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Advice for Sydney

Hi all,

I'm travelling to Sydney from L.A. tomorrow night but haven't had much of a chance to do research on food. I'm staying for almost a week in the city-centre near the Harbour Bridge, so i would like some recommendations for places not too far away on foot or a quick bus/metro ride away. Nothing too touristy or businessy!

I have some categories -

Breakfast + Coffee - many of the good coffee places in the UK (where i'm originally from) are ran by antipodeans so i would love to find some cool, relaxed cafes serving a delicious flat white where i can watch the world go by for an hour or two. even better if they do breakfast in the morning, nothing fancy, maybe fresh takes on egg + bacon or something like bircher muesli.

Bakeries/patisseries - Zumbo seems to be the place to visit based on what i have read so far, but is there anywhere else i should try?

Inexpensive lunches - I'd like to try some nice salads as ive heard a lot about australia's great agricultural produce. any reccs? Also things like cheese plates, gourmet sandwiches, charcuterie, tapas, izakaya etc would be nice. Street food reccs will be be appreciated.

Pubs bars with interesting beers (for me) & cocktails (for the gf), but nothing too smart or expensive. somewhere better than your typical lager lout dive but also someplace where i can get away with wearing trainers and a tshirt.

Also, what should i eat that i can't readily get in the US or UK? What are the best 'ethnic' cuisines in town these days? What's good or in season right now that i shouldn't miss out on?

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  1. The ideal pubs to find interesting beers would be..

    The Australian
    which has a large range of beers on tap, as well as in bottles

    You might also consider Red Oak
    though it's a bit more upmarket

    Or the Lord Nelson

    3 Replies
    1. re: Onara

      the best choice in beers I have found in Sydney is at the Taphouse. true beer dedication. I have had some really fabulous beers

      I like Rapunzel from Mountain Goat, also Beast from Jamieson, and a bunny rabbit from Little Creatures and red duck bengal IPA.

      The list has changed, but check it out - in Sydney!!

      We've been to Lord Nelson and Red Oak and this place is just way way way better, in my opinion. They serve their lagers and ales at different temperatures. They have IPA tastings. I like the food too. Now if only I could go to a bottleshop and buy the beers I'd be a happy camper, or buy them at the bar to take home.

      1. re: debbieann

        I think you're right about the Taphouse (as opposed to the 3 I mentioned, though they're probably walking distance from the OP's hotel)

        Didn't even know the Taphouse existed (thanks!). I thought it was still The Palace. Played in a band there a couple of times (about 20 years ago)

        1. re: Onara

          excellent - I am so happy to share our recent discovery. We love hoppy IPAs and were having a hard time finding any, and the taphouse really is fanatical about getting in beer from microbreweries and from around the world. Hope you get to go visit.

    2. a few more things, besides Zumbo, also check out Black Star pastry, hidden away in Newtown, and really really good.

      my coffee favorites are: mecca, toby's, little marionette. I love the atmosphere of hanging out at clipper cafe at Glebe Pt Rd near Broadway, but I like the way they make coffee at Toby's. Clipper is a relaxed cafe with a nice breakfast though. I like Bourke St Bakery on Bourke St too.

      lunch/cuisine - Laksa, ohmygosh, ok not as great as laksa in Singapore, but I am in love with laksa. I like it at Jimmys across from the QVB. Also currently in love with Shanghai Tang on George St.- not expensive. Also Chat Thai on Campbell St. I also enjoyed some very spicy soup at Twisted Noodle. the lunch treat at Chat Thai is khanom krak, tiny round coconut milk sweet salty goodness. I also like bird cow fish for lunch, but not cheap.

      If you are willing to get on a train I like the Lebanese food at Jasmin in Lakemba - good to get out of the inner city. and very very cheap. and good esp the tuom.

      1. I would also check out these Sydney foodblogs for some great suggestions by location and cuisine:



        5 Replies
        1. re: rarerollingobject

          I'd skip the Sydney food blogs. I don't find their reviews as genuine as they were a few years ago (before all the PR companies started getting involved).

          1. re: SydneyButton

            SB - I agree, the number of PR sponsored events is interesting. Being cynical I tend to think that you won't stay on the PR's list if you write balanced reviews i.e. calling out the less than good. Thus, to stay on the invite list it pays to only be positive, and which blogger in their right mind would pass up a "free lunch"....?

