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Chowhound from LA seeking restaurant recommendations for Sydney and Melbourne

  • k

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!

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  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, http://www.gingerboy.com.au/ (desserts and cocktails rock!
    )Cumulus Inc, http://www.cumulusinc.com.au/#/HOME/ , had a confit duck salad their once, yum.
    Birdman Eating, http://www.birdmaneating.com.au/ , baked vanilla ricotta and fruit salad for breakfast or lunch,
    Vue du monde, http://www.vuedemonde.com.au/, chocolate souffle, worth the wait
    City wine shop, http://www.citywineshop.net.au/, good food and great wine

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

      Bar Lourinha, http://www.barlourinha.com.au/ 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 http://cutlerandco.com.au/ however, you'll be paying more and I don't think the experience is as good.

      On Swanston street, Cookie for Thai http://www.cookie.net.au/ 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 http://www.royalmail.com.au/

      And Attica http://attica.com.au/ 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 www.eatability.com.au 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.

                  2. Matt Moran's restaurant ARIA in Sydney used to be one of the top restaurants in the city but I don't what happened to it in the last few years. I went there in February and just wrote a report with photos: http://theyoungfoodie.blogspot.com/20...

                    The food was great and the view is fantastic but I dare say there is better value to be had. We tried to get a table at Tetsuya's two weeks in advance and had no luck so make sure you book early!

                    Spice Temple is very good! http://www.rockpool.com.au/sydney/spi...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ilovefood80

                      Hi KTLA,

                      Just on price - I have also travelled through the US recently and thought although the food started out as initially affordable (and unsurprisingly the portions were large) once you add tax, tip and wine, a simple meal became quite expensive. In NYC it became extortionate!!!! Forget 15% tip, it was 18 - 20% standard. 10% is standard in Australia and only more if the service is excellent.

                      A good trick in Australia is to bring your own wine, even at the high end restaurants this is completely acceptable, although I would always check when booking or on the website. You'll be charged between $20 - $25 corkage but you will get far more bang for your buck in terms of wine quality as that's where our restaurants really overcharge, I think. Our produce is almost unparalleled (opening a can of worms here) and I think you can find an amazing meal for an affordable price quite easily, especially if you BYO. Of course the big names charge for their reputation and the view, but if you are looking for more mid priced restaurants there are plenty, particularly as mentioned above in Melbourne.

                      There are bottle shops everywhere but a couple of goodies are:
                      Ultimo wine centre (expensive but the real deal) - 20 min walk from Sydney CBD
                      Best cellars - Darlinghurst - 15 min walk

                      If you like thai and really like spicy food - I mean really spicy, not the US standard, but a thai standard, then Spice I Am on Elizabeth street is fantastic, but I warn you, extremely spicy!!! You can't book and it's very casual but it's exceptional.

                      I second the Spice Temple vote, the cocktails are gorgeous, food great (numbing chicken is a must) and the restaurant has a great ambience.

                      In Melbourne, a fab italian in st kilda is cicciolina, you need to arrive earlier put your name on the door then wait in the cool little bar area. Do not eat in the bar unless it's something small as the portions are large and delicious in the restaurant and you will want serious room to fit it in!!

                      Definitely go to City wine shop (melbourne) and have some cheese and wine. Pick your own bottle from the racks then drink it at the bar. It's pretty small so mid afternoon is probably a good time to go.

                      Also you must go and have a beautiful glass of wine at the supper club in melbourne, go after dinner and soak up the film noir feel.

                    2. Wait!!!!!!!!!!! I forgot to add that THE best coffee I have EVER had was in melbourne at a small cafe in the city (I don't think they even serve food) was Brother Baba Budan !

                      Lastly - fish and chips is a bit of an aussie take away icon especially in sydney at Balmoral beach. Actually - another good restaurant to add for an amazing view is Bathers Pavilion at Balmoral beach, the restaurant is expensive but there is also a cafe, definitely book for a brunch or lunch.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: Jules101

                          Brother Baba has a much bigger sister cafe called 7 Seeds. It does some really nice simple food.


                        2. Melbourne has amazing food. And coffee. It’s a great town, but I will defer to others because I am not an expert by any means.

