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Sydney & Melbourne suggestions

My husband and I are going to be in Australia from Dec12-Dec28 with our 2 year old. We'll be in Sydney for close to a week (7 nights) , Melbourne for 3 nights, and the Blue Mountains (staying in Blackheath) 2 nights. Should bother going to the places I have picked (largely based on previous chowhound postings - some outdated?). We would like to have one or two stunner places - excellent food with views and excellent service that won't be put off by our daughter (who is well behaved and has been to many top restaurants). It seems we can also find great food that isn't over the top expensive - holes in the wall are fine, as long as they are good! Do most places not take reservations? It seems as if many of the "ordinary" places don't. We love Asian fusion, Indian cuisine, spicy food and fish - we love food and are always eager to have new dining experiences.
Any places we should go for the views and drinks/snacks rather than dinner (ie Seans, Rockpool or Icebergs) Any places recommended for breakfast? Thanks!

Please let me know if we should avoid any of the places we've selected and if we should add any others.
When in Sydney we'll be staying largely near Darling Harbor and in Melbourne near Flinders Lane - (for what it's worth)

-Sydney-
Chat Thai
Spice I am
Mamak
Zilver
Bodega (this is just if we are dying for tapas - I recognize that Australia on the whole isn't known for it's Spanish influence)
Kushiyaki Azuma
Mongers
Icebergs
Sean's Panorama
Rockpool (I thought we should go to the one in Sydney since we have so few nights in Melbourne)
drinks: Gin Club

-Blackheath-
Ashcroft's

-Melbourne-
Sichuan House
drinks at Rooftop Cinema bar
Half Moon
Rumi

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  1. I'll get the ball rolling. Casual ('ordinary') eating out is a major Australian pastime and is usually done spontaneously at the last minute without reservations eg 'I don't fancy cooking tonight, lets go out for thai' - but many places will take reservations if you give them a call. The more popular, the more reservations are needed.

    Rockpool - there are a couple of styles, the Melbourne one is Rockpool Bar and Grill and has a Sydney twin

    I'm from Melbourne, so I'll comment on your Melbourne mini-list. Movida and its spin-offs are very mod-Spanish tapas if you are after top notch and tapas; Anada is less well known, less flashy and more Spanish.

    There are a couple of restaurants in Melbourne called Half Moon, which did you mean? I think you probably mean the Brighton pub but I wouldn't trek out from the city for it.

    What would I add to your list? Probably Gills Diner if you're in the city, casual but excellent, or Cumulus (same reasons). I'd make a tram ride out to Brunswick to have dinner at Hellenic Republic, Colombaris' taverna rather than Rumi but the flavours at Rumi are great and they do a nice brekky.

    I'll probably get thrown out of some club or other for this, but I reckon the latest hot spot of Coda is well overrated (it may settle). And the izakaya binge is still playing out, probably not worth the risk.

    What dates will you be in Melbourne, as this probably affects the choices.... I have a friend over from Perth the week before Christmas, and finding somewhere pleasant that isn't either full of drunk suits shouting at each other, or running a special christmas (read: group) menu is proving a challenge. And what do you like to eat?

    4 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Oh, and thanks for flattering me by picking Sichuan House! It is a personal favourite, but only if you really, really like chilli and very busy chinese restaurants! Subtle and finessed it ain't.

      There are better non-sichuan chinese but nothing as brazen in its take it or leave it cooking style.

      1. re: mr_gimlet

        My two pence worth, although it was a long time ago I wwas in Melbourne, we loved The SUpper Club, although as they didn't open until 6pm I am not sure how child friendly they are, personally I have never found a better bar, awesome wine list, and living outside of London I have never found anything like it again. am sure there are more 'hot' places right now but....
        Also really enjoyed Ablas, middle eastern cooking done by the housewife of the restaurant, fantastic. On a similar vain Gigibaba is the new (ish) venture from a chef in Perth (Ex Eminem) which was the best food we ate in Australia, although I think getting more mixed reviews following his move.
        Be interested to hear on Sydney report as venturing out there in August 2010.

