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Mar 20, 2011 07:59 AM

Where are the best message boards about Australian Dining Options for folks like us - chowhoundish types?

I'm taking wife and kids to Australia in July. Itinerary is Sydney, Cairns, Uluru, Perth then back to Sydney.

I've been to Melbourne once, and wife spent her early primary school years in Perth. Loved Australia and want the kids to experience it.

KIds are12 & 14, well behaved, very adventerous diners, been to some of the nicest restaurants with them in NYC, New Orleans, Dallas, Vegas, Italy....etc..., they know how to act, and appreciate the dining experiences.

I think the posters here have been very knowledgeable, but the traffic is so slow, perhaps I should be looking at other sites to help us plan the journey.



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  1. Hello!
    Not too sure where would be the best board to post, but I can certainly try and help you out with Perth recs. What kind of food/dining are you interested in and how long are you in Perth for?

    4 Replies
    1. re: TheHuntress

      We'll be in Perth for 3 days, early August, may swing a day down to Margaret River within that.

      Probably a day spent on Rottnest also - not sure what dining is available there if any, frankly we could be off the Island by dinner time I suppose, we're not that far along in planning for Perth yet.

      We eat virtually anything - to narrow it down, what are some unique places that are not touristy, offer well-crafted creative food, great wine lists (by glass or bottle...) that will make our visit memorable and not be Uber-Expensive?

      If there is a distinctly "Perthian" (if that is a a word) style of food or dishes - what would those be... etcetera.

      We eat all types of food, so we're really wide open.

      THANKS in advance for your help.

      1. re: masnole

        Starting from the top - as BTG says dining in Australia is expensive - especially in Perth. I'll try and keep things within a family perspective.

        On Rottnest I don't think a huge variety is available - there's a Red Rooster (fast food chicken), a Dome cafe and not sure what else. The bakery was awesome once upon a time and as a lunch time option might be a good oportunity to experience the great Australian meat pie. While on Rottnest make sure you have a drink at the Quokka Arms - it is essential to the experience of Rottnest :D If you're not staying overnight chances are that you will be in need of dinner options as I think the last ferry leaves at about 5pm (though I could be wrong, it's been many years since I last went).

        One thing I would suggest is perhaps a trip to the Swan Valley (that is if you have a car). It's only 25 minutes from the city centre and the oldest wine growing region of WA. I love the wines and lunches at a place called Jane Brook. Theres a fantastic young chap called Ryan who works there who is wonderfully knowledgeable and they do fantastic seasonal lunches. Last winter they did these fantastic pies and I'm hoping they'll do the same again this year. There are loads of other nice wineries in the area and I'm sure the chocolate factory would help keeps the kids (and adults) interested.

        For a real Perth experience you must have fish and chips at Cicerellos or Kailis in Freo by the waters edge. That is kind of touristy, but Perth locals do it too, there is nothing to be ashamed of in going there :)

        And still in Freo I also like Moore & Moore cafe on Henry St. for breakfast and lunch. They also have a contemporary art gallery attached which is worth a look and often have the artists hanging around. I was once given a painting by an artist who wanted to take my photo as my outfit reflected his art. You never know what might happen.

        I'm voting for The Walk in Subi as well, however they're not opening for dinner at the moment (was going on Saturday night, bit sad about that), but that may change again in the near future. But it is still great for breakfast or lunch.

        I'll keep having a think and add anything else I can come up with. These are just the few that spring immediately to mind.

          1. re: masnole

            I did actually think after I wrote this post that I should note that Freo is an abbreviation for Fremantle - though if your wife has spent time in Perth she would know this :)

            Also The Walk Cafe will definitely be reopening for dinners at some point, just not too sure when - I'll update this when I know.

    2. I guess first, you'll need to readjust your idea of expensive. Because compared to dining in the US, Oz is more expensive. Shockingly so when you first get here. Just a refresher: Entre = Appetizer, Main = Main course.

      In Perth I really enjoyed Walk Cafe in Subiaco. About a 15 minute train ride from Perth downtown. In Margaret River, definitely do lunch at either Cullen Winery or Knee Deep. Not cheap, but well worth it. ($85 for three courses).

