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sydney itinerary, looking for feedback

Thanks for all the help in Melbourne. I'm looking for some feedback on Sydney as well.

Our first night we have a reservation at *Quay*. Should I request a waterfront table, or are the views from every table good?

For brunch the next day we were thinking yum cha. Either *Zilver* or *Marigold Citymark*. Any suggestions on which to go with? Are reservations required?

For dinner that night I was thinking Thai, but since we're doing fine dining twice in Sydney I was looking for something under 30AUD per person. *Spice I Am* looks like a good choice, but I'd be open to suggestions, even non-Thai, as long as the price range is reasonable.

The next day we'll be at the Blue Mountains for lunch. Are there any worthwhile lunch spots up there, or should we just pack a picnic? I definitely want to visit a Malaysian restaurant while in Sydney, so for dinner we were thinking *Mamak*.

For lunch our last day we'll be visiting the Sydney Fish Market. Can we eat well at the market or is there a good restaurant near by?

Dinner will be at *Tetsuya's*. Have to say I'm looking forward to this one. I've ready nothing but rave reviews.

Thanks again for all your help.

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  1. Try for a front row table a Quay, but don't worry too much IIRC they are all pretty good.

    Spice am I for Thai is a good option, I used to love the original which was like a take away with basic seats outside to eat, They have a more upmarket restaurant now as well...but reviews have been mixed (I have not been). A good central option is Sailor Thai Canteen in the Rocks. Sailors Thai has an expensive formal restaurant downstairs but upstairs it is a no reservation, large shared table, restaurant. Very good cooking, genuine flavours and quite inexpensive (get a variety of dishes to share and include a salad).

    In the Blue Mountains I used to love Vulcans in Blackheath. It is a simple, stripped down restaurant/bakery that does some very good food. Philip Searles is an Australia food hero: http://gourmettraveller.com.au/outsta...

    The fish market has lots of cafe's for basic fish and chips. Choose carefully and you should be OK, but don't expect anything to fancy. If you want fancy The Boathouse in Blackwattle bay is good, or Flying Fish on Jones Bay Wharf. Both are about 1.5km away. Also in Pyrmont there are a few Cafe's and casual restaurants on Harris Street, approx 500 metres.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhilD

      ALot of people do reccomend Vulcans if your in that part of the hills. Chequerboard Icecream at the end is also rather unique, and most people also reccomend it


    2. Re. Quay, you should definitely ask for a window table, but you should get Opera House views from most seats in the restaurant.

      I'd go for Zilver for yum cha. Like most Chinese restaurants, the decor's nothing special and it has quite an uninspiring entrance, but the food's terrific. And you should definitely make a reservation as they get extremely busy and crowded for yum cha.

      At the Blue Mountains, Solitary, Darley's and Vulcans are probably the best restaurants - although a picnic's certainly not a bad option. The Mountain Goat Deli or the Blackheath Deli are both pretty good places to buy picnic provisions.

      Mamak has delicious roti, but isn't really a restaurant - it's more a quick takeaway joint, although there are a few seats you can sit down on to eat. Definitely very cheap and delicious. The Malaya at King St Wharf (Darling Harbour) is a better bet if you're after a proper Malaysian restaurant.

      I've never found good fish and chips at the fish markets - it's all pretty greasy, fried basic fast food. You'd be better off going nearby to Glebe Point Diner or The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay. Flying Fish in Pyrmont is also really good, and from memory has a more casual outdoor bar where you can eat as well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MaestroSid

        I'd describe both Mamak and Spice I Am as moderately fast food - you sit and eat but you don't hang around once the food is finished

      2. Oh, and in terms of Spice I Am... make sure you go to the Surry Hills one in Wentworth Ave. They don't take bookings, but if you get there before 6pm you should be fine. If that's too early, you could always try Longrain which is just nearby. The restaurant is quite expensive, but you can eat in the bar with their cheaper bar menu. Or otherwise you should try Red Lantern or Sugarcane - both in Surry Hills.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MaestroSid

          Malaya looks terrific. Thanks for the recommendation.

          I think Spice I Am will serve our purposes pretty well.

