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Jun 24, 2010 01:04 PM

Late July and Early August...New Zealnd and Melbourne, Sydney...Something new and interesting?

I have been going over the boards for a Mid-July to late August trip with my wife. We will be doing the North Island in New Zealand finishing up in Wellington to visit my daughter. And then taking her over to Oz for Melbourne and Sydney.

Lots of good suggestions but when I get to a city I like to also try and find some of the hot young chefs who are opening up their first restaurants or look for something interesting that might not be established but worth the effort.

Anyway if there is anything you can think of that fits that...could be fine dining or casual. We are not averse to ramping up the risk/reward meter.

Thanks in advance from a Toronto food guy.

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  1. The problem in Melbourne, certainly, is that openings are very carefully PR-managed. Owners won't tolerate a soft start with word of mouth because its too expensive, so the PR teams get going well before opening and pump it up. Coda is a good example. Sometimes the object of their puffery is worthwhile, but it generally means new places are very busy from day 1 and then if they aren't very good, close. The undicovered gem is pretty rare.

    I would have a look at some blogs and see what's up and coming, but don't hold your breath. Your best chance is to try and find somewhere in the suburbs rather than the CBD.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Mr G is right on the money here, I can't think of new place that has opened without the hoo-haa. Too much money is involved these days...

      Where is Robin Wickens cooking these days?

      1. re: mr_gimlet

        That said, I think the following could be safe for a couple of months: the Metropolitan in Brunswick, Jorge in North Fitzroy and Diner Next Door in Northcote. Thinking this over this afternoon, I think you stand a chance of an undiscovered gem if you go country - I can think of three or four within an hour of Melbourne

      2. I find the Australian restaurant scene to be slightly different to many countries. Here in Sydney there are few in the top tier, but then there is a very broad and healthy mid tier. In other countries I find it much more stratified, often with a broad base of less good restaurants. In these countries my quest, like the OP, is to find the good new chef and catch them before they head into the stratosphere or their modest skill gets so pumped up by the media their ego starts to get in the way of the food.

        But I don't see that in Sydney, there are lots of 14 to 16 point (SMH Good Food Guide) restaurants that serve very good food at reasonable prices, some are new chefs, but many are chefs that have good pedigrees and have formed the solid foundation of Sydney food.

        My recent meals that have been good (and qualify for a return visit) include Xage a modern Vietnamese; Efendy modern Turkish; Sake, modern Japanese; and two old stagers but still very good Assiette and the Four in Hand (better early in the week than Friday/Saturday due to the crowds). And if you fancy a curry Aki's in Woolloomooloo is very very good.

        9 Replies
        1. re: PhilD

          Thanks to all. It's always good to get a feel for how the local gastronomy develops and sustains. I will take the suggestions and see were life takes us. We just booked at the Quay West Suites in Melbourne in Southbank and the Qauy Grand Suites down by the harbour in Sydney. If anyone can think of a good breakfast and coffee place around them. I know some cities/countries don't do breakfasts like we North Americans but any help would be great.

          Thanks again

          1. re: Tdotfoodguy

            Quay West is in a pleasant spot, we use it a lot for large meetings. Its attached to a shopping mall, with not a lot of interest in it except for a very, very good risotteria called Tutto Bene. There are plenty of OK options arounds for breakfast as it is also atatched to a few very large office blocks.

            That said, assuming you are going to do a bit of sghtseeing anyway, I would be getting a one day tram card for tourist purposes and use it to head into the CBD for brekky. (Your hotel is on a big arterial road up through the city). In the city, Cumulus is your best bet for serious breakfast, if you go up to have a look at the Vic market have coffee and breakfast at Coffea on the edge of the market (on Elizabeth Street). Market is closed Monday and Wednesday.

            In general terms, where your hotel is is a good location but I wouldn't hang around there. Diagonally across the road is Fed Square, with some excellent restaurants like Taxi. Taking the tram south gets ou to St Kilda with lots of options.

            1. re: mr_gimlet

              I'd take the tram one stop past the Vic Market and go on a hunt for 7 seeds for, in my mind, some of the best coffee in melbourne. The simple breakfast fare is pretty good too, the pressed ham sandwich is great.