        1. re: stanleyk

          Supper Club is still going, though perceived as a more of a late night venue. Definitely not child friendly, I suspect they wouldn't even allow anyone under 18 in. Downstairs is the City Wine Bar which has a popular following and shares the same kitchen I think.

          Gigibaba - was trying to keep quiet on this but since it got mentioned.... to me this is the epitome of trendy, overpriced Collingwood - queues around the block, anmdpretentious, hostile waitstaff who feel as if they are doing you a favour by letting you eat there. The food is pleasant, but not as good as Eminem - without the food it would have closed in days.

      2. re: mr_gimlet

        Melbourne - especially if you are into Asian Fusion - please PLEASE, go to Coda - right off Flinders lane. Is amazing Vietnamese and French fusion - fabulous wine list. Touch base with them about kids, it might be a night for a babysitter - was the highlight of my recent trip to Melbourne - I can't rave about it enough.
        Do take up the suggestion below for Din Tai Fung in Sydney - they have been called the best dumplings in the world - and not lightly - the silkiest and thinest wrappers you would ever find - and it is just the same as the one in Taiwan.

      3. I will try Sydney:

        Chat Thai, Spice I am, and Mamak are all great choices. No booking and quite inexpensive, queues can be approx 30 mins if you hit peak time so best to go early. Spice I am now has an upmarket restaurant as well (in Darlinghurst) no BYO and higher prices, mixed reviews so far, but does seem to be getting better.

        Zilver, I have not been, but I am off Australian Yum Cha (Dim Sum) as I don't think it stacks up against other countries. I assume this is best for lunch. Shanghai Tang on George Street is pretty good and cheap and cooks to order which is a start. Another to try is "Din Thai Fung" upstairs in World Square. This is a Taiwanese chain that really only does steamed dumplings, they are more expensive than "holes in the wall", but all are freshly made and superb, the cognoscenti often pan them because they are expensive but it isn't really that bad.

        I haven't tried Bodega so can't comment, it has a good reputation, but as Mr.G says Movida in Melbourne is the one to beat for Tapas.

        I also can't comment on Kushiyaki Azuma but it is a well rated Japanese restaurant in a city with very good Japanese restaurants. You could also try Sashimi/Sushi at "Yoshii" which is reputedly the best in Sydney according to a number of my friends and the GFG. I recommend reservations here.

        Mongers is a good fish and chip shop in Bondi, there are lots of great F&C places around Sydney. You may find it a trek to get to Bondi for F&C though. I prefer the F&C shop on Balmoral Beach (also a trek) because it is more tranquil. Another good hole in the wall F&C place is "Fishface" in Darlinghurst, this isn't cheap, has no view, but the quality of the fish is amazing, you pay to eat the best! No reservation needed.

        Icebergs and Seans: Icebergs has the view and is very funky, sexy and glamorous; and that is the decor, the people are even better. Food is OK, maybe a notch below the setting, but nothing wrong. Sean's, is more down at earth, less of a view, and is really a locals favourite, a good local with a view of the sea. Both need reservations in some time advance

        Rockpool, is a classic, it serves really good modern Australian food i.e. it takes influences from a whole raft of cuisines that make up our multi-cultural country and throws them back at the diner with style and panache. It doesn't have a view, and is high end fine dining, but to me it is quintessentially Australian. Other options are Quay, Aria and Bennelong, and the food and views probably follow that order with Quay best. Bennelong is in the Opera House and is classic French. All need reservation some time in advance.

        Gin club, I haven't heard of, but lots of good bars around town (although Melbourne is better for classy places). It may be good to try the "Ivy" or the Establishment" for big glamorous bars, or head to "The London" in Balmain for a traditional pub. However, lots of choice for pubs and bars, best to simply choose one you pass and pop in. Just don't miss the traditional in favour of the modern ones.