          1. re: turkob

            Do book at The Malaya. It used to be very popular with lots of afterwork parties meeting up for drinks and food, without a reservation is can be tricky to get a table.

            1. re: PhilD

              Is the Malaya really any good? Authentic? Based on price and location, I've always assumed it's more show than go like most of Cockle Bay / King St wharf ...

              1. re: Tsar_Pushka

                Not authentically Malaysian, but very authentically Sydney-Malaysian! I've been going back to Malaya for over 3 decades (whenever I visit from Singapore) - I just can't get enough of its "Aussie-fied" Laksa (I may be wrong, but I think they are the ones who first introduced the dish to Sydney back in the 1960s) and Beef Rendang. Every meal there had been a wonderful experience for me. The King St Wharf location is also a swanky upgrade from its old George St premises whence journos used to hang out for a beer & get their curry fix.

                1. re: Tsar_Pushka

                  That was the sub-text of my comment.

                  I ate at Mamak a few months ago and thought is was really very good, we went at lunchtime so didn't linger, but I thought the SMH said it was a happening place at night?. You can take-away from there but there are also lots of tables to sit and eat. It is very popular with Malaysians. It doesn't have the glam of The Malaya, as Klyeoh says Malaya is authentically Sydney, good room, good location, good view etc.

          2. I love Tetsuya's and you will be so blown away by everything..there is a reason he is in the top ten in the world..
            Tet's is a great guy too and usually comes out to greet his guests..
            Really enjoy Sailor Thai and I would also add Lord Nelson Brewery in the Rocks for some great gastropub food and beer..
            Fortune of War is one of my favorite pubs and the oldest besides Lord Nelson's..

            5 Replies
            1. re: Beach Chick

              Is the food any good at the Nelson? I went quite a while ago and the food was very average, OK for a pub but no way would I have described it as gastropub and I wouldn't take people there other than for the beer.

              1. re: mr_gimlet

                I would say the same about the Lord Nelson (which was my local whe I lived in the rocks). OK for a quick mid-week meal if we couldn't be bothered to walk far but not a great representation of Sydney pub food especially with stars like: The Four in Hand; The Bellevue Hotel; or Civic Dining to name but three.

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  when I lived briefly in Rose Bay, we always went to Nelson's and it was good but went recently in 2006 and found the food and beer to be quite superior..I would of qualified it as a 'gastropub' then...haven't been back since I live in San Diego..maybe things have changed.

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    Seems a bit odd to trek all the way over to the Rocks. Didn't you try any of the pubs in Paddington like The Bellevue; The Four in Hand; or The Grand National....?

                    1. re: PhilD

                      when I lived in Rose Bay, we had our own driver so trekking to the Rocks was not a big deal and we were considered tourists..we did Paddington, Kings Cross and other areas but it was so long ago..the last trip we stayed at the Four Seasons so that was an easy trek..sorry to hear it's not up to par..

              2. as an alternative to spice i am, i would suggest Longgrain.. you cannt book, but the bar is a great place to have a drink and wait, or just get there by 630..be aware however, that it is shared tables.
                As an alternative to eating at the sydney fish markets, perhaps go to the restaurant at fratelli fresh in potts point, that has an extraordinary quality italian food at really affordable prices

                1 Reply
                1. re: aussieDan

                  Potts Point is a long way away from Pyrmont, right across the CBD. Fratteli Fresh is good but there are good options far closer to the market

                2. Quay - definitely request a nice table. If you ask you will usually get one in sydney.
                  Zilver definitely over marigold. Spice I Am is also a great pick.
                  Stop by the fish market to have a wander, but i would avoid eating there.... Better off heading to Chinatown, which is not far, and getting seafood there. You will most likely be very disappointed with the eating at the markets, especially after going to the great places you've chosen! A tip...If you're looking to not blow the budget but want to drink top wines with dinner at Tets, remember they are BYO. Head to a good bottle store and pick up a nice bottle and you'll spend far less. Mark up is generally 300% on wines in Sydney restaurants...

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: brunelleschi

                    Tetsuya's is BYO? Wow. I see from their site 25 dollar corkage fee. Not bad at all.

                    I spoke with Quay and they said I can have a window table. Thanks for the tip, I can't wait for that experience.