            1. re: PhilD

              I agree. I stopped reading after a few of them were sent frozen Lean Cuisine meals which they actually described as being really tasty. :)

              1. re: SydneyButton

                Yes the reviews of a Swedish cuisine night at Ikea did it for me.....

                1. re: PhilD

                  I remember all of these! That's when I stopped blogging myself.

        2. I think that Balmain is the best region for checking out bars. My favourites are here:

          In terms of cuisine is oz which is exceptional, the Thai food here is as good if not better than Thailand.

          I also think we have a terrific range of chinese restaurants (beyond your standard chow mein). These are my faves in Sydney:

          1. For breakfast would recoomend my second best ever breakfast I have had in Sydney. An omelette at the Hyatt just near the bridge. Fantastic views also over ther water looking to the Opera House. Is close to where you are, although a bit fancy.

            Zumbo's is good. Wouls also try out the back of Lumiere in Darlinghurst. Not bad either.


            2 Replies
            1. re: Blacken

              i've been here for a few weeks and it looks like Thai is a real thriving scene here. The best I've tried so far is: Spice I am in Surry Hills. It would be great for an inexpensive lunch - main dishes are $13(AUD).

              You must try the green papaya salad. a real assault on the senses

              1. re: fergal76

                Just got back from Sydney. had a great time, what a wonderful city you have!

                I didn't get to try too many of the recommendations posted but many thanks for all the options, i'll be sure to try some if/when i revisit.

                had many good cups of coffee, perhaps not earth-shattering, but for the standard quality of cup sydney is probably the best place ive ever been. Mecca was disappointing - a very weak and frothy fw, though i visited during a busy weekday lunch hour. Single Origins on reservoir st was probably my favourite, along with a few excellent cups of campos coffee at the Bunker on Liverpool St. The Wall Cafe served pretty good coffee too.

                Had some excellent breakfasts/brunches at the above places, along with the Book Kitchen in Surry Hills, jed's in Bondi and Cafe Zoe.

                For lunch i had a few superb salads - one was a Pumpkin salad with some sort of yoghurty cheese at Bills. I thought this was outstanding, only to have better a few days later at Cafe Sopra - figs, parma ham balsamic vinagrete, goat's cheese etc. the best of the lot was a delicious beetroot salad at Danks Street Depot which included grapefruit, nuts, cheese and a couple of other sweet/sour ingredients.

                Slightly less fortunate for dinner - Firefly Tapas was pretty poor all round, food, ambience and service (including attempting to charge us for something we didnt order).

                Wasavie in Paddington was a mix of excellent (beef tataki, kingfish carpaccio) and mediocre (sushi rolls + dry rice and flavourless fish on nigiri), the communal table was fun though.

                Time to Vino in darlinghurst was my favourite, we had some well prepared small bites and ended up ordering carafes of 5 different wines to taste. lovely little place and great atmosphere.

                Other than that, absolutely loved Bourke Street Bakery, the ginger, pistachio brulee tart is amazing. Black Star in Newtown was also delicious, especially the salt caramel-chocolate tart. didnt make it to zumbo in balmain unfortunately.

            2. Breakfast & Coffee suggestions:
              Single Origin in Surry Hills for the coffee and bircher muesli
              one of the chocolate cafes (Lindt, Max Brenner, Guylian) for the chocolatey goodness ... drool
              Ripples at Milson's Point for yummy food and a spectacular view

              Bourke Street Bakery usually has a line but I think the various markets around Sydney usually have a good selection
              St Honore Bakery in Nth Sydney is my new home. so good.

              Inexpensive lunches
              Cheese - oh cheese. If you can get up to the Hunter Valley, combine your wine tour with a cheese tour and stock up. Sooo good. Otherwise I just got an email about Formaggi Ocello (in Surry Hills) yesterday, haven't been there but I plan to soon!

              as mentioned, Red Oak and the Local Taphouse are v popular, also 4 Pines in manly has a microbrewery on site.
              Madame Fling Flongs in Newtown
              Try sydneyhappyhour.com.au to find deals based on the day of the week.

