Restaurant recommendations for a Solo Traveler in Sydney
I was hoping to get some good recommendations for restaurants. I will be staying in Sydney for 4 nights before returning to the States. I am travelling solo so I was hoping for some reccs of good food with bar/lounge seating, or communal tables. No fine dining for this trip. I am also on a pretty tight (at least moderately tight) budget, so nothing too high end. I am staying in Kings Cross (Hotel 59), so reccs in that area would be greatly appreciated. I enjoy all types of food!
Thank you so much for your help!
The best food in the areas around "The Cross" are in Macleay Street Potts Point (which starts where the main street that runs through the cross turns the corner) and Victoria Street in Darlinghurst (at the other end of the main street, over the roundabout/ freeway bridge). In both these streets, and the side streets, you will find good local restaurants (some cheap some not).
The Green Park Hotel in Darlinghurst is great for a beer - a bit grungy but friendly. In Darlinghurst, Fishface is great but be careful it can get expensive. Onde is OK for French, a'Tavola is a good Italian with a communal table. Fu-manchu was good but I have not been for years, and I hear great reports about Almond (middle eastern).
In Maclaey St, the Maclay Street Bistro is a good old classic, there is a Sailor Thai and Cafe Sopra in the modern apartment block (next to Woolworths I think), then there is Lotus, Fratelli Paradiso and a few others in Challis Avenue which are good. Last but not least in the area is "Mr's G's" (a very trendy new Asian place with good music, a buzzy atmosphere and food in quite small portions so you can eat cheaply (if careful) its in the Potts Point part of Victoria Avenue.
Both Challis Avenue and Victoria Street Darlinghurst are great for coffee and breakfast on the run, Bills in Darlinghurst is OK but very expensive. Better to be local and sit on a stool on the sidewalk and enjoy a coffee with a slice of turkish toast and vegimite - bliss.
Last but not least, beware of Kings Cross. It is getting better with a few decent places but it is still Sydney's main red light district (yes we have a few) and is pretty downmarket with lots of hookers and dealers. Hence the advice to get out into Potts Point and Darlinghurst.
One of my all time favourites in this area is Fishface - in Darlinghurst Road, just down from the 'Darlo' (a great local and unpretentious pub to have a pre dinner drink in). FF has tables outside (a bit chilly at the moment though) and long benches/bar stools inside which face out onto the street which IMO makes it ideal for solo diners. Fab, fresh, interesting fish and a good wine list. You won't be disappointed. No bookings after 7pm I think. Better for earlier in the week but if you need to wait for a table, you can head to the Darlo and they will call you.
There's a very pleasant Vietnamese restaurant in Kings Cross, Bay Bua, in a quiet square near Springfield Avenue. Following up on your communal table/counter dining question, I agree with previous posters that Sydney isn't big on them, and even if there is a communal table people tend to speak mainly to their companions. That said, Australians are a friendly bunch (well, I would say that, I am one) and it's not hard to strike up a conversation. Longrain (Surry Hills) and Sailors Thai Canteen (The Rocks, and less pricy than the nearby restaurant of the same name) are excellent Thai restaurants with communal tables. Someone else has already recommended House, near Central Railway, yes, it's great. Steer clear of the restaurants in Darlinghurst Rd Kings Cross, they're mostly pretty bad.
Thank you all so much for your great recommendations. To answer your questions ekim256, I do not have access to a car, but am willing to walk or 'public transit it' pretty far for good food. I am into all sorts of food, love Thai and sushi. I do have some shellfish allergies which are sometimes a problem, unfortunately, because I love seafood. I am originally from Iceland but hail from Michigan at the moment. The Upper Peninsula to be specific so I am in need of good food, as there is not much variety in the UP.
You all have definitely given me a lot of good ideas, and I need to start making my plan of attack!! thanks again!
For breakfast or lunch you can also give Bill's (original is on Liverpool St. near the Cross) or the one on Crown Street in Surry Hills. Some people have mixed feelings but it is pretty well known and I really like the corn fritters.
Also Victoria St. near Kings Cross has a lot of options, some better than others, but lots of easy and not too pricey choices (Pizza, Burgers, Pasta, Sushi, Thai etc) I am living in Sydney now, but from the states and often dine solo. Unlike the States there aren't a lot of 'sit at the bar' options here, but communal tables definitely, and most casual places are fine to eat solo.