        In Blackheath you may also consider "Vulcans" which is very established and is very good. Most food is cooked in a big wood fired oven . It is probably more rustic than Ashcroft's (which is also well rated). I would recommend reservations, as they can get full especially at weekends.

        Overall a good selection, there are lots and lots of other places but this is a pretty well balanced list. The only thing that may be missing is a good inner suburbs bistro like, Bistrode, Bird Cow Fish or Bronte Road Bistro.

        1. Sailor Thai and Lord Nelson's in the rocks..its been years so maybe things have changed.
          There is a great old house in the rocks that serves a great breakfast out in the back patio..hopefully PhilD will chime in.
          Everyone has given you great places to eat!

          1. Thanks for the thoughtful feedback and all of the additional restaurant suggestions! I'll check out Vulcan's in Blackheath - although I was told they were closed until March for Summer. (?)
            Melbourne Dec 19 - 22. Sounds like we're gonna see plenty of drunk suits.
            I'm very much looking forward to the Sichuan house (dainty) in Melbourne. As much as we love the upscale restaurants, we're equally big fans of the cheap and cheerful restaurants to, so I'm sure we'll be grand and love it. We'll feed our daughter before we go so as not to blow her away w/ the chili.
            By the sounds of it Icebergs is a drink/snack spot and either/or Sean's and Rockpool should be added to the "not to be missed!" list.
            We'll also definitely check out the dumplings at Din Tai Fun and we'll add Coda to the list. Yum!
            Of course we'll "happen" into places, but it's good to have something to start with!
            Feedback after we return home... in late Dec!

            3 Replies
            1. re: weezy1074

              Note that Coda is primarily a bar and so will not be happy with children. If you're going to get a babysitter and go out, there are plenty more options. katea must have been there on a better night than I did - I found it OK (but with potential) and jaw droppingly expensive. I'd much rather go a few doors down to Cumulus.

              Back at the cheap end... Hutong on Market Lane is Melbourne's answer to Din Tai Fung. Eat thai in Sydney because Melbourne thai is pretty poor. If its warm, go to Pelligrini on Bourke Street and have a granita (and some cake, I love their plum and chocolate). Coffee dire though.

              1. re: weezy1074

                By the way, if you just want the Icebergs view, you can just have a beer at the Icebergs club bar - I think 1 floor above or below at a more cost effective price. Have been underwhelmed on occasions at Icebergs as well as North Bondi Italian. I would also add Bilson's to the not to be missed list - trad French by a Sydney stalwart.

                1. re: mikey8811

                  Icebergs Dining Room has a very swish cocktail bar next to the restaurant, it is super cool and super trendy (and super expensive). That is on the top floor. On the next level down there is the "Icebergs Swimming Club" which has a casual bistro and bar, it is a members swimming club, but they are happy to sign-in guests who want to visit. The prices here are a lot lower, and the view is the same, but the food comes a very long way behind the view and cheap beer. http://www.icebergs.com.au/index.php?... I don't think Paris Hilton is a regular!

                  There is an interesting history here. The swimming club occupied this prime bit of real estate and was pretty run down. A couple of wealthy Sydney businessmen made the club the offer of rebuilding the club if they could have the top floor for a fine dining restaurant, the result was a slick new club, and a destination restaurant.

                  I agree about the patchy food at Icebergs and NBI, but NBI is a great place for the "beautiful people". I also agree about Bilson's, fantastic food, but a pity it is in such an average location.

              2. For great views of Melbourne, drinks and snacks the Atrium bar on level 35 of the Hotel Sofitel comes to mind. Very opulent surroundings. Not sure how they would treat children. It opens at 5pm so maybe arrive around that time for daytime views before the cocktail set arrives. If nothing else, take the elevator up to level 35 and admire the free views from the ladies room! There are also a cafe and restaurant on this level. Not cheap but good food. The Sofitel is at 25 Collins St, Melbourne.