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Young couples first trip to Oz (Sydney, Melbourne) and NZ (Christchurch), looking for advice!

Hi all, chowhound is new to me (so bare with me!) and I can see you all seriously know your stuff and have alot of good advice so was hoping you could help me!

My husband and I are a young couple from London, UK travelling to Australia (Sydney and Melbourne) and New Zealand (Christchurch) for the first time next June. We have done a bit of research so far but would like some advice from people in the know!

We are looking for good places to eat (we like our food!), that are midrange price or even cheap good local food in those places! We are also on the hunt for a really good (again midrange) seafood restaurant! (as lack of it in London and severly overpriced!!) All im dying for is a good lobster!!!!!

Appreciate any help and advice you chowhounders can give!!

Thank you

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  1. If you have researched it is easier to answer questions rather than repeat advice. In Sydney good fish is available from FishFace in Darlinghurst, not a luxurious fine dining place but very good, very well sourced fish. Most menus have fish and F&C 's by the beach is great - search the board.

    It maybe good to tell us what is mid- range to you as Aus has got expensive and the exchange rate is nasty for poms.

    3 Replies
    1. re: PhilD

      Thanks for those suggestions PhilD. I have looked through some previous posts, there is so much to sift through i didnt know where to start but realise now my post was a bit vague sorry about that.

      I suppose we are looking at places averaging $20- 30/person give or take. We really are travelling on a budget. This is a possibly once in a lifetime trip for us and only have 2 weeks to do it in (mad i know!) London is also very expensive so saving for a holiday like this is hard as you can imagine.

      So being that we've only got 2 weeks we really want to make the most of it and have a good taste of what OZ and NZ have to offer (well on our budget!).

      Ive seen that Spice I am and Mamak are quite popular on here. As is A Tovola. I put down Lemon Cafe as a place for brekkie but saw some reviews online that weren't so good

      We do love our sushi too so any suggestions for that? Though i had been told that there is area in Melbourne near David Jones department store/Bourke Street that has a whole street dedicated??

      I also have listed for Melbourne Birdman Eating, Dench, Journal Canteen, DOC and Cafe di Stasio.

      The place i really am struggling to find places is Christchurch. If anyone has any suggestions of where to start with that.

      I hope thats given a bit more help

      1. re: lauren_j

        As someone who travels regularly to Japan, I suggest you avoid australian sushi. It isn't terribly well executed and the selection of neta is poor.

        I'd probably swap out dench and head to Pope Joan (the prawn sandwich is brilliant).

        If you are travelling on a budget I suggest you head to the Queen Vic Market for the breakfast of champions. You buy a bratwurst from the imaginatively named Bratwurst Shop and a dozen oysters from one of the fish mongers (i recommend Prossers) ... find a table and devour both!

        1. re: lauren_j

          Lauren, you can at forth at budget especially if you stay in basic Asian places like Mamak (which is good) and Spice I Am, House Thai, or Chaat Thai. But even in these places it is going to be doable but tight. House Thai is goods it is literally at the back of a basic pub so drinks at regular pub prices and Xage in Surry Hills - a short bus ride from the CBD - is a mod Vietnamese which does BYO and is very very good and probably fits your budget (their menu is on-line).

          Our Saturday lunch snack budget was $40 for two and we generally did this but we used to travel out to the burbs. A weekend (mainstream) meal could be anywhere between $150 to $300 (for two) for something good. Mains in Australia are now $30 to $50 and starters are $15 to $30 and wine is going to be $40 a bottle plus. There are still some BYO places but these are getting rarer and are mostly the Asian hole in the wall places now. It may be worth reading Sydney's Time Out and/or download the Sydney Morning Heralds Good Food Guide app (iPhone and droid)

          What would I do with your budget. I think the best advice into see if you can squeeze a bit more into it. As you say it isn't trip of a lifetime and the memories will last far longer than the credit card bills. Sydney is as expensive as London now, and in some regards more expensive. But , and it isareally big but, you do get far better value and far better food for your money. So mix up some of the great Asians with restaurants like Duke Bistro, District Dining, Bird Cow Fish, and the Four in Hand.

          If you only do one blow out meal get the bus to Bondi Beach for lunch and either book at Sean's Panaroma for really amazing food with a semi beach view, or put your name down for at table at the no reservation North Bondi Italian - the view is great, and the beutiful people are so Bondi..!