              Definitely get into some seafood - moreton bay or balmain bugs, barramundi etc, maybe a meat pie at Harry's Cafe de Wheels ..

              enjoy eating your way through the city!!

              1. Adriano Zumbo

                I tried several macarons. The pumpkin & orange risotto was spectacular; the others not particularly memorable, other than being very sweet.
                The most interesting item was something called "4 Times the Vitamin C," made with blackcurrant jelly, blackcurrant marshmallow, vanilla violet mousse, pistachio feuilletine, pistachio dacquoise & blackcurrant glacage, and looking as striking as its name. Pretty good tastes, except for the shock of the almost too intensely-flavored and rather sour blackcurrant jelly core.
                I didn't care much for the passionfruit custard tarts (too eggy-tasting) or for one of the macarons (I think it was an oatmeal-ylang ylang) - couldn't finish these.
                Prices weren't bad ($2 per macaron, $5-8 for entremets). The clerk was a bit snooty.
                If you're taking public transit from the Central Business District, you can take the number 442 bus over to the shop on Darling St in Balmain. You can see photos and descriptions of the current offerings at the shop's website.


                There is a Guylian Cafe at the Opera Quay, just a short walk south of the Opera House. I didn't get anything there myself because I don't usually like the flavor combinations they are using in their cakes (eg white chocolate, coffee), but most people generally do, so you might want to consider a visit here if you are looking for pastries. The quality level in the construction of their pastries appears to be very high.
                Prices are pretty high - $14 per item if you eat at the cafe, $11 for carry-out. You can see pictures of many of their offerings at their website.


                They have two shops. I tried to get to the one that is near the international airport on Botany Rd (bus 309), but had trouble finding the correct bus stop in the CBD. Like Adriano Zumbo, Croquembouche is listed as one of the top pastry shops in Sydney by TimeOutSydney, for what that may be worth. But where Adriano Zumbo is really into introducing new flavor combinations, Croquembouche seems to tend more to the traditional.

                1 Reply
                1. re: racer x

                  Just got around to loading a pic of some of the pastries from Adriano Zumbo.

                2. Coffee- Single Origin or Toby's Estate in either woollomolloo or the cross. Fratelli Paradiso in the Cross does a good breakfast despite the customers. Breakfast is pretty uninspiring in most places in the city. sorry!

                  Bakeries- Bourke St Bakery in surry hills or Marrickville (Marrickville being much more relaxed and sunny) have the pork & fennel sausage rool & a brulee tart

                  Sopra in Walsh bay is close to you and has good food & a few salads worth eating. You will get the best quality produce (fruit & veg) from the supermarket there too. Ash St Cellar in the Ivy does great food also and is close to you

                  for tapas style food (that is Syrian) Almond Bar in Darlinghurst is good (and slightly different)
                  actual spanish tapas, there's nothing that great as far as I know

                  wagaya in chinatown is worth a visit, more as a bar than a restaurant, food is ok, Nabe is good. Theres a yakitori style place (name escapes me) in the back of the mall that is in behind the KFC on the corner of George St & Druitt St

                  The Australian is quite good for beers as stated. The local taphouse is way too busy, has a bad layout and in my experience is full of wankers. Maybe I went there at the wrong time.

                  The East Sydney is a nice pub, not a lot of beers on offer, but is relaxed (which is hard to find in the city)

                  As for what cant be missed, the sailors thai canteen in the rocks is close to you and bloody fantastic Thai. Otherwise Spice I Am and/or Chat Thai.

                  Jugemu Shimbashi on Military Rd Neutral Bay is fantastic japanese.

                  Chairman Mao's Hunanese in kensington is worth your time.

                  Also in Kensington, there's planty of cheap and good Malaysian

                  Strathfield is full of good Korean (Madang in the city is good too)

                  Plenty of good chinese in Hurstville, Ashfield and Eastwood if you feel like adventuring, similarly Vietnamese in Cabramatta

                  As for street food, or the aussie equivalent of, off the top of my head- go to Marrickville Pork Roll for Banh Mi, Gumshara ramen in eating world food court in chinatown. Ryo's ramen in crows nest. the Chinese Noodle Restaurant in the burlington centre for cheap greasy and great handmade noodles.

                  having just written that, I see that you would've already left. oh well. can serve as fodder for argument I spose!