Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Australia/New Zealand >
Apr 26, 2010 06:54 PM

Chowhound from LA seeking restaurant recommendations for Sydney and Melbourne

Hi everyone, we are heading to Sydney and Melbourne for 2 weeks in December and are looking for top 5 restaurants (price not a problem) in each city. Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm in Melbourne and I this is what I like and it illustrates the diversity of Melbourne's dining scene. (It will be interesting to see what others suggest!)

    Gingerboy, Asian/Thai style food, (desserts and cocktails rock!
    )Cumulus Inc, , had a confit duck salad their once, yum.
    Birdman Eating, , baked vanilla ricotta and fruit salad for breakfast or lunch,
    Vue du monde,, chocolate souffle, worth the wait
    City wine shop,, good food and great wine

    1. I'm in Melbourne as well...

      Bar Lourinha, It's on Little Collins Street. Tapas/sharing plates and has a fantastic vibe. Great to sit at the bar and throw back a few beers on a friday night. The sweatbread migas is a winner. Not too pricey either.

      I'll second Cumulus Inc. If the stout parfait is on the menu, get it! Probably, the best dessert I have had anywhere. Same as Bar L, great vibe. You could try its higher-end sister restaurant Cutler & Co however, you'll be paying more and I don't think the experience is as good.

      On Swanston street, Cookie for Thai It's a beer hall, come thai restaurant and cocktail bar. Very interesting space and Bourdain likes it. They have a massive beer and wine list. Cheap.

      If you have time (it's 3 hours by car) you could go to the Royal Mail in Dunkeld

      And Attica in Ripponlea. In San Pel's top 100 list it made number 73. Melbourne's only restaurant to make it.

      There are lots of other place in Melbourne to swing to such as Rumi, Supermaxi, Ladro, DOC... I could go on but I think all the places above have a distinctly Melbourne/Victorian feel.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kersizm

        I'd like to add Embrasse to my list.

        It's my new favourite melbourne restaurant. I went there with my parents and had a fabulous meal.

        1. re: kersizm

          I nearly went a couple of months ago, but everyone I know who has been there has been impressed. Any chance of a more detailed write-up?

      2. KTLA - can you expand a bit on what yo are looking for. It is easy to give a list of the top 5 but eating at all of those in a row will mean you miss the variety of Sydney.

        Here are a few lists:

        Gourmet Traveller (ranked): 1 Quay; 2 Marque; 3 Tetsuya’s; 4 est; 5 Rockpool Restaurant

        Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide (3 hats category - not ranked): Bilsons; est; Marque; Pier; Quay; and Tetsuya,s

        Time Out (ranked): 1 Marque; 2 Quay; 3 Berowra Waters; 4 Guillaume at Bennelong; 5 Rockpool Bar & Grill

        The first two lists are quite consistent, the third probably reflects Time Out as a more edgy publication and gives a more hip list, which results in a bit more variety, and is probably a list that show off Sydney best to a visitor. However, these lists are all fine diners and you miss the great Asian food (understand LA has great Asian food as well) and small suburban bistros.

        1 Reply
        1. re: PhilD


          Gourmet Traveller: 1. Rockpool, 2. Marque, 3. Quay, 4. Tetsuya's, 5. Est.
          Good Food (3 Hats): est., Marque, Quay
          Time Out: 1. Rockpool, 2. Marque, 3. Berowra Waters, 4. est., 5. Quay (6. Tetsuya's) .

          Rockpool is doing quite well at the moment.

        2. I'm in Sydney.
          Best Indian restaurant is to be found in the area of Darlinghurst - Malabar (for your reference, Darlinghurst is a 10 minute walkaway from CBD or 4 minutes on the train). The food is just delicious, by far the most fresh and fantastic food to be enjoyed. Butterchicken and Fish curry is to die for. Prices are moderate and the atmosphere is buzzing, exceptionally good service as well. You don't want to miss this one!

