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Jun 22, 2008 04:37 PM

Need help . . .

Hi everyone, I have been following the board and checking all of the menus posted. I still seem to be at a loss planning wise because they all look tempting.

We will be visiting Australia for 16 days for the first time. Our first stop is in Sydney for four nights. We are staying at the Lord Nelson and intend to either eat lunch or dinner there. We enjoy all types of food, atmosphere is also quite important. We inquired about Tetsuya's and they unfortunately only had a noon lunch space available with a mandatory $250 per person cancellation policy (we were not willing to take a $500 risk for lunch).

Money is not at issue per se (we would of course RATHER spend less, but for excellence we have no issue paying reciprocal value).

Following Sydney, we will spend 2 days in the Blue Mountains... also have not found anything WOW there yet.

Then Uluru (which we know we will be captives of the minimal choices, but I am an avid photographer and will not mind eating less than thrilling since the views shall compensate!).

From there we head to the Mornington peninsula for two nights and will be staying in a vineyard (any suggestions here are also welcome).

The only reservation we have thus far is in Melbourne (three nights here). We reserved at Attica.

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  1. There is this recent and most excellent thread on the MP...

    Although Salix was recently reviewed by a friend, and she says the quality has gone off somewhat.

    1. There is so much on these boards for Sydney and so many options I'm not sure whether to hazard a mention.
      If you're heading to the blue mountains, and depending what days you are there, you should head to Vulcan's at Blackheath. Chef, Phillip Searle is an industry legend and when he tried to retire some years ago was overwhelmed with lamenting fans that he carries on with a limited schedule.

      The atmosphere is perfect for our cooler winter days.
      33 Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath, NSW
      T(02) 4787 6899
      Lunch Fri-Sun noon-3pm
      Dinner Fri-Sun 6pm-9.30pm (closed Dec-Feb)
      Bookings essential

      3 Replies
      1. re: kmh

        Is Blackheath near Katoomba? I am trying to find a website for Vulcan's now.

        1. re: JaketheWonderDog

          I don't think vulcan's has ever had a website. searle's a bit old school in that respect.

          aside from vulcan's, ashcroft's, also in blackheath, and silk's in nearby leura are both excellent, although I'm told by a family member that the silk family have now sold and are in the process of handing over the reins there.

          blackheath is about ten minutes' drive from katoomba.

          1. re: JaketheWonderDog

            Yes, Blackheath is a little further up the hill and still on the train line (don't know how you're travelling, there are also taxis in the area).
            There will be no website for the restaurant. Like I said, Searle's reputation precedes him.
            More details can be found here:

            as for distance - refer to google maps - you know what your transport is.

        2. can guide you a little on Sydney. Lots of previous posts so make sure you search the Board as well.
          Since you are staying in the Rocks i would suggest that you have a long lunch at Cafe Sydney (great view, great vibe and really good food, although not one of the MOST AMAZING FOODIE experiences of Sydney but still really worthwhile). And maybe one dinner around the area as well so you dob't have to drive anywhere? Guillame at the Opera House for the most incredible postion and view, but it is a more formal restaurant with a more fussy menu but it is considered one of Sydney's best. And he serves the best Paris Mash (learned from Robuchon) in town. Expensive. see for more info.
          There is also Aria which is in the same area and looks at the Opera House and harbour Bridge and is a beautiful, slightly formal restaurant with delicious food. Also a little fussy, and also one of Sydney's best. And expensive.

          Same area, Rockpool (fish) is a slightly more casual, but expensive, restaurant with brilliant fish and seafood cooked by Neil Perry,a very well known and respected Aussie Chef. Have heard mixed reports about it recently, but we have really enjoyed it . No view of anything though!
          If you head to Bondi Beach, Sean's Panaroma (see my previous post) is one of Sydney's interesting and iconic restaurants. Casual, crowded and SO delicious.

          What areas of Sydney are you interested in visiting? That might help guide you a little better if we know.

          Agree with suggestions of Vulcans at Blackheath.

