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Sydney & Melbourne - what is new and well regarded?

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We are heading home from (Europe) for a few weeks in Mach to recharge our solar batteries - it has been a miserable cold and grey winter here.

We are fairly familiar with the restaurants in both cities but things obviously change. So what has happened in the last 18 months? Where are the new stars? As you would expect we eat every cuisine.

On the last trip we went to Pony, Icebergs, Forbes & Burton, Becasse, The Tea Room Gunners' Barracks, Bistro Moncur, Bistrode and Vue du Monde. But no asian places last time as we had stopovers in HK and Thailand - however this trip we need a good selection of quality Asian food - we are desperate for some real flavours...!

All suggestions gratefully received as I can't get the latest GFG in the UK.

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  1. In Melbourne, gastrotemples are out and smart casual is back in. Interlude and 312 are closed (though the latter has changed hands), and casual but not cheap places like Gills Diner, Cumulus and Movida are hot. A rejuvenated Arintji along with Taxi dominate Fed Square. St Kilda still trades on its views - Donovans, Circa etc same as usual. Press Club is a hot ticket, and its Lygon St taverna spinoff is running well.

    Crown is looking good - Rockpool has settled (the bar is a great spot), Guiseppe Arnaldo and Sons is great but no bookings, Bistro Guillaume is a textbook bistro, and Phillippe Mouchel's lunch deal is still a cracker for wasting a couple of hours. Nobu poor on all fronts.

    Thai still poor in Melbourne. Wait until Sydney.

    Top tip: food prices have gone up but restaurants are terrified of passing on the extra food costs. So wine markups is where the money is at. Eat well, sup less....

    1 Reply
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      The new Spice I Am in Darlinghurst is meant to be great, though i haven't had time to try it! I have not heard good things about Neil Perry's new "Spice Temple" in Sydney though, maybe just teething problems....
      Gimlet's right about wine prices!! We're spoilt for food prices right now. So if you can find good BYO at the moment, take it!
      In Melbourne there are some great buys on the wine list at Movida even though overall it is pricey. i love that place

    2. Have a wonderful time recharging! Here are my Sydney suggestions.

      Personal favourites :
      Jimmy Liks (contemporary Thai)
      Mamak (very casual Malaysian)
      Guillaume at Bennelong

      Some of Sydney's current darlings:
      Oscillate Wildly

      Always fabulous:
      Sailor's Thai
      Sean's Panorama

      1. Some good suggestions posted above. To add to your list of great new places in both cities...

        A Tavola - Darlinghurst
        Etch - City
        Glebe Point Diner - Glebe
        Mille Vini - Surry Hills
        Uccello - City
        Pendolino - City
        Light Brigade - Woollahra
        Restaurant Arras - Walsh Bay
        Spice Temple - City

        (I dined at the new Spice I Am restaurant in Darlo recently and it wasn't a particularly smooth experience. The service was incredibly uneven and the food, while good, is overpriced given you can get the same flavours for half the price in their original Surry Hills joint. Admittedly I was there in their first week, so things on the service front may have picked up since then.)

        Cumulus Inc - City
        Seamstress - City
        Gill's Diner - City
        Bistro Guillaume - Southbank
        Anada - Fitzroy
        Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons - Southbank
        Church St Enoteca - Richmond
        Maha - City

        Have a great trip!

        1. PhilD back inda hood!

          Ok, I think a few have hit the main points...

          a tavola & bodega are definitely new and worthwhile additions within the past 18months in Sydney and are definitely worth the respect they've been given.
          Mamak is sydney's latest and greatest on the "return to true Asian flavours" journey that restaurants have, whilst Simon Thomsen recently panned Spice I am's new upmarket venture.
          I'm personally looking forward for a return to longrain after a hiatus and fyi hamish ingham left billy kwong (has anyone EVER seen kylie kwong there?) last year to go to the teppenyaki joint at ivy but has already moved on again.