                          Some ideas for Sydney…

                          (Many of these are not places with views. They aren't touristy places, but they are definitely my personal favorites - for what they're worth!)

                          Malaysian –
                          Kopitiam in Ultimo
                          (kankun blachan and sambal fish!)

                          Indian –
                          Maya Da Dhaba in Surry Hills
                          (malai kofta and daal!)

                          Vietnamese –
                          Bay Tinh in Marrickville

                          Thai –
                          Spice I Am in Surry Hills (choo chee snapper!)
                          and Sailors Thai in The Rocks – canteen downstairs is cheaper (delicious mango with sticky rice!)

                          Japanese-Italian fusion (sort of) –
                          The omakase meal at Rise – look for the half-price nights
                          (one of my favorite places to eat!)

                          Japanese –
                          Sushi Suma in Surry Hills
                          affordable Japanese with huge portions – very delicious (sashimi salad)

                          Sushi train-
                          Makoto in the CBD (downtown)
                          the absolute best scallop tempura hand rolls ever - and the spider rolls are good as well!

                          for the Chinatown experience -
                          Golden Century (or Marigold)

                          for drinks with a view -
                          Opera Bar at Circular Quay

                          for delicious cocktails and delicious (Thai) appetizers -

                          (The Water Bar at Blue on the wharf at Woolloomooloo also has wonderful cocktails, but I personally don't think very highly of the restaurants on the wharf!)

                          Great food but hard to get a table –
                          Oscillate Wildly in Newtown
                          (cardamom panna cotta with chili toffee - one of the best things I've ever eaten)

                          Bakery –
                          Bourke St Bakery – the original one in Surry Hills – ginger pistachio crème brulee tarts, carrot cake, and fennel sausage rolls

                          Splurge –
                          Marque in Surry Hills

                          A very Sydney experience –
                          Fish and chips from the kiosk at Balmoral Beach (maybe the best fish and chips in the country)
                          (I see someone else recommended this as well. Don’t miss it. I personally don’t like the food at Bathers’ Pavillion and have had much better meals at Watermark, but that’s just me!)

                          My favorite affogato ever –
                          Campos Coffee in Newtown

                          Seafood -
                          Pier in Rose Bay
                          (very pricey and have not been in a long time - best check with others to make sure it's still excellent)

                          Views (and great food!) -
                          Quay or Aria in Circular Quay

                          Pizza -
                          Rosso Pomodoro in Balmain

                          If it's on while you're there, make sure you go to the Growers Market in Pyrmont. It's a food lover's dream.

                          Enjoy your meals!

                          1. one more in Sydney!

                            Shanghai Nights in Ashfield for soup dumplings

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jre

                              If you don't get soup dumplings (aka XLB) in Sydney then go to Hutong Dumpling in Melbourne on Market Lane. I think it is better than Shanghai Nights.

                            2. My fiftteen picks for Sydney:

                              Chinese: Red Chilli (or modern at Spice Temple)
                              Japanese: Ju-Rin (or modern at Toko or Sake)
                              Thai: Spice I Am (or modern at Longrain)
                              Korean: Madang

                              Bar: Sticky Bar
                              Cafe: Cafe Ish
                              Laksa: Malay Chinese Takeaway
                              Pho: Pho24
                              Pizza: Lucio's
                              Sushi: Kabuki Shoroku (or Sushi Yachiyo, in the daytime)
                              Seafood: Golden Century
                              Tapas: Cru54
                              Yum Cha: East Ocean (or Zilver, if you like trolleys)
                              Wine: Aperitif

                              Modern Australian: Tetsuya's or Rockpool

                              1. Hi Everyone, Since I'm in similar boat with KTLA, I am hoping to be able to piggyback on this thread.

                                The only reservation I have made so far is at Quay. I am looking for maybe 1 or 2 more fine dining places for either Melbourne or Sydney. I tried booking Tetsuya's but the timing doesn't work out. Any other place I should try my luck?
                                Completely blanking out for Melbourne...

                                Can we also have recs for great brunch places and some casual dining/lunch places in both sydney and melbourne?