          1. in melbourne, my top picks would be:
            giuseppe, arnaldo & sons (no bookings, great value for money) - don't like the decor as much, but it does have a gen-X kinda vibe (50s oz-italian trattoria meets 21st century modernist)

            grossi florentino - the restaurant upstairs, not the grill. perfect food, old school glamour. (the cellar bar downstairs is quintessential trad melbourne to me - almost dirt cheap!)

            ezard or three, one, two - both do excellent renditions of mod oz. ezard is probably sleeker, design-wise. three, one, two is housed in a victorianish shopfront.

            2 Replies
            1. re: e_ting

              In Melbourne, I love lunch at Cafe e Cucina, Chapel St South Yarra for a little bit of Italy. Last week i had a delicious spaghetti with crab, olive oil and a little diced tomato with 2 scampi sitting on top. Really simple and delicious. It is expensive though, at about $35 for a pasta. You are really paying for the postion, the vibe and the gorgeous Italian waiters. i guess someone who knows Melbourne well could suggest some great (less expensive) Italian restaurants.

              1. re: hank64

                cafe e cucina is ok, but as hank64 mentioned, expensive for what it is. the vibe is ok. personally i don't prefer chapel (especially on weekends) because it's more of a 'let's go out to town' shopping destination, or at least that end of chapel is. (the windsor end is better).

                speaking of other good italian places, sarti is great. lipsmacking food with a city loft vibe. it's in a laneway in the cbd - very melbourne.

                also, melburnians are big on coffee and there's a great cafe culture. everyone seemed to have their own favourite cafe, but check out babka on brunswick street for the best raisin buns (they call them shoo-fly buns at babka) in the city. (ok i don't want to start a raisin bun war, so i must disclaim by saying that they're the best imo). journal cafe in flinders lane in the city is also one of my personal faves.

            2. Melbourne - Rockpool Bar and Grill at the Crown Casino is a beautiful, smart and interesting restaurant with a really delicious and extensive menu with an excellent range of beef. Very swish setting with a menu that will make you very happy. Must try the starter of prawns and goats cheese tortellini with burnt butter, raisins and pine nuts. OMG this is one of the best things you'll ever eat - one of his signature dishes from the old days when he opened Rockpool Sydney. And the side dishes are brilliant (mac cheese, potato and cabbage gratin, incredible brussel sprouts), as are the desserts and cheeses...

              11 Replies
              1. re: hank64

                Thank you everyone for the continued suggestions! I look forward to Saturday when I can research all the menus! We are looking to have an adventure with food (in addition to our adventure in Australia!)

                I am preparing for the Florida Bar Examination, just graduated law school... so we are ready to get out and enjoy a break!

                Only one more hotel to book (Melbourne). I am looking at the Windsor, Grand Sofitel and Langham.... all look nice but wish I knew their location area better!

                1. re: JaketheWonderDog

                  strictly location-wise, i'd go for the langham or windsor. the grand sofitel is in a corner of city close to a big interstate railway station and not-so-nice old-fashioned internet cafes and the like.

                  that said, as long as you are in the city (or southgate - where langham is) there are plenty of trams to get you round.

                  if you're booking at the langham, try to get a room with a river view - you'll look back at the cbd - v nice. the langham is also in spitting distance of crown, which houses a lot of the eateries suggested here.

                  1. re: JaketheWonderDog

                    The Windsor is a Melb icon.. even if you don't stay there, High Tea at the Windsor is a MUST!

                    And the free City Circle Tourist Tram leaves from just outside the Windsor.

                    For sheer olde-worlde Melbourne charm you can't beat The Grand Old Girl.

                    1. re: purple goddess

                      Alright, we have a running list now of places we will likely visit in Sydney:
                      Night 1 - Lord Nelson's (we are staying here so we figure that we would make this the first night after the long flight and spending the whole day in Sydney)

                      Remaining Nights:
                      Oscillate Wildly
                      Forbes and Burton
                      Fish Face
                      Biird Cow Fish
                      Spice I Am

                      If any of the above should be replaced with a better suggestion we would love to hear it. Also we cannot seem to decide between:

                      Any guidance would be appreciated again! Thanks everyone for your help.

                      We will also be eating at Vulcan's in Blackheath.

                      Has anyone been to Cupcakes on Pitt?

