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Sydney for 2 days and 2 nights

I'll be in Sydney (coming from the states) for 2 days and 2 nights.

Have reservations at Quay. Would very much appreciate any thoughts folks have on two lunches and a dinner. Particular questions:

1. Rockpool v. Sepia?

2. Having lived in NYC and Houston, we've had pretty good access to Chinese food. Is the Chinese food in Sydney measurably better? If not, is there something else we should focus on for lunch?

3. Is the fishmarket worth exploring for an afternoon/lunch?

4. We likely will have a day in Cairns as well. Any recommendations, especially for lunch, double points if its on the water.

About us: she is classically trained cook (focus on pastry). we want to try as much can't miss as possible, as this will be our only trip to australia. we eat everything.

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  1. Sepia, by a long way.

    I would say that regional Chinese food in Sydney is quite good, if somewhat less than refined - Hunanese and Xinjiang food are my favourites. Don't know how much regional Chinese cooking you get in the US.

    1. I think Sepia vs. Rockpool is a toss up. I would be more than happy with either.

      I live in HK so biased against Sydney Chinese, suggest you try Thai. It is really good and the Thai food scene is pretty competitive so good simple street places (Spica am I and House), slightly more up markets (Chaat Thai branches) and then upmarket (Sailors Tha Restaurant, and Longgrain).

      Fishmarket is OK if you have spare time - eating there isn't that great - far better F&C in nicer settings around Sydney. And if you only have a few days I think its a wasted meal. A lunch on Manly Wharf (a few options); or Pilau (fantastic traditional italian overlooking the sea) in Freshwater; or Seans Panaroma (one of my favs), Icebergs or North Bondi Italian Food all at Bondi Beach are far more iconic (reasonable food but amazing views).

      Can't help much on Cairns (good for the reef but a bit of a concrete tourist/backpacker jungle), if you could change Port Douglas is far nicer.

      For baking a lot of the coffee recommendations in some recent threads are good starting points as Sydney is a very coffee focussed city - Bourke Street Bakery is a good start.

      3 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        Thank you Phil! We love thai food and will look into your recs.

        We are only passing through Cairns (picking up a car and driving to Cooktown). So could just as easily do Pt. Douglass if there are god recs there instead.

        1. re: PhilD

          North Bondi Italian is gone.. ....replaced by an upmarket Fish and Chip type place called North Bondi Fish owned by celebrity chef Matt Moran :

          http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/70/179395...

          1. re: grapsta

            Thanks for the heads up - it's been a little while since I was in town. Looks like I need to refresh my restaurant lists - but back soon so will do.

        2. I just came back from a trip to Australia, including 6 days in Sydney. (I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area).

          One of my favorite meals was the degustation menu at Six Penny. The food was creative and beautifully plated, and the vibe was very casual and low-key. Granted, I went for lunch so maybe that's why it was low-key. But the general vibe of the place is friendly with great service and the chefs from the kitchen bring out all the courses. Servers basically help you with the wine and other stuff. It's in an off-the-beaten track neighborhood (Stanmore) and I think they did that on purpose because they rarely have walk-ins and do all their tables through reservations and people coming specifically to eat there.

          I didn't try as much Cantonese food in Sydney because I wanted to try more the other types of Asian food I typically wouldn't get back in the States, so things like Malaysian, Taiwanese and Sichuan. I had a nice Sichuan lunch at a place called Shengcheng Hot Pot King in the Haymarket district, and a casual but good lunch at a Malaysian place called Sedap Malaysian Kopitiam (in a business center a block from the Queen Victoria Building).

          My observation about Asian food in Australia is that the Australians can be very trendy and a place might look cool and popular, but you can't tell if the meals are really authentic.

          Are you going to other places than Cairns in Australia? 2 days sound like a short trip for such a long plane ride. ;-)

          10 Replies
          1. re: singleguychef

            There's definitely plenty of places - Asian and non - that have a trendy fit out and get good reviews from the bloggers, but are not that special yet very popular...especially new places with a expensive /hip fit-out and hipster staff .Some last ...many don't. I've always assumed similar things happen in most big western cities...although Sydney is no doubt a tad shallow.

            1. re: grapsta

              This absolutely is the case in the States as well.

              1. re: grapsta

                It's true the world over so Sydney is not unusual and the same is just as true in a Asia. Lots of new restaurants with high end fit outs and uber trendy themes. Some are amazingly good, others not so. But I find the reverse to be just as true: just because a place is a basic hole in the wall it doesn't mean the food is any good.

                There are lots of pretty grotty places across Sydney and whilst some are great most are not. The same applies to Chinatown as much as Cabramatta (for Vietnamese).

                But what I would say about Sydney is that many of the new Asian places are run by the kids of the of the first big wave of Asian immigration. They are adopting the same standards as their peers in the general restaurant industry delivering great food in nice environments. They also tend to serve less mainstream, more real food, as well pushing innovation. After all it's not just har gau, Beijing duck, pho, and green chicken curry in Asia these days either.

                A good example is the Thai scene with the Chat Thai chain serving really great food in funky environments,band they follow on from Spice I am etc etc.

                So lots of great places and trendy is often a positive not a bad thing.

                1. re: PhilD

                  Yeah everyone seems to love Chat Thai except my girlfriend and me..tried it 3 times and never been impressed....however I've only been to Westfield and Randwick not the one in Campbell St .

                  1. re: grapsta

                    That's funny - I have only been to Campbell Street. I do tend to head to the Issaan end of the menu and I think I heard each has a slightly different menu so others may be less spicy.

              2. re: singleguychef

                Thanks. The heart of the trip is 6 days on the Great Barrier Reef, a fishing trip I've been dreaming about (and saving for) since 1989 (seriously).

                Did you find any Thai you thought was particularly good?

                1. re: nmprisons

                  The Great Barrier Reef sounds fun, I'm disappointed I couldn't get out to that direction during this trip. Sorry, I didn't try any Thai places because I'm not generally a fan of Thai food.

                  1. re: singleguychef

                    SGC - I must assume that you have been put off Thai because you have not tried good stuff i.e. you like spicy as you went Sichuan, and you like lots of SE Asian as you ate Malaysian.

                    So a bit of a shame not to try it in Sydney as it's often acknowledged to be second only to Thailand itself.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      Never been a fan because Thai in the States have too much sauce in the cooking. But you're right, maybe more authentic Thai wouldn't be as saucy. I regret not going in Sydney since they have a whole "Thai Town."

                      1. re: singleguychef

                        Interesting, Thai food definitely features lots of soups and curries, but it also has a whole spread of wonderfully diverse salads and stir fries that are essential parts of any meal.

                        Suspect many places outside of Thailand can't do the salads because of lack of essential ingredients - David Thompson for example moved his Thai place from London because the supply of fresh ingredients was so erratic - so you get endless green chicken curry.