          In terms of guides, I don't think the SMh guide reflects my experiences for many restaurants since Matt Evans moved on. I don't particularly agree with Simon Thomsen's style I suppose. For some research you could always head to Australian Gourmet Traveller's website (gourmettraveller.com.au) where there guide is available online as well as the reviews of the magazine. I am much more in agreement with Pat Nourse...

          1. I recommend Maha in Melbourne.

            1. sorry if this is too late - but in melb, check out cutler & co (by the 312 people) and brown & do as well.

              1. Thanks for all the suggestions. We are now back in the UK after a really good trip. We only one bad meal over the 21 days (in WA), and overall the standard of food was really good.

                Lots of meals with family and friends so we ate at a broad variety of restaurants, the destination restaurants were great, but also the local restaurants were very good. For example, the UK has a reputation for good Indian food, but the local Indian in Eltham (Melbourne) knocked the spots off 99% of the restaurants we have tried in the UK. In the UK we tend to research carefully before we try a pub or restaurant, and then we only get a 20 to 30% success rate. It was so good to relax back into Australian dining were quality is so ubiquitous. We wish we had had the stamina and time to try more.

                Here are the comments for Melbourne and Sydney (I will do a separate post on WA). First Sydney:

                Din Tai Fung - a branch of the Taiwanese yum cha restaurant. Good steamed dumplings, but overall we felt it was one dimensional and we would have liked the variety of a more traditional yum cha restaurant.

                Sailors Thai Canteen - an old stand-by and a good central location to meet friends in. The cooking is still very good, and nice to have the broad variety of dishes, how we miss good Thai salads!

                Bistro Moncur - this was our local 15 years ago, whilst the prices have risen steeply, it still produces excellent French inspired Bistro food (on par with many Parisian bistro's). If this was in London you couldn't get in, but it is part of the fabric of Sydney dining and therefore often gets overlooked.

                Universal Restaurant - it took some persuading to convince my partner to try a Christine Manfield's restaurant after we had a poor experience at Paramount (her last place in Sydney). But thank god I did. Great, interesting food, in a cool sexy space in Darlinghurst. One of the hits of the trip.

                Mamak - a brilliant, low key cafe/restaurant. A fast, cheap lunch of brilliant Malaysian food.

                Bentley Restaurant and Bar - a grungy old pub with fantastic FOH staff straight out of Pulp Fiction. Wonderful contrast between the room and what is on the plate, some good cutting edge (molecular) food. Some dishes are really good, others miss the mark. But that is the same at El Bulli and the Fat Duck.

                Sushi Choo (at the Ivy) - we started with a glass of wine by the pool (it is a night-club right in the centre of town) and had a good look at Uccello which looked great, but the mission was sushi so we headed downstairs. Good food, especially the special orders of sashimi and tempura

                Icebergs Dining Room - the iconic dining room overlooking Bondi Beach. The coolest sexiest place for a long lunch. I so wish the food lived up to the location, it is OK but not as good as it thinks it is. Side note: it reminds me of other glamorous Eastern suburbs eateries like the old Catalina and Mezzaluna good setting, beautiful people but sub-par food. Are the diners of the East conservative?

                On to Melbourne, lots of friends to meet so less high end dining, the two of note were:

                The Botanical - packed on a Friday night and he service really suffered, but the food is very good.

                Melbourne Supper Club - a really good selection of wines and outstanding cheese plates.

                A couple of observations: it was interesting to see the high proportion of foreign wine on all restaurant menus, many of these imports are no better than local wines and are often higher priced for lower quality. Clearly having a broad wine list is the current fashion, but it is a bit frustrating for a visitor who wants to taste Australia's best.

                It was also disappointing to eat Australian cheese again, highly priced, small portions and generally not well kept. I know there are some beacons of hope (Woodside , etc.) but the general miss treatment of cheese is strange given how good other food is. A blind spot?

                1 Reply
                1. re: PhilD

                  Thank you all for all the great tips. My husband and I are almost finishing up our trip and all your ccomments are spot on. Got to run, I am headed to Bodega right now.