                      1. re: JaketheWonderDog

                        Need to add in Sean's Panaroma at Bondi!
                        For 4 nights, i would choose Bird Cow Fish (have the pie), Longrain (since you are after Thai), Quay and Pier. Or Rockpool, but Rockpool falls short on the ambience i think with the renovation. Although the fish with yellow curry and the crab omelette are fantastic. I'd think i'd rather go to Rockpool in Melbourne. Quay is in an incredible spot view-wise (really breathtaking) and the food is quite amazing and very detailed (if you like that sort of thing). Pier used to be my favourite in Sydney, ironically, until it got it's third hat. Beautiful position on a wharf over Rose Bay. Very expensive. I used to think Greg Doyle (Pier) could cook fish better than anyone else in the world! Lately it has been heading in that food froth direction of El Bulli etc which is really not my thing. Still an outstanding restaurant. Never been to Marque and never heard anything that's made me want to go.
                        For a casual lunch, North Bondi Italian on Bondi Beach is hip and fun, serving a great caprioska and a delcious crumbed veal cutlet.
                        Good luck and enjoy Sydney!

                        1. re: JaketheWonderDog

                          A fantastic list. My one suggestion would be to drop the meal at the Lord Nelson, it is OK pub food, nothing wrong with it but equally not that great (I used to live 100 metres away so know it well). Instead I would grab a cab and head for Spice I am. It is very casual (sit on the sidewalk) and quite fast so won't be tricky on the first night.
                          I like Marque, good french food, but not a Wow factor simply because of the location - and you need one meal with the view. Quay has the great view and is quite formal. Pier is another great location and has an awsome reputation - a few years since I ate there. And Rockpool can be fantastic, but has a patchy reputation. If it was me I would toss a coin and choose betwee Pier and Quay (if I was to choose two, I would then add Marque - for the contrast).

                          1. re: PhilD

                            Honestly since Pier, Quay and Rockpool are quite pricey we wanted the overall best experience for that night... I am truly not sold 100% on any of them.

                            As far as Longrain, I was turned off by the descrpition of a large unpersonal place. I much prefer the smaller more intimate setting.

                            Definately plan on Spice I Am

                            Has anyone eaten at Oscillate Wildly or the Cupcarke on Pitt place (I know this is just a snack).

                            Marque is off the list.

                            What about Forbes and Burton.

                            I cannot (unfortunately) afford $400 meals each night of the trip, but want to still find the gems out there (of which I know there are MANY!)

                            1. re: JaketheWonderDog

                              I ate at Forbes and Burton approx 12 months ago when it was quite new. We had a really good meal there and would return without hesitation. Good cooking, good service, a nice space and some really good wines.

                              I like both Longrain and Spice am I - and I think your assessment is reasonable.

                              I would recommend sticking with one of the top end restaurants, either Quay or Pier because they will be a realy memorable experience. The combination of food, service and location (especially location) is second to none. It will round out the Sydney experience and allow you to compare and contrast across the spectrum of dining experiences.

                              1. re: PhilD


                                We will keep F&B on the list then and stick with Spice I Am

                                The consensus seems to be Quay or Pier. I will check back through the menus and pick one!

                                1. re: JaketheWonderDog

                                  the last meal I had from spice i am was incredibly hot.

                                  Now I like hot food. Most (white) people think I am insane for it. But this (and I have eaten there a few times) was difficult to eat.

                                  It's intimate in terms of space, but there is definitely a fast in/out experience to it.

                              2. re: JaketheWonderDog

                                I have stayed off the sydney theme - it appears everyone has an opinion.

                                I have not enjoyed Oscillate Wildly in the past - I don't understand the fuss. Recent reviews suggests it's gone up in price a lot, and the bookings are at about 3 months notice I believe.

                                You had mentioned Fishface in your OP as well as Pier - they are both seafood resto's and fishface is on the cheaper side of the scale - that could save you a buck or two.

                                Longrain is, to me, neither large nor impersonal. It is communal seating but the lights are dim and the spacing is more than adequate. My parents (mum doesn't like noise, dad doesn't drink, they aren't particularly gregarious with other diners ) go early, get seated straight away, and they love it.