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Jul 27, 2012 02:40 AM

Dining with good wine options in Sydney and Melbourne

I am going on a two week business trip to Australia in October where almost all meals are part of the trip. However I do have a few slots to fill up on my own. One lunch in Melbourne, two lunches and a dinner in Sydney. I have aleady booked Quay for Friday lunch in Sydney, leaving Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch. I have only been to Sydney once before and then I did really enjoy Rockpool bar and grill. I also dined at Waterfront and China Doll and had a lunch at Wine Odyssey. I enjoyed all of them even though none of them were on the same level as Rockpool. As lunch at Quay will be minimum three dishes my idea is to order a la carte in the evening. The restaurant I'm most interested in visitng is Tetsuya, but as I understood they only do tasting menus. Is it a must or should I leave it for a later visit?
I am also thinking about visiting one or several of the different Rockpool restaurants, is it worth visiting more than one on the same trip? Looking at the menus they seem to differ quite a bit from each other. I was also wondering if they differ between Melbourne and Sydney in terms of quality?
It is important that the restaurants have a good selection of wines and a bonus if they have a decent selection of half bottles and wine by the glass as i am dining alone.
For my lunch in Melbourne it will be on a Friday. Would one of the Rockpool esablishments be a good option?
In terms of food I am quite flexible as long as it is well made so I am very open minded here, fine dining, steak houses, Asian, seafood...

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  1. Skip Tetsuya. Not what you're looking for. Try Sepia or GastroPark for something a bit different.

    The Rockpools are centrally managed, but then again so is the Merivale empire. They are generally different, though B&G in Sydney and Melbourne (and Perth) are very similar.

    In Melbourne, for wine and food equally billed (and assuming you are angling for Australian wine) I'd probably look at Cumulus and PM24, or possibly the Grill at Fiorentino. To focus it down a bit more it would be helpful to know where you are from and what you like....

    7 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Thank you for the help, most welcome. I'm from Sweden working in the wine trade. I will most likely choose Australian wines when in Australia and have a preference for Clare Valley Rieslings, Hunter Valley Semillon and cool climate Chardonnays for whites. For red I prefer elegant spicy pinots and shiazes. Producers I appreciate would be Cloonakilla, Farr by Farr, Shaw & Smith, Grosset, Pirie etc.

      1. re: JosefK

        Rockpool definitely has a trophy winelist for the investment bankers. As does any top end restaurant, though I found the Quay one a little bland and very European. That will be your main problem, dodging Eurowines that you will be familiar with.

        So I'll stuck with Cumulus, but I might also nudge you towards the City Wine Shop on Spring Street. Contrary to its name, it is both a shop and a restaurant - part of the European - and they have a large selection of wine by bottle, half bottle and glass. Might be more of a wine bar than one of your destination diners but the wine list would be amongst the best in the city.

        1. re: mr_gimlet

          I've now had a good look at your suggestions and must say they all seem wonderful, especially Cumulus and PM24, they seem to be exactly what I'm looking for. Its just too bad I have such a limited time, but on the other it's quite likely I'll be back in a not too distant future.

          1. re: JosefK

            PM24 has an oenomatic as well, so they often have some good stuff by the glas

            1. re: mr_gimlet

              In Sydney, I'd throw in FIX St James. Good food and excellent wine list. The crew there can point you in the right direction for wines as well. Plenty of local wines to choose from.

              If you want wines as the star, check out a few of the wine bars (Wine Library in Paddington, Love Tilly Devine in Darlinghurst, 121BC in Surry Hills). All highly knowledgeable staff and large selections (though going by the glass limits your options, they usually have more unique offerings).

              I'd also add the Bentley for a dinner. They do an a la carte menu and have a good wine list to match.

              1. re: BeanTownGolfer

                Good recomendations from BTG - I was at Fix last week and I enjoyed it a lot.

                Many Aus wine lists have gone very European these days which is a slight shame. I was at Cumulus last weel in Melbourne and headed to an Austrian Pinot and Portugese red as they were far better value that the Aus choices on the list - quite weird. Food was very good.

                1. re: BeanTownGolfer

                  Thanks, with all these recommendations I feel confident I will truly enjoy the wine and food scene in Melbourne and Sydney. Luckily for me it turns out I have an extra day in Sydney - so more time to enjoy! So far I've booked Quay for first lunch Rockpool on George for first dinner and Fix St James for second dinner. Haven't decided yet for my last two lunches, most likely i will do one more "wine place" from all the recommendations i have and one Asian restaurant or a place for good burgers to get some variation. In Melbourne I had a hard time choosing between Cumulus and PM24, but as Cumulus did not take reservations unless it was for lagrger groups that made it easier.

      2. First of all i wnat to thank you all for sharing your tips. I had a wonderful time in Australia and was very excited about what is happening on the Australian wine scene with producers moving away from the big, alcoholic block busters to more subtle styles. In terms of wine lists my top pick on this trip will be Fix St James, great selection! In Melbourne I also appreciated the offers on PM24. I never had the chance to dine at Cumulus, but had breakfast there and from what I could tell by eyeing what was on display they seem to have a good selection. The group also dined at a fairly new opened place called Virginia Plains which were very serious about their wines as well. A few nights we ended up in the Supper Club and though we never dined there we drank very well. In Sydney, apart from Fix St James, I drank some nice wines at Love Tilly Devine, though never ate there. The wine list at Rockpool by George was good, but if I remember correctly the one at Bar & Grill is more impressive. Quay also offered a good wine list and the head sommelier is trying to incorporate more of the new, lighter and elegant styles I found out. In terms of food I ate well at all places mentioned, but a bit surprisingly to me was that all my favourite dining experiences were at Asian restaurants, as Spice Temple, Mr Wong and Cin Chin - probably because there is no Asian restaurants of this standard availible in Sweden... On my next trip I will make certain to include even more Asian restaurants.

        1. Thank you for mentioning Fix St. James. I had a chance to dine there in March 2013, and it was certainly time well spent, of my 22 hrs in Sydney! I attended on a Monday evening, and the room was buzzing but not overly loud.
          The greatest pleasure for me was the availability of 1/2 pours for the wines, which allowed me a broader sampling.