              I'd also try out Journal for coffee. It's on Flinders Lane between Elisabeth and Swanston.

              Cafe Vue is good for a simple breakfast and good coffee.

              Cumulus is still probably the best bet for Breakfast, Lunch and/or Dinner!

              1. re: kersizm

                Yeah, I didn't recommend 7 seeds because its a bit tricky to find if you don't know where it is. Journal's a good idea.

            2. re: Tdotfoodguy

              Quay Grand Suites in Sydney is well located but it is in tourist central so a lot of the cafes and places close by (around circular quay) are not good. It is better to head a few blocks back from the Quay and head for the cafes more in the CBD (Illy Cafe on Bent Street is OK). If you don't want to go to far the Rocks is probably better than East Circular Quay (where the hotel is).

              Unfortunately the best breakfasts are going to be a taxi ride away in the inner suburbs as more people have leisure time. On your side of town Macleay Street/Challis Avenue in Potts Point has some good spots and Victoria Street in Darlinghurst has some good funky places.

              In the evening try the Opera Bar which has live music outside most evenings, it is a zoo after 6:00 on Friday and Saturday but pleasant before then.

              1. re: PhilD

                We just figured out that we will be a day in Martinborough in NZ and wondered if anyone has had any eperience with restaurans there. Also if you have any suggestions for Napier we are a couple of days there.

                Thanks again.

                1. re: Tdotfoodguy

                  As per, my top tip for anyone visiting NZ is get a copy of the latest Cuisine magazine and even go as far as picking up Cuisine Wine Country guide, I am only in NZ for 10 days and will definitely be picking up a copy.

                  Are you visiting Napier and Martinborough for the wines or just part of a journey? HAwkes Bay has some fantastic wine, Gimblett Gravels Syrah is a personal favourite and something I will be drinking a lot of during my trip (difficult to get hold of too many over in the uk), Martinborough has some excellent Pinot and also I remember loving one or two chardinnay form down there too. Dry River are right up there as one of most prestigous makers in the country, they may allow a visit if you contact in advance, then again their wines are so in demand they may not feel the need.

                  Have fun

                  1. re: stanleyk

                    Thanks for this. I will look for the mags. We are doing Napier and Martinborough for the wines primarily so will take your suggestions with us.

                  2. re: Tdotfoodguy

                    Re Martinborough, I'd suggest you try wines at the vineyards but then motor over to Greytown (~20km) for food. The French Baker is superb for bread, sweets, quiches and the like, and also features good coffee. (And their muesli, while expensive, is top notch.) Right next door is Salute with a terrific Med-based menu and a decent wine list. Whenever we're in the Wairarapa, stops at both these places are mandatory.

                    Not sure whether you'll be buying wine in Martinborough ... but if you're going from there to Wellington, Moore Wilson (food and wine shop on Tory Street in the city) undersells virtually all the wineries on their own wine. So if you're planning on buying anything in quantity, it's worth waiting to do it at Moore Wilson.

            3. If you are visiting Auckland for any length of time then I would recommend Meredith's and Sidart for restaurants. Both great places to eat, very relaxed in spite of their formal dining status.

              Napier has a restaurant called Pacifica which is apparently quite good, I haven't been there myself but my friend enjoyed it.

              1. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who commented for our trip. And wanted to give you some feedback.

                We had a wonderful time in New Zealand and Australia and we are already talking about our next trip.

                In Wellington we ate at Matterhorn and had a great meal despite the fireplace misfiring a little and all of us leaving smelling like mesquite smoke. I had a duck eight ways appetizer that was delicious, the service was great and it's a very friendly space.

                In Melbourne we ate at Cumulus and everyone loved it. We shared some soft shell crabs and saffron mussels as well as a couple of other fish dishes. All round it was fun and the food was excellent. We went to Bar Lahourina (sp) and had a fun time at the bar eating and drinking. We didn't venture too far out of the centre. In Sydney we went to Selah and had a great time...the desserts were just stunning. One of us had a kind of custard with a lavender taste that was just amazing.

                I can't find my notes right now but just wanted to thank you all for suggestions that I found here or you had posted on other threads.