                    Got reservations to Zilver and Malaya last night. I wish I could eat like this all the time!

                    It seems a lot of people are wary of eating at the fish market. I was thinking we could grab some raw oysters, or find some steamed clams or mussels over there. Is is really just a bunch of fish and chips spots? Since we are spending so much on our food during our trip (over 1000 dollars for the two of us in Sydney alone), we're looking for some cheaper options. It seems many of the recommendations have mains between 30-40 AUD. I guess if we strike out at the market we can hit Chinatown, always a good option.

                    As for Sydney pub food, what are the signature dishes? We are coming from Chicago where there is killer pub food on practically every block (and cheap too!). For that reason we're not really seeking out pub food on our trip. However if there is a local specialty that's worth trying, we can definitely schedule in a stop.

                    1. re: turkob

                      Sydney pub food, a topic in its own right! First, pick your pub. There are lots of pubs in Sydney but many are distinctly average - Sydney licensing laws tend to encourage large spartan beer barns and food is to attract people in by its cheapness. Try and do a bit of research once you know where you are going to be.

                      The Prince of Australian pub dishes is the chicken parma. It's a breaded chicken schnitzel topped with tomato sauce, possibly ham, and then under the grill with some cheese. Parmas arouse passion - should the chips be on a separate plate? schnitzel pan fried or deep fried? what type of cheese - and there are parma rating websites in Melbourne.

                      The burger with the lot (that's beetroot, pineapple and a fried egg) would have to come in #2.

                      And at #3 (assuming being from Chicago steak is not of interest) Sydney's unique pub laksa. Only heard about this mythical creature as I just go to Chinatown.

                      1. re: mr_gimlet

                        "Sydney pub food, a topic in its own right! First, pick your pub. There are lots of pubs in Sydney but many are distinctly average"

                        I agree it is a big topic, and it probably breaks into three ditinct sections: interesting cutting edge dining rooms (like the ones I mentioned above); really good traditional pub food (as described by Mr Gimlet; you forgot Lambs Fry); and lots of really bad and nasty places.

                        You often find Sydney pubs are the proving ground of future top chefs (The Grand National in Paddo is a good example), or you may find top chefs back in a pub after running serious restaurants. A good example is Peter Conistis cooking at Civic Dining (with his mum Eleni cooking up greek snacks in the bar -http://www.civichotel.com.au/pages/el...)

                        A thought - The Civic isn't that far from the Fish Markets......

                      2. re: turkob

                        At the markets, grab some cooked prawns, fresh oysters, lemons for a picnic. There's a deli within the main building, and a bottle shop - all you need for a delicious causal lunch.

                        But no, the cooked food really isn't worth mentioning, although the yum cha their is increasingly popular and not bad.

                    2. I have to second the recommendation for the Solitary Restaurant in the Blue Mountains for lunch. On a beautifully sunny autumn day we had one of the tables on the outside ringing around the edge of the mountain (almost) with nothing but outstanding mountain views as far as the eye could see. And the food was superb! We had a tuscan vegetable soup that had me sopping my bread into my husbands soup and I don't even like vegetables or soups all that much!

                      Really good for a Devonshire tea (soft fluffy scones, cream and jam).

                      Only few tables outside with a more seating indoors. I had a quick peep indoors, but no view as such unless you had one of the very few tables by the small windows.

                      Definitely a fair weather option. But you should book if you want the choice tables outdoors.

                      Another option is to eat a light picnic lunch wherever you are sightseeing (or big breakfast and skip lunch) and then indulge in a "high tea" at Lillianfels. Very grand british feel, with loads of food. Again reservations highly recommended on weekends. Wonderful service from a grand dame of a hotel at walking distance to the "Three Sisters" rock formation and free Valet parking.

                      1. I agree with all, but would avoid Mamak for anything but roti canai and sate. Both are standouts and it's fun to watch the roti maker. It's a perfect place to drop in for a quick snack and move on to somewhere else. For fish and chips, i would recommend Sea Cow in Darlinghurst.
                        good eating!