                                I've been recommended a couple places by a friend. Please let me know if they're worth trying out: Longgrain, Rengaya, Pancakes on the rocks and China Doll in Syd, Movida in Melb,

                                Thanks in advance!

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: omnomnom

                                  Probably recommend Movida Acqui over Movida for a visitor. Rest depends on what you like....

                                  1. re: mr_gimlet

                                    Thanks for your rec. How are they different? Just the location or the menu as well?

                                    Any ideas on brunch spots?

                                    1. re: omnomnom

                                      Movida is over-rated. The food is bland or over-salted. The space is lovely, except they crowd you in!

                                      De Clieu (in Fitzroy) is my new favourite brunch spot; it's older sister Seven Seeds (hidden near Melbourne University) has just changed it's menu. Cibi and Cavallero (in collingwood) are also both good.

                                      1. re: kersizm

                                        7seeds changes for better or for worse?

                                        1. re: mr_gimlet

                                          Well, they have taken the ham sandwich off! It's a bit more like De Clieu's menu now.

                                  2. re: omnomnom

                                    For Sydney.

                                    Fine dining: I would book "Sepia" for a top meal, the chef is ex Tets and very strong, the rest of the team has equal pedigrees and I would put it forward as Sydney's next "top" restaurant. An alternative is "Marque" which has always been superb and has stayed in the top echelon of Sydney dining for many years.

                                    Lots and lots of casual dining in Sydney, I would invest in the SMH GFG for the iPhone (if you have one) which allows you to choose a 14/20 or "one hatter" for a casual lunch at a place close to where you are (if sightseeing). Lots of these places are going to be in the inner burbs so grab a taxi. Brunch is something that means different things to different people, here in Sydney we don't really have a "brunch culture" but we do have a very strong "coffee culture" with great cafe's serving all day food including breakfast staples like eggs benedict and equally good lunch dishes (plus wine if you want it). The obvious choice is "Bill's" - many others have caught up with this trail blazer and some are better, but it is still good, and obviously home of the international celeb chef Bill Grainger.

                                    Your friends recommendation....I have been taken to task about being nasty about others recommendations before so I will "play the ball and not the man". Longrain is very very good, it has superb Thai food and is quite a safe option as it is stylish and the food isn't challenging. I go there when I want posh Thai (Chat Thai or Spice I am are other good options). Pancakes on the Rocks, serves American style pancakes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - is there any more to say? China Doll is a modern Asian restaurant (lots of greatest hits - it reminds me of PF Changs) in a great location on an old finger wharf. It is run by a local celeb chef (OK he was on Masterchef a few times) and is very popular with glamorous waifs. I haven't eaten there so can't comment on the food, but I tend to head to Chinatown if I am that way inclined (try Chefs Gallery or even Spice Temple).

                                  3. The Supper Inn, in Melbourne. The service is horrific, but the food is amazing. Try the suckling pig.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: quercus

                                      For me, the food is average to slightly above average, and appallingly overpriced - resting on its laurels since 1976. Its opening hours are the only thing in its favour which is why chefs 'recommend' it.

                                      1. re: mr_gimlet

                                        Quay in Sydney is just Amazing also I would suggest Vue de Monde or Rockpool I have not been to Melbourne but they are so good http://www.visitvictoria.com/displayo...

                                        1. re: Chadsie

                                          How can you say Vue de Monde is good if you have not been? I have and didn't care for it - I know others disagree with me but it isn't a slam dunk.

                                          Do you mean Rockpool in Sydney or are you referring to the RB&G in Melbourne...?

                                          1. re: Chadsie

                                            Amazing as in great food an ok with a 4 year old? Just want to be sure ...

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              I'd probably avoid Vue de Monde with a 4 year old. Much better off at Cumulus, DOC, etc.

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                No, probably not recommended with a 4 yr old.

                                                1. re: mr_gimlet

                                                  Thanks to both of you. There is always the possibility that we'll find a babysitter (fingers crossed).

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    You won't get in VdM at short notice. Last minute thought: The European/ City Wine Bar on Spring Street has an outdoor area. I'm sure they would be child amenable and their wine selection is fabulous. Food is shared plates at the wine bar too.