      I didn't find much in Cairns proper. But if you venture 45 minutes north to Port Douglas, there may be more options. Nothing I say is a "can't miss."

      I haven't been to Uluru (yet).

      Sydney has just about everything. Thai food here is great. There are also great restaurants that use some of the great local, fresh ingredients. Really just depends on what you want. There are a lot of young chefs right now doing casual dining (don't read less expensive) the way they want which is fun.

      3 Replies
      1. re: BeanTownGolfer

        I feel that when we talk about Australian dining being expensive, it's sort of an apple and oranges topic.
        Compared to the food I ate in the US, Australian restaurants have far better offerings and it is fresher and more "cuisine" than America. And, yes, you do pay more for it.

        As an example: when a dish mentions pesto in an Australian restaurant, you would expect that the pesto is made in the kitchen, with all the ingredients being blitzed moments before serving.

        In America, I watched as a jar of pesto was opened and slopped onto the plate.
        I am not saying that places in Australia don't do the same, however it is an expectation that all ingredients on the plate have been produced in the kitchen, not in a factory.

        I think the best way to experience Australian dining is to pick two or three top end restaurants for "occasion" dining, and then after that follow the crowds to the cheap and cheerfuls.

        1. re: cronker

          I'm going to disagree with that, but also accept it. I think that with the pure number of restaurants in the US is where the problem comes in. Using the easy way out is the norm amongst the low level/chain restaurants.

          However, when going to the correct restaurants run and own by chefs, the middle of the road dining is considerably less expensive than here. I had plenty of chef owned/run restaurants in my neighborhood in Boston and Chicago that I would go to where everthing was made fresh and could get away with an entree, main and a glass of wine for $45 with tip and tax. I can't find that casual, local dining scene in Sydney. Everyone wants to be super fancy and make you pay out the nose for it, or you're going for takeaway. I went to a wine bar last night and had 1 entree size portion of pasta and two glasses of wine and my bill was $45. That's rediculous to me. There's no way that the ingredients cost that much more that justify those prices. Sure, I could have had one glass of wine and put the $13 towards more food, but nothing on the menu was less than $18.

          And yes, "occasion" dining is nice but when you're looking for a good meal from a local restaurant, you don't want to sit through a 4 hour meal.

          If you make it back to the States, let me know and I can try to direct you to the restaurants I'm used to (if you go to a few cities I'm familiar with). And if you have any suggestions around Sydney of places to try, please let me know. I don't feel like cooking every night of the week, but also don't enjoy spending $50 of a Tuesday night meal.

          1. re: BeanTownGolfer

            Good post BeanTown, I was going to do a similar one.

            Sheer amount of chains in this country can easily lead one to think well-made, hand crafted food by indepenent restaurants as a rarity, when in fact there are a myriad of options in every city.

      2. My Perth picks...

        Cairns - I dont know

        Uluru - you're kinda limited to what's at the resorts, and I don't know that anything there has a great reputation. Sounds Of Silence is a great experience, but the food itself isn't all that spectacular (though you get to try kangaroo & crocodile

        Sydney - way way too many options to mention...
        Where will you stay? Will you have a car? How many nights are you there? How much are you willing to spend?

        My current Sydney "must eat" is this place, but you would probably need a car, and a booking and they only take cash...

        10 Replies
        1. re: Onara

          OK - For Sydney, we just booked 5 nights at the Mariott Harbour resort on "circular quay"...

          I'm very interested in what Chinatown has to offer. Not sure on the car yet. Depends, maybe part of the time......need to figure out our agenda. Thinking about at least one trip to the Blue Mountains - probably drive to that. Really still sorting things out.

          How much am I willing to spend? Whatever it takes if I'm interested in the place.....not going to go crazy every night on or two nights in Sydney maybe.

          Also, being tourists, don't want/need overly drawn out experiences each night either. So I guess my answer is a mix of things - well crafted good local spots, some ethnic, and a few high end spots.

          Oh and at Ayers we are staying at that resort you mention.....we need to look into that Sounds of Silence experience.

          1. re: masnole

            Chinatown is Chinatown - like any Chinatown in any large city.
            If you're adamant you want Chinese in Chinatown, I'd suggest Golden Century
            Or for yum cha (dim sum), Marigold or Zilver

            However, if you're willing to look further afield for Chinese, you may be pleasantly surprised by the innovative approach offered by these places instead

            My thoughts on further dining in Sydney...

