and Jerry’s, and they don’t charge you extra for a cone!
One of Sydney’s largest farmers markets does not disappoint. We loved the smoked trout, haloumi-like sheep’s cheese (omg haloumi which doesn’t just taste of salt, but also sheep’s cheese that’s not too much like the back end of a sheep!), our fragrant basil bush, and our chilli jam. I will admit the prices here are a tad higher than the supermarket, but so was the awesomeness of our finds :D
I almost fainted with glee when we finally found the food hall (if you find yourself amongst cosmetics, you’re in the wrong building!). This is worth making a pilgrimage to, simply because it has everything. Not just a wide range of products, but eateries as well. Multiple bakeries covering all sorts of pastries (ready to eat and reheatable), breads, cakes and cookies (including some very interesting macaron flavours). Cheeses up the wazoo. Fresh meat, seafood (complete with sushi bar), and produce (albeit rather pricey, and not all seasonal). Fancy packaged processed stuff. An oyster bar. A noodle bar with an open kitchen. A dizzying array of antipasto. Fresh pasta (and filled pasta). A juice and smoothie bar using only real fresh fruit or vegetables, yogurt, and honey. Scrupulously selected international, national, and local goodies all in one place. It kind of reflects the Sydney food scene – endless variety, constantly updating itself with new ventures, colourful and international in outlook.
While the David Jones’ Food Hall probably has a comparable amount of cheese, Formaggi Ocello is where you go to experience cheese. You can take some home, or enjoy the cheeses there at their cafe, with a glass of wine, or a pastry, or some of the top notch condiments and antipasto they stock. However, they were not as warm and friendly as our local cheesemonger, and half the cheeses were in a huge cabinet as opposed to a dedicated cheese room. This makes the whole cheese-trying experience a little less easygoing, since all the cabinet cheeses are wrapped in plastic. Still, this is a post about Sydney, not Christchurch, and Formaggi Ocello is still a worthy visit if you get the chance.
What I will miss about Sydney is the feeling that most people who start food businesses actually want to be known for making something special, whether you take that to mean unique or done expertly, or at least very well. This is reflected not just in Sydney’s iconic places, but the many international faces setting up shop in the city, whether that shop is a little Italian pizzeria or Momofuku Seibo. Hell, even vegetarians are catered for well, even at the little sushi shop down the road. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to limit yourself to lists of recommended places – let the delicious places find you!
PS. Non-travel related posting, with images, will resume after this post :)