          13 Replies
          1. re: emsimperium


            In Sydney I think an absolute must is Icebergs overlooking Bondi beach - it would be a great lunch spot also. The view is incredible and the food excellent. They have a great little bar also.

            I second Quay for another amazing meal - leaning towards a dinner.

            Wolloomoolloo wharf also has some fabulous restaurants with a lovely waterside view. If you like Chinese fusion - China Doll is fantastic (you should try Asian food in Sydney it's our standout cuisine I think!) or Otto is also great.

            Definitely have a drink at Opera bar underneath the opera house, amazing view.

            Unbeatable Italian for me is Buon Ricordo in Paddington. They have a truffle egg fettucine that is to die for.

            Sydney also hosts Tetsuya's - one of the top ten restaurants in the world (depending on which list you look at) It's a 12 course degustation and it's foodie heaven - a Japanese/French fusion. Last time I went it was $185 for the food and an additional $85 for wine matches and soooo worth every penny. But you will need to book that in now and I don't think there would be any hope of getting in on a weekend. They also do lunches.

            Ripples in Pyrmont (in front of star city casino) has beautiful seafood and a more relaxed vibe. If they have the crab spaghettini on the menu that is awesome.

            Surry Hills is a good place to wander for great coffee, rocking pubs and excellent little cafes.

            In Melbourne you really should go to Bar Lourinha, it is fabulous, I have just been to Spain and I still think the kingfish carpaccio at lourinha beats any tapas I tried (and I tried a lot)

            I'd be booking all of these resturants in advance and definitey avoid eating in Darling Harbour and most of the restaurants around Cirqular Quay - unless they're the big names. Enjoy - I think Australia truly stacks up as one of the best foodie countries in the world.

            1. re: Jules101

              Good recommendation on Icebergs. I had gone off it, but had a very good Sunday lunch there in March: the food and the view compete for attention. Another great Italian with a view is Pilu out on Freshwater beach, Icebergs is modern Italian food and funky, whilst Pilu is beach house and more traditional.

              Opera Bar is good, but avoid Friday/Saturday nights as the queue is horrible, it is best for a late Sunday afternoon drink when they have cool jazz and DJ's playing eclectic Sunday afternnoon tunes.

              Ripples is probably better at Chowder Bay, as it is a nicer location - if you are feeling energetic get the ferry to Taronga Zoo then walk around the harbour-side path to the restaurant (maps available from the tourist office). It is a nice way to see a bit of the harbour from a different vantage point. You can grab a cab home, or walk back.

              Sydney has many fantastic places to eat, and as Jules says it also has some dire tourist traps. Get the SMH Good Food Guide (there is an iPhone app) and that will guide you to lots of gems. And remember coffee is a religion here and in Melbourne. Head for places with queues as people follow the best baristas.

            2. re: emsimperium

              Malabar is OK, but I wouldn't put it high on the list for a visitor. Aki's in Woolloomooloo is far far superior. Or for a Malaysian curry with Roti, the fabulous Mamak in Chinatown can't be beaten, it is simple and pretty close to fast food but a great lunch choice.

              1. re: PhilD

                Hi everyone, thanks for all the recommendations so far. My wife and I were in Sydney 5 years ago and ate at Tetsuya, Quay and Rockpool. Fantastic meals at those places. We also ate some good Chinese in Chinatown as well. We will definitely check out the other Sydney places as well. Noticed there hasn't been as many recommendations for Melbourne as Sydney? How does restaurants in Melbourne compare with Sydney (never been to Melbourne). I checked some of the websites for the recommended restaurants and noticed the prices are definitely much higher than LA for the same type of restaurants. Wonder how you guys do it (you must make more money than us poor Americans, LOL).

                Keep the recommendations coming especially for Melbourne. Thanks again!

                1. re: KTLA

                  Well, we don't have to leave tips for everyone for a start so there's a 15% saving before you start! The prices are high for you at the moment because of the strength of the Aussie dollar - its 50% higher than a couple of years ago.