Hope you have a great trip, sirryosk!. I lived in Sydney for 3 years and will be moving back there again next month, so I, too, am really looking forward to getting back to some great Sydney eats. Food is what I have missed most about Sydney. It's got to be one of the best food cities in the world. Also, my folks have a summer place near the UP on the Wisconsin side, so I know what you mean about being in need of good food. The only setback for Sydney is that great food often comes with a hefty price tag. But there's a bunch of good options here, and remember that the cost of service and tax is built into the meal price.
How can anyone make a list of Sydney eateries and not mention any Thai food? Sydney must be one of the best cities in the world for Thai, from the cheap and cheerful like Chat Thai, through Spice I Am and House, up to Sailor's Thai (which I have always found a bit too pricey).
I think we were focusing mainly on the "solo" and "bar/lounge or communal tables" aspect of sirryosk's question. You are right that Sydney has Thai that will blow your socks off (as well as plenty of truly terrible examples). Most of the places I frequented, though, were just holes-in-the-wall, and not much in the way of loungey or communal atmosphere where you can hang out on your own for hours.
Thai Me Up, at 112 Oxford Street in Darlinghurst was pretty consistently good and cheap. Also Tumnak Thai, across the road at 101 Oxford, a bit more sit-down and formal. Saap Thai at 378 Pitt Street in the CBD is very authentic. Chinta Ria on the East side of Darling Harbour is very touristy and actually Malaysian instead of Thai, but has a fun atmosphere and a good place to hang out and watch people.
In general I think you'll find all Asian foods extremely well represented, and offering a far more authentic style of cooking than you find in the US. Be sure to try some Malaysian-style laksa while you're there. It's a curry soup with noodles and either seafood or chicken. Some versions are made with coconut milk, others have a clear broth. It's one of the things Sydney does really well, and most Malay/Chinese/Thai restaurants will offer some version of it.
Prague Czech restaurant at 42 Kellett Street is very close to where you are staying and has some excellent Czech beers, a decent bar menu, and a fun vibe. If you don't get there early, you might have trouble getting a seat in the bar or patio, but if you can, it's a nice place to sit and people-watch. The dinner menu can get pretty pricey, but I remember there being some nice tasting-style plates in the bar that were very reasonable, such as goulash and some assorted sausages, both hot and cold plates.
David Jones (the department store at 65-77 Market Street) has an amazing food hall in the basement. In addition to counter after counter of cheese, meat, olives, seafood, pasta, pastries and fine groceries, there are a number of food bars, including an oyster bar, pasta bar, sandwich bar, and a noodle bar where you can grab a stool and have a hot meal and a glass of wine. They fill up quickly during the meal hours, so it pays to go mid-morning or midafternoon to get a spot, esp. on the weekend. But if you're on your own, there'd be a good chance of scoring a single seat at any hour. Or just buy ingredients for a picnic and walk 2 blocks over to Hyde Park or half a mile up to the Botanical Gardens.
Seoul Ria (Level 2, 605-609 Cnr of George and Goulburn Street) If you like Korean food, this is the place. It's a big noisy room, full of families and large groups of Koreans and can feel a bit intimidating, but it definitely fits your communal bill. If you're up for a little adventure, you'll be rewarded.
In Surry Hills, there is a street called Crown Street, that runs south from Oxford Street/Taylor Square until it hits Cleveland St. This mile-long stretch is rife with good restaurants, and you can simply stroll up and down and find something. There's a great vibe, and it makes for a very pleasant evening just to stroll around the neighborhood. You won't find a lot of tourists here, and it's a good mix of young urban hipsters and an older, professional crowd. There's a range of high end to hole-in-the-wall places. Also, along Cleveland Street, just east of Crown, is a string of Indian restaurants. Many of these are southern indian, which is different from the northern indian cuisine we normally have in the US, so that can be really interesting and fun.
I was in Sydney for quite a bit, and I also did a hunt for affordable food. I have been unfortunately slacking on the chow report side - but this is a good motivation to start giving back properly :-).
A few questions:
1. Do you have access to a car?
2. What are you into
3. Whereabouts in the US are you from?
I ask the last question because as a Torontonian, I don't have access to awesome seafood, so that made my head spin a bit when I was in Sydney - I was uber excited.
Here are my top 5 recs, that may change with the above info. For the ones that I didn't already post about, I'll pop the feedback in below:
1. Harry's Cafe to Wheels - Tiger Curry Pie
2. Cafe ish - Soft shell crab omelette & wattleseed machiatto
3. Din Tai Fun - soup dumplings (note: this chain is in the US as well)
4. Chinatown Noodle Restaurant - Fresh hand pulled noodles & dumplings (I went there because Toronto is seriously lacking on this front)
5. Sydney Fish Market - Oysters galore
1. Harry's Cafe de Wheels
Within walking distance from you; if you're into partying then go after a hard night out. Sydney's drunk food, imo.