      2. Chch - since the earthquake everything's all mixed up and if you get advice you'll need to check if it's pre- or post- earthquake.
        Pre-earthquake, I could give you a ton - post- you're out of luck!

        7 Replies
        1. re: piwakawaka

          Dineout maintains a list of earthquake affected restaurants:http://www.dineout.co.nz/earthquake.php

          I would highly recommend St. Germain (relocated post earthquake).http://www.saint-germain.co.nz/menu.html

          It's a little over your budget--they do a 5 course "chef surprise"--one of the best meals I've eaten in NZ for $85 (not sure what currency you were listing your range in).

          1. re: sunnyand72

            Thanks for all your advice.

            Been searching for a seafood restaurant and found a few: Doyles on the Beach, Nicks Seafood and Manta. Although really we not looking for anything too fancy just some good seafood, prawns, lobsters etc.

            Has anyone been to any of these? Also finding lobsters and sharing platters quite expensive $130-160. Is this average pricing? assumed in oz seafood would be better value as in US. As in the UK its very hard to find and extremely overpriced for very small portions.

            1. re: lauren_j

              You have managed to find three tourist orientated places. The Doyle's empire has quite a few outlets across Sydney, it is fine for what it does but has never excited me as a place to eat. Nick's in Darling Harbour is more of a big night out place but still tourist orientated and seems to attract lots of office parties (or did when I went) again nothing wrong with it but not one to rush back to. I think Manta is on Wooloomooloo Wharf and is probably the more upmarket of the three, I have never been, as it never appealed.

              My regular fish places are Fishface, Mohr Fish and fish and chip shops in places like Balmoral Beach. I used to like Pier but have not been for a few years, but I understand the menu ha been simplified and is less expensive. This is probably Sydney's best fish restaurant - but is fine dining. Two other places I enjoyed but have not been for afew years are The Boathouse in Blackwattle Bay which was very, very good, and Flying Fish with both a fine dining restaurant and a F&C take away window. All these are pretty much local Sydney haunts so are not in the tourist hotspots and for me that means they are better. You will also find good fish on most menus.

              The Sydney fish market is really worth a vist, most of the shops have a section that also cooks fish so you can grab a table and fight off the sea gulls. The fish is good, the cooking a little variable.

              Yes food and fish in Sydney is expensive, this is partially because of the strength of the Aussie dollar and partly due to price inflation as the Aus economy is doing OK. I always think the big seafood platters are overpriced for what they are - IMO they are more about show rather than quality. Most of us in Sydney buy lobsters from the market for our Christmas lunch and (this may be odd to say) they are not really common on many menus . I suggest you get them from the market, plus some bugs, and head for a BBQ and do your own.

              1. re: PhilD

                Just wanted to chime in and say that I think PhilD's advice is really good. I'm an American who has lived in London (and now Sydney), and you will find Sydney just as pricey as London. Keeping your budget to midrange/cheap is a real challenge, as many of the Chow-worthy places will easily start to push beyond your $20-30, especially if that includes drinks.

                When we first came to Sydney, a friend took us to Doyles at Watson's Bay for a welcome meal. I was severely unimpressed. Very mediocre food for very high prices. They are definitely coasting on their past reputation and a steady stream of tourists who read about Doyles in their guidebooks. You can do much better, and PhilD's recommendation for Mohr Fish and FishFace are excellent. In my opinion, some of the best seafood can be found at Sydney's asian restaurants-- Chinese and Thai.

                I will note that 'seafood' as restaurant genre is surprisingly rare in Sydney. With its coastal position, you'd expect the city to be overflowing with seafood. But most restaurants do at least couple of good dishes-- oysters are common as a starter, squid is often well-prepared, and a simply prepared filet of barramundi is one of my favourites.

                The Fish Market is a really fun outing for anyone who like seafood, and might be the best place to find your lobster. I am always a little disappointed that the outdoor seating isn't a little more comfortable and scavenger-free (seriously, the gulls will take your lunch if you don't hover over your food, so it's hard to enjoy a leisurely meal). There are a couple of restaurants there where you can eat indoors, though, if you want to escape the gulls.

                1. re: gemuse

                  Thank you gemuse and phild for all your wise words! We are really appreciating your help with our ever growing list of restaurants and activites!! How on earth we are going to fit it all in I'll never know!!

                  Talking of seafood being better in thai/chinese restaurants I've seen a few people mention golden century seafood. Do you recommend it???