                  Melbourne's top places were done a short while ago so I assumed you would trawl through the threads and then come back with any specific questions. Please post back if you need further pointers - Sydney definitely has more top restaurants than we do.

                  1. re: mr_gimlet

                    I think Sydney does the classy fine diner well, and Melbourne the more casual food driven place. Both equally good but meet different requirements. You can eat very well in both cities. A good analogy is wine: is red or white better?

                    It has got expensive compared to a few years ago, I think the top end isn't quite as good value as top end in Europe (can't comment on US) but the mid and bottom price points deliver far better quality and more innovation so that is where the relative bargains are. Not cheaper, just better food for your money.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      Yes, you are right, the AUSD to USD conversion rate does not help. Not having to pay 15-20% tip probably does help as well. Funny thing was during my last visit in 2005 I was not aware of the different tipping policies in Sydney and left a 20% tip at Tetsuya because of the excellent service. The Manager came out and was extremely gracious and thankful. I left thinking this must be Aussie hospitality :)

                      In general, LA fine dinning is very good value for money. New York is more like Sydney prices. You can typically get a 10 course tasting menu with wine pairing for less than US$200. In general, I fine the dining experience in LA very similar to Sydney because of the similarities in climate (and thus very good quality produce) and cultural diversity.

                    2. re: mr_gimlet

                      Wait, wait, wait ... you don't tip in Australia? Not the waiters or bartenders? Somehow I missed this info in any guidebook I read. Please advise! Thanks.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Tipping only exists for service that you think is exceptionally good, generally. Waiters and bartenders are paid a significantly higher amount here, given our industrial relations history.

                        1. re: kersizm

                          And it causes chaos on work expenses, so companies normally have a blanket 'no tips' rule for work related entertainment.

                          1. re: mr_gimlet

                            wow. As an ex-waitress, this will make me feel like I'm messing with my karma. It just feels very wrong not to tip. But ... good to know. Thank you both so much.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              As kersizm says wait staff are paid regulated minimum wages and get shift premiums and overtime rates for working holidays etc so is is totally different to the US regime of a $2 an hour wage and the rest in tips. As a result you maybe quite stunned by the cost of food in restaurants but remember this is the "inclusive" price so you don't need to add 20%.

                              The tipping culture is slowly polluting Australia with change given to you in some bars on a silver tray to encourage you to tip - some people leave the small coins. And credit card receipts have a "tip" space. Tip if you feel it is worth it, but don't feel obliged.

                              I await the posts from current and ex-waiters arguing that hospitality wages are not the best and they need the (tax free) tips to survive and buy essentials....have you seen the cost of an iPad?

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Thanks for the info. We'll be spending one week in Sydney in an apartment, and do hope to cook at least 4 of those nights to save money. But heck, how often will we get to Australia. Thanks to everyone for the info on tipping. Honestly, I'd never have known.

                                PhilD, you have helped me quite a bit in the past (esp. with Paris) and if you would like to be taken out for a drink as a thank you, please email me (I believe my email is in my profile). I'd love to meet and thank you for your help.

              2. And KTLA, check out for restaurant reviews, you can choose how you rank results and you can filter by area, price, cuisine etc.

                I'm in Sydney and generally I find the reviews accurate.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: hillsbilly

                    I always find the trouble with sites like Eatability (and Urbanspoon) is the variation across reviewers. These sites always seem to have a lot of inexperienced diners who rave about quite ordinary restaurants or whine about perfectly normal aspects of the food or service.

                    Useful as an adjunct to the other guides especially because they cover a broader spectrum of the market and include lots of cheaper places.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      The problem with eatability is the problem with all voting sites - they don't give weight to the credibility of opinions. That said, if lots of people who have lots of votes to their name like somewhere, it is probably worth a look. The highest rated location in my locality is, apparently, a sandwich bar in a shopping centre.

                      I guess it's the TripAdvisor of Australian city food. I'd rather go to a blogger I have respect for.