                        1. Don't be put off by comments about the Fish Markets - I work nearby and often go for lunch. Just don't eat at any of the "restaurants" - like everyone else has said they are basically just fried take away food. I always go to Claudios - which is a shop outside the main indoor complex - and buy either fresh oysters or prawns or sashimi - you can get a decent piece of salmon for about 7 or 8 dollars - then they'll slice it for you. They also sell little tubs of soy and wasabi for about 1 dollar. Also good seaweed salad. So you can buy good Sydney or Tasmanian oysters for about 13 dollars for a dozen.. and some sashimi and you have a cheap but amazing lunch. Buy some wine from the bottle shop inside, sit in the sun and enjoy. Also - get the rocket and parmasan salad from Doyles (first shop on the right as you walk into the main section) it's huge and really good - for about 5 dollars.

                          By the way - there is a new dim sum place upstairs at the Fish Markets which is pretty good. I've been disappointed with both Zilver and Marigold. Kam Fook at Bondi Junction is good. But yum cha is nothing special in Sydney .. why not try something else? Like Sopra in Waterloo... amazing Italian cafe - doesn't take bookings so you need to get there either early (11:30) or late (after 1:30)

                          or Mint in Surry Hills. Cute little cafe, with fatastic middle eastern food.

                          Another lunch option - Longrain. Usually not too busy at lunchtime and soooo good.

                          Enjoy Sydney!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: bondi

                            Thanks to all the people that provided recommendations. We ate really well in Sydney!

                            We arrived in Sydney around lunch time so we headed over to Harry’s Café de Wheels. Harry’s was an interesting semi-permanent food-truck looking establishment on the water in Woolloomooloo and for some reason it seemed to attract a lot of Asian tourists. We ordered the Tiger Pie and the Hot Dog de Wheels since that seemed to be what everyone else was ordering. The Tiger Pie was a pleasantly flaky pie stuffed with juicy beef stew and topped with mashed peas and gravy. Though we ate a couple better pies over the course of the trip, the Harry’s pie was memorable for its mound of mashed (though only mildly flavorful) peas. The Hot Dog de Wheels was less sweet and spiced than American hotdogs but they made up for it with the interesting mix of peas and chili. The cheese sauce on top was pretty mild and didn’t look too appetizing but it didn’t detract from the taste. Overall we enjoyed the Harry’s experience and I suspect it gets pretty busy at night when people are looking for quick and hearty food to top off a night of drinking.

                            That night we had a reservation at Quay which is ranked #46 on Pellegrino’s of list of best restaurants in the world. The first thing you notice when you enter the restaurant is that every seat in their dining room has either a view of the Opera House or the Harbor Bridge. The views, especially by night, are exceptional and definitely add a wow factor to the entire experience. And the food was just as good the views! We opted for the signature menu which was seven courses. The menu had a very modern feel to it featuring a wide variety of ingredients like aquaculture caviar, edible flowers as part of nearly every course, and even hops. Our favorites were the toro of blue fin tuna served with seaweed jelly and caviar, the shaved squid and octopus with squid consommé, and the jackfruit granita with custard apple ice cream. The meal was well paced, interestingly plated, and used the widest variety of plates I’ve seen outside of Moto (an uber molecular gastronomy restaurant in Chicago). I feel like this was an exceptional example of Modern Australian cuisine and it proved to be an incredibly memorable meal.

                            The next morning we ventured into Chinatown for yum cha at Zilver. We got there right at 10 when they opened and got a seat no problem. By 10:30 there was a line at the door and carts were coming by every 30 seconds. Every dish was very good (except for the sticky rice which was kind of a let down but not terrible). The beef tendon was perfectly sweet and soft with a hint of ginger, the rice noodle was soft and moist, and the custard buns were remarkably soft and gooey (mmm, best I’ve had). There was plenty of variety, the quality was good, and it was popular so the food was always fresh and carts were never far away. I definitely recommend Zilver to anyone looking for yum cha in Sydney.