                  1. re: lauren_j

                    I am not a great fan of Sydney's big Chinese restaurants, especially for Dim Sum, when we eat Chinese we used to head for smaller more specialist regional places. Thus I am probably not the best to comment on Golden Century.

                    1. re: lauren_j

                      It is a good Guangdong-style restaurant, probably a little dated. It's very expensive and its main claim to fame with the cheffy crowd is that it opens very late. I wouldn't go unless someone else was paying.

          2. hey - sounds like a great trip. I am a melbournian living in Switzerland now and i desperately miss the food from home. I have a few suggestions for you for melbourne:
            For great budget eating go for Vietnamese on Victoria St - any of Minh Minh, Tham Pong, or any others that catch your fancy are great and very reasonably priced, also you can bring your own wine which definately helps.

            Head to Acland St in St Kilda, if you go just a bit further up (away from the sea) you will hit Blessington st and there are two of my FAVOURITE restaurnats in Melbourne, both reasonably priced. One is Claypots - this is unmissable for great and reasonable seafood. The other is mexican, called Blue Corn. If you go down the other end of Acland St, you will find Dogs Bar that is great for italian nibbles and a drink, and not as touristy as the other end of Acland st.

            There are also a lot of great restaurants along Brunswick St at the other end of town.
            Enjoy!!
            Cheers Laurian

            1. Just been down to Chch, and the most notable "restaurants" are now food takeaway stands and trucks run by restauranteurs who have found alternative ways to serve up their specialties.

              - osaka-ya mobile on papanui road
              - dimitri's greek souvlaki truck in the new container shopping district in the CBD (get the falafel, yum)
              - beach cafe (waimari beach) for brunch. they've got this really great baked eggs over sausage/bean stew that's a hearty brunch dish for cool mornings
              - some thai restaurant situated in an alcove close to the corner of bealey/papanui

              1. Some Melbourne advice;

                For seafood Sydney is your best bet, nearly everything in Melbourne comes to us through Sydney anyway and the local stuff is mostly snapper, overpriced crays, and flathead. As far as top notch, affordable food in Melbourne goes focus on the Asian options and you cannot go wrong. Victoria St. Is a must for Pho in the morning or for lunch, head to Footscray for Bahn Mi and more Vietnamese, just walk around and follow your stomach, it is easy to spot the good places by the lines.

                I would steer clear of Cafe di Stasio, it's pretty uninspired and very expensive, you would be better off at Da Noi (Sardinian) at $85 for a fixed menu, and it will be half the price for the same amount of courses at di Stasio and far more interesting and tasty. Also, avoid Carlton's "Little Italy" like the plague unless you like being shouted at and forced to eat bad Italian food that comes with a free bottle of red tinted stomach lining stripper (I fell for this twice when I first moved here).

                If you like spicy, top notch Sichuan food for reasonable prices head to Sichuan House in China Town (Corrs Lane) or Dainty Sichuan in South Yarra.

                For an extremely affordable, and unique, Melbourne Italian experience Pellegrini's Espresso bar is very fun. Standard red sauce and meatballs fare, but you have to experience it to understand why it is a must do.

                I would also advise you to try some of Melbourne's excellent Lebanese options, Rumi is outstanding, exciting, and affordable (for Melbourne).

                That's all I have for now, hope it helps! Enjoy your trip!

                4 Replies
                1. re: egeibel

                  Carlton does have DOC, Carlton Espresso, Carlton Wine Room and Markov (which has a new chef). Not to mention that Espositio and Abla's are near by...

                  I would head to Carlton Espresso before Pellegrini's any day!

                  1. re: kersizm

                    Yes I was unfair to Carlton, too broad a stroke, I'll admit it. There are certainly some good places, if you know where to look, but I will hold fast to my original post, it is rife with pitfalls and tourist traps and a visitor to Melbourne has a very good chance of being ripped off unless they choose one of the three Italian places you listed above (out of 100 bad options that will likely be screaming at them!) And let's face it, any visitor to Melbourne will be told to go there for Italian (as I was when I first moved here) and it is good to forwarn those with taste that Lygon St. Is Not an authentic Italian neighborhood full of old world charm, it's a nightmare.

                    Carlton versus Pellegrini's Essprosso... Carlton may (arguably) have better food but it has less charm than Pellegrini's, I just think that pellegrini's is a great place for visitors, so unique and random.

                    1. re: egeibel

                      Just don't have coffee at Pellegrini. Or Brunetti for that matter.

                      1. re: egeibel

                        True... I think Pellegrini's needs to be done with a warning or even better a guide!