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Travel favourites – Sydney

January 6, 2012
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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):

Toku Toku

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!

Messina gelato

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!

Eveleigh Markets

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

David Jones Food Hall

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.

Formaggi Ocello 

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 :)

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2012 3:55 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve just started to do some research for my first trip to Sydney, and keep getting overwhelmed by how big it is. Nothing like a few good food destinations to keep focussed.

  2. January 6, 2012 4:02 pm

    F: Hehe, it is pretty overwhelming going there from kiwiland. If you want to look for places close to where you’re staying, you can search Grab Your Fork or The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry (Sydney food blogs) by suburb. I overestimated how willing I’d be to walk up and down the city hills to get to various far-flung places!

  3. January 6, 2012 10:10 pm

    Hi Zo, just popped by to say Happy New Year!!!

    Ciao
    Alessandra

  4. January 7, 2012 4:31 am

    Can’t wait, we’re going next year for our 10th!

  5. Bunny Eats Design permalink
    January 9, 2012 10:42 am

    Wow, your map is epic, but it looks like a lot of work. When I travel, we usually let location and what we are feeling like for that particular meal be the deciding factors on what we will eat. I often have a to do list of DISHES to eat, but not one of PLACES to eat at. It’s infinitely less stressful.

  6. January 9, 2012 11:54 am

    A: Thanks Alessandra! Looks like you’re having a fantastic time. Thanks for not being lazy like me and sharing such nice photos hehe.

    R: Ahh, you will love it :)

    B: Yeah I didn’t end up using the map much to be honest! I like the idea of listing dishes or ingredients, although it’s fun to let the menu take you by surprise too. Definitely less stressful too, as you say. Especially since Sydney is so much more than just cafes and restaurants!

  7. Sarah permalink
    January 9, 2012 9:29 pm

    Zo did you go to Ms G’s while you were in Sydney? Best food ever. They have these Bahn Mi with Pork Belly and Pate in them and.. oh man so good. Also, I started up a new food blog! http://www.ginandjuniper.wordpress.com

  8. January 10, 2012 11:23 pm

    wow, that map is dedication! I did a bit of a similar thing (but not on a map) for my Melbourne trip, but I think because I had looked at it so often prior to going, I didn’t really use it as much when I was actually there, just got really excited when I stumbled across someplace that was on “the list” (which was surprisingly often, but I had remembered street names/general areas and stuff).

    I’ll have to remember these for the next time I’m in Sydney :)

  9. January 11, 2012 4:38 pm

    Heading to Sydney soon for a few days, the David Jones Food Hall sounds just like the destination we are wanting to find, thanks for making the information gathering a little bit easier.

  10. January 11, 2012 9:53 pm

    S: Naw, although tbh I was never a big pork fan. Even prosciutto can’t convert me :P So excited about your blog, will chat to you on Saturday about it…

    M: Haha…”dedication” is a nice way of putting it! I got a little obsessed/excited with google maps’ “your places” function.

    R: Ah yes, the David Jones Food Hall should seriously be every visitor’s destination at some point! Glad I could help in some way :) Hope you have a fantastic time there too.

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