                            That night we had a reservation to the Malaya on King St Wharf. Before dinner we walked around the area and saw that most of the restaurants were pretty empty (Sunday night, cool weather, etc), so we were surprised when we walked into the Malaya and it was packed. Good thing I made a reservation. Malaysian is a cuisine we had never eaten before this trip so we were pretty excited. We scanned over the menu and saw that there was a set menu that served a fairly wide variety of dishes so we chose to do that without looking it over too closely. I kind of wish we had, because in hindsight I think we might have been able to choose better had we ordered ourselves. The first dish, a popiah, was very similar to a Vietnamese summer roll filled with shredded chicken, beansprouts, and vermicelli except the rice paper was thicker, spongier, and opaque. The roll itself was all right, nothing great, but the sauce on it was a very thick, very sweet soy sauce based chili sauce that really overpowered the roll and gave the dish a take-out quality that didn’t match the ambiance or the price tag. The Singaporean style satay was pretty good, but tasted like many other satays I’ve had. The Szechuan eggplant was a huge disappointment. This is a dish I regularly order at Chinese restaurants, but this version used thick hunks of eggplant that weren’t cooked through and were drenched in that sweet soy sauce I mentioned earlier. It also got me wondering why we were eating (poorly prepared) Szechuan eggplant at a Malaysian restaurant. The last dish was the signature Roti Canai which was probably the highlight of an unspectacular meal, though the curry and the roti were pretty much exactly like dishes I’ve had at Indian restaurants in the past, and I’ve had better for a fraction of the cost. At the end we felt like we really hadn’t learned anything about what makes Malaysian cuisine unique and we ate a meal that ranged from bad to mediocre. Like I said before maybe we should have ordered off the menu rather than doing the set menu, but I don’t think I’d recommend this place to someone seeking out their first Malaysian experience. Especially since you can eat food of the same quality for much cheaper.

                            The following night (after a long day of hiking in the Blue Mountains) we headed over to Sailors Thai in the Rocks. We arrived fairly late and the canteen (the cheaper and more casual upstairs section) was nearly empty. The dining room downstairs was filled and seemed quite lively, but we were happy to grab a quick bite at the canteen. I read from a number of different sources that Sailors Thai was the best Thai food in Sydney, but from the menu I couldn’t really see what set them apart. However as soon as the food arrived at the table we knew right away we were at a top notch Thai restaurant. The first dish to arrive was the green papaya salad (which I think is called Som Tum). The papaya was perfectly tart and dressed with a mild vinegar sauce that had a slight sweetness and plenty of heat and served with dried prawns that added the perfect amount of fishy flavor to the dish. This was a big cut above any Som Tum I’d eaten before. The next dish was the grilled spatchcock with coconut rice and sweet chilli sauce. The chicken was perfectly grilled (we could hear the cook grilling behind us) and the coconut rice was creamy and soft. We enjoyed the first dishes so much that we had to order the Pad Thai, just to see what it tastes like at such a good restaurant. And we were not disappointed. The Pad Thai was not greasy at all, had the perfect balance of peanuts and fish sauce, and included plenty of dried prawns that gave the dish a depth few other Pad Thais even approach. If I had to find something to complain about it was the menu that for some reason gave in depth descriptions of the dish without actually providing the Thai name. Regardless, if I lived in Sydney I’d definitely come back to Sailors Thai to try the rest of their menu.

                            The next day we were heading to the train station so we stopped by Mamak in Chinatown for some more Malaysian food. What a contrast to Malaya! It was quick, cheap, and delicious though not grungy at all. We were seated immediately, served our food 10 minutes after ordering, and out the door in 30 minutes which is exactly what we were looking for and all for under 20 bucks (for two, including dessert). The star of the show was the roti which is made fresh in the kitchen you walk by as you enter the restaurant. The roti was crumpled up like a ball rather than flat and chewy like most other rotis. It was crispy on the outside yet chewy on the inside and was perfectly complemented by the two curries they served next to it. We also ordered the Nasi Lemak since the menu claimed it was the national dish of Malaysia. It was just a mound of rice with toppings scattered around its perimeter. The toppings were good, but the plate wasn’t big enough to mix everything up properly so I just ended up with spoonfuls of anchovies. Next time I’d stick to the roti. Still we enjoyed the meal very much and felt that this was a better indication of what Malaysian food is actually like.