I posted here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/419980#6537464
2. Cafe Ish
Fabulous. I went there not once, but twice. Japanese+ French + bright sunny cafe + friendly service
The cafe is so cute - sunny, open, and perfect for Surry Hills. I decided to order a Wattle Maccacino iced with a delightful scoop of wattleseed ice cream. The ice cream had a nice nutty flavour, which turned out to be macadamia. Yum!
I'll admit that a lot of the pull towards this was the "wattle". What is wattle? I asked the server, and she said that it was similar to acai - but I have only tried the berries. Original to Australia, it fit well with the Native Australian theme. It almost had a licorice-like taste that complimented quite well.
Banana Bread - Warm from the oven and soft - it's worth a try. Thick and moist on the outside with a definite crust.
B&E Damper (Bundawarrah free range bacon, Kangaroo Island egg, Cafe Ish BBQ Sauce) - good, not particularly memorable, but solid.
A handmill for pepper alongside offerings of green tea, Szechuan, and Murray River salt was brought to the table. Murray River salt is curious - it's pink from the minerals, and I saw it in several restaurants...particularly in Victoria
Crispy soft-shell crab omelette (Avocado and shallots, garlic, chili, soy, ginger dressing
)O M G O M E L E T T E!
The dressing was perfect for the omelette which contained soft shell crab that was certainly crispy. Packed with avocado and surrounded by a thin egg wrap...delicious. A must try if you go to Sydney!
3. Din Tai Fung
Soup Dumplings - Super enjoyable and delicious.They actually exploded in my mouth...and all over my hair...and all over the table. I've never been one for grace anyway.
Actually, the real culprit was not the explosion as much as the hot hot hot liquid inside that burned my greedy mouth. I scalded the roof of my mouth, but mmm...worth it.
Braised beef noodle soup - The noodles were great - in a different way than Chinese Noodle House. Tender beef, really good broth, mmmm.
Shrimp and pork shao -ma. Litte bundles of shrimpy-porky joy...om nom nom nom
Dessert: Deep fried taro that was perfectly deep fried as well as a bowl mango that came with a shot glass of condensed milk.
4. Chinese Noodle Restaurant
I'd go with the fried noodles and the pork/chive dumplings
The dumplings were so good. I really love fresh, well-made pork & chive dumplings.
Crispy fresh dumplings were enjoyed along with noodles - a big bowl each.
The noodles were great - but the soup? Not so much. If you hop over there, I recommend getting them fried as the broth lacked flavour and probably a bowl of pork instead of seafood. I picked seafood since I was so much closer to the ocean (another reason to be jealous of Sydney-ites!) but I am quite sure that what I got was pre-frozen - that's Chinatown!
5. Sydney Fish Market
I recommend going for the oysters, if you're an oyster fan. I also quite enjoyed the Kingfish sashimi, not so much the salmon (but perhaps as a Canadian, I'm spoiled in that regard), and I'd avoid Fish Market Cafe
Fish Market Cafe:I love seafood - but when it's deep fried? Not so much. This was a major let down - but my fault. The platter comes with BBQ Octopus, Calamari Rings, Oysters: Mornay & Kilpatrick, Grilled Scallops, Battered King Prawns, and "Fishi Pieces".
I can't recall the name - but immediately to your left you'll see rows upon rows upon rows of oysters beckoned. Pacific Oysters, St Helens, Smithton, Jumbo, Bruny Island, Port Douglas, Cloudy Bay, Sydney Rock Oysters, Wonboyne Lake, Wagonga Inlet...etc I'm partial to Pacific oysters. The sheer size of the Wagonga Inlet was impressive. It was thick, meaty...like an oyster steak. I was given a little cup of Tetsuya, but I found that I wanted to enjoy them with just a bit of lemon.
By the way - eating outside is precarious. Big fat angry seagulls patrol the docks and are not shy. We saw a man shout angrily while waving his hands angrily as they approached him...and frankly, I did not judge.
Lastly, how could you not have sashimi at a fish market? I picked up a couple of pieces of salmon, tuna, and kingfish. Sorry Australia - but the rumours were true. You can't compete with Canadian salmon! However...the kingfish was amazing. Almost buttery in texture and flavour
I hope that helps. This board was very helpful for my Oceania trip :-)