            Catch a ferry to Manly and eat at Manly Pavillion

            Find some way of getting to Peacock Trattoria. I linked to it in my response above

            Get the cevapcici at the Balkan

            Consider any of the following...

            1. re: Onara

              I live in Melbourne but was in Sydney a few weeks ago..second the recommendation for pendolino..excellent italiian in a lovely old Victorian arcade..and Kylie Kong is noisy but reliably very good modern asian food.
              MsG is funky , with a young crowd and interesting modern asian food.
              Seans Pavilion is a bit of a cab ride from the CBD , but near a glorious pre dinner walk along the cliffs, from Bondi (the archtypal autralian beach) to coogee .and IMO the foods is outstanding..honest and crafstsmanlike.
              Are you going to melbourne? happy to make some local suggestions.

              1. re: noelb

                Sean's Panaroma, rather than Pavillion?

                And I'd guess the Chinese in Melbourne was Flower Drum

                1. re: Onara

                  I think it was Flower-Drum, the interior looks familiar. 2003 was a long time ago......

                2. re: noelb

                  Is it Sean's Pavillion any relation to Sean's Panorama? when I lived in Sydney I loved that restaurant.

                  1. re: artychokeasana

                    Sorry , Seans Panorama is correct..still loveable

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. It has been too long since I lived in Sydney to give you specific recommendations but here are some general thoughts: There are some unique foods in Australia that are really worth experiencing. Marrons-a crayfish from West Australia are delicious-a bit similar to our Maine lobster but smaller-almost impossible to have outside of Australia, Balmain Buds-native to Sydney harbor, another delicious crustacean, passion fruit-sure we get them here bit they are not as pulpy or prolific-they are a cheap snack in Oz not an exotic treat, Mangoes-they are just better there0try them you;ll see. Thai Food-it's just better down under-ask a local for a good recommendation. Laksa-this Malay/Chinese noodle soup is ubiquitous in Australia-a real back packers treat, cheap and cheerful but I have yet to find a bowl in the states that is even close to the quality of the soup i enjoyed in Sydney. In Cairns-Mud Crabs-if you don't come up with a great recommendation for a restaurant in Cairns (and you may not-it's never been a really food driven town) find a place on the Esplanade that appeals to you, get a table outside abutting the boardwalk and order mud crabs a good white wine and people watch in the balmy weather. Also make sure you get out to the reef to dive if you know how or snorkel if that;s your best option. It is stunning out there, truly. Back in Sydney Peter Gillmore is the Exec Chef at Quay. I've not been to Quay-but I worked for Peter when he was a sous chef and I an apprentice-and eaten his food many times. He's a thoughtful and generous person and chef not driven by glamour and fame as many well known chefs can be. This dress circle restaurant is on my list for my next visit to Sydney. Quay should have stunning views of the harbour and bridge. More about views-while you can have good fish and chips in any number of locations consider Doyle's pub at Watson Bay. It's all the way out on the Southern Headlands but the views across the harbor back towards the city are great. Don't bother with the restaurant -just the pub. There is also a walk/hike from Rose bay to Watson's bay that is a very enjoyable way to spend a morning. It's long though so you might only want to do a segment of it. Finally-I would only do one trip to the blue mountains-it's a bit of a ways from Sydney so I don't think you'll want to make the journey twice.. The train ride can be fun and maybe do an over night at a rustic inn. I hope you will post back with a recap of your experiences when you return from your trip.

                3 Replies
                1. re: artychokeasana

                  "Balmain Buds-native to Sydney harbor, another delicious crustacean" - well Balmain is a harbour-side suburb but isn't the best place to fish for bugs in fact I doubt they would be found in the harbour, they are actually found all around the south coast of Australia.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Are you sure? I thought that in the period if white setlement they were originally pulled from the harbor by the convicts. Could be wrong though.

                    1. re: artychokeasana

                      Clearly back in those day the harbour would have had lots of fish, but the bugs habitat goes right around the coast from NSW to WA and most are caught by trawlers. I suspect long gone are the days you can catch them off the Balmain ferry wharf