                            That night we had a reservation at Tetsuya’s which is ranked #17 on Pellegrino’s list of best restaurants in the world. It was fun to contrast Tetsuya’s with Quay since they were pretty different experiences. For one thing, when I was making reservations at Tetsuya’s in January (7 months in advance) they already did not have any tables available for Saturday night and they required a deposit on my credit card. I booked Quay only 2 months in advance, got a prime reservation on Saturday night, and they didn’t ask for my credit card. Whereas Quay features a view of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, Tetsuya’s has an elaborate Japanese garden including a waterfall that is beautifully lit and showcased behind a huge wall of glass. Quay had a normal level of conversation noise in the background whereas the seating at Tetsuya’s was so spread out that the dining room was almost too quiet, and all you could hear was the trickling of the water from the garden. It was a little uncomfortable but I suspect they were going for a serene atmosphere and they succeeded. Tetsuya’s has a 13 course tasting menu and does not provide a menu to tell you what you’ll be receiving since you have no choice. I like to read over the menu and refer back to it during the meal to get a full sense of what I’m eating (sometimes there are a lot of ingredients and it’s hard to remember), so we asked if they had a menu we could look at to which the waiter responded “Are you familiar with day-goost-as-ione?” I took that as a no. It’s a shame because the menu online is different than what we were served and now we have no way to remember exactly what we ate (normally we take a picture of the menu as reference).

                            The meal took close to 3 hours and the dishes ranged from very good to sublime (with one exception). I feel like with a lot of tasting menus that the best dishes are usually in the first half and by the end you’re full and uninterested in the main courses no matter how perfectly it’s prepared, but the opposite was true at Tetsuya’s. The first couple dishes were well prepared but a little plain. After the culinary gymnastics performed by Quay we were starting to think Tetsuya’s was a little over-hyped, but by the end of the meal we did not feel that way at all. Tetsuya’s strength is in the fish dishes, and they did a nice job of building the meal up slowly rather than throwing dish after dish of superfancy haute cuisine at you. I have to say, I was impressed by the signature dish. Not only was the smoked trout incredibly fresh and buttery and perfectly paired with the dried konbu crust, but it was a big piece of fish. This was not a tasting portion, but a legitimate cut of fish that the chef was proud to serve his guests. Bravo. Serving it with a fairly plain salad of field greens was a strange choice, nonetheless the trout was clearly worthy of being his signature dish. Other standouts were the spanner crab and the “Lemon Scented Floating Island with Vanilla Bean Anglaise.” There was one dish that neither me nor my wife liked at all. The barramundi served with fennel and an olive tapenade was just not a good mixing of flavors. The olives over-powered the fish and left a flavor in your mouth that was completely out of place in such a elegant meal. Nonetheless it was an exceptional meal that was definitely memorable and, in my eyes, earned its accolades. In contrasting the two restaurants, I’d say Quay is a much more modern experience that uses exotic ingredients and a breath-taking view to provide a memorable dining experience, whereas Tetsuya’s has a more elegant and classic feel and showcases the exceptional talents of the chef’s cooking moreso than simply the preparation of hard-to-find ingredients. Both were great restaurants and I’d recommend either to someone looking for a fine dining experience in Sydney.

                            1. re: turkob

                              Great report. I think if you re-read the comments about Malaysian restaurants you will see they match your experience.

                              Re the menu at Tets. El Bulli does a similar thing, they don't give you the menu at the start of the meal because they believe it is a distraction, you should experience the food and the taste rather than be led by the menu. It looks like Tets is going in a similar direction. But didn't they give you a copy at the end? It is odd if they didn't and would be strange to refuse. I still have mine from my last visit.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                I went last night and they offered me a copy without me having to ask. Even included the Champagne we drank before the meal began. They may even have the ability to print out a menu from a particular evening if a diner calls and asks. The last restaurant with a degustation menu kept each night's menu on its computer. (Tet's was great, perfect meal. Wonderful wine pairings, amazing food.)

                              2. re: turkob

                                Excellent report turkob!
                                The Oceanic Trout was sublime and a very generous portion but could of had with each of my 13 course meal.
                                I received a menu from Tet's, along with a signed cookbook, bottles of wine and Tet's personal business card and an hour sit down with him after our meal..how did I get so lucky?
                                Sailor Thai is one of my fav's and glad you enjoyed it as well.
                                Quay does barramundi like nobodys business..
                                Glad you had a great time!