The Manly ferry.
It’s been pretty busy around here. With going to Japan, catching the cold not once but twice, writing three articles, working full time and eating at 30 places (all will be revealed soon enough), I had decided some time ago it seems, that’d be a hoot to do Sydney over the WA Day long weekend.
And boy, did we eat a lot. I’ll probably have to take up running (hah!) to negate all this eating but first things first: our Sydney shenanigans. I’ve tried to keep this short because there’s nothing quite like the boredom of long winded holiday pictures.
Basically here’s short list on some places to eat (or not, in the case of Adriano Zumbo Pâtissier) in Sydney.
Favourites? Momofuku Seiobo (post coming later), Bourke Street Bakery and Quay.
Why hello, Sydney Harbour!
… is as beautiful as it looks. What’s worth doing is the ferry ride that passes the Opera House, Fort Denison and The Heads and on a sunny day, is one continuous breathtaking photo opportunity. Manly itself is sleepy during the weekdays. Occupying a sliver of a spit, Manly is caught between the ocean and Sydney Harbour, so there are gorgeous beaches on both sides with a mall connecting the two. On a sunny day, the sunlight through the sea spray is so painting-like, it’s hard to believe it’s reality.
Within Westfield Sydney is a goldmine of food places with famous names like Din Tai Fung, Ippudo and Laduree. Among them is Sky Phoenix, an upscale yum cha restaurant that’s been on the to-do list since forever. Sky Phoenix’s dim sum is the product of skill. It’s light and delicate with not a hint of MSG. In one word: excellent.
The prawn dumplings (har kow) were plump and packed with prawn and the rice flour rolls (cheong fun) were fresh and silky. Another excellent choice were the naturally sweet and fleshy spare ribs with a good proportion of pork belly and bone. My all time favourite, the yam puff (woo kok) had an amazingly light, wispy coating and stuffing of minced vegetables and pork.
Sky Phoenix’s chicken pie and yam puffs.
THE pork bun. Yes, worth the hype.
If you’re thinking of coming here, get yourself familiar with the rather merciless (yet very efficient) booking system. Get your online account sorted beforehand and logon at exactly 10am EST ten days before the desired date to the get the booking. This is especially important if its a Friday or Saturday night. Don’t even hesitate for a second during the booking because by the time you decide – poof – your table will be gone! It’s literally an online race between diners.
But in all seriousness, once you’re booked in, it’s a wonderful dinner. Intelligent, playful and elegant yet casual, there’s a youthfulness to Seiobo’s food. The chicken tails for example, served with balls of potato and trout roe, sounds conflicting, but was refreshing, crunchy and smooth. Then there’s the pork bun, soft as hell and full of pork fat, it served its purpose as a crowd pleasing, blunt instrument of pleasurably junky food. Last but not least are the counter seats where the kitchen is working and you see your food being meticulously prepped.
Anyway, a longer post for another time.
Billy Kwong stall at Eveleigh Markets. (There’s Kylie Kwong at the back – squeee!)
A great opportunity to mingle with locals, their four legged friends and eat something a little different for breakfast, the Eveleigh Markets provide a glimpse into Sydney’s food culture. It’s very doable by public transport, just 10 minutes by bus to the University of Sydney and from there it’s a 300 metre walk. Or you can catch the train to Redfern Station. That’s a slightly further route, but the walk through contradictory Redfern is quite interesting.
The markets are housed in an old carriage works building that’s been revitalized for public use. Every Saturday, the old cavernous space, with one side knocked out for airy access, gets extremely busy with locals picking up produce and a bite to eat.
One of the many cute doggies.
There are many stalls of note, including Sonoma Bakery and Alex Herbert’s stall (with its famous croque madame) but the most popular and busiest by far is Billy Kwong, run by none other than Kylie Kwong herself. We popped in for dumplings and a Berkshire pork bun topped with a spoonful of chilli oil. Fairly tame choices, considering there were sticky rice parcels steamed with crickets and red braised wallaby shanks on offer…
Billy Kwong’s Berkshire pork bun.
An abundance of fruit and vegetables.
I kicked myself for not visiting Taronga sooner (you’d think being my fourth trip to Sydney I’d already been no?). A lovely ferry trip across the harbour and we’re in a world class zoo. Some of the seriously cool attractions include the troupe of chimpanzees, daredevil mountain goats, Asian elephants, giraffes (with an amazing view over the harbour) and a cute-as-a-button seal show.
And there’s a lemur exhibit soon to open. Definitely a must-see in Sydney, even more so for adults.
Another notch in Westfield Sydney’s belt is Ippudo, possibly ground zero for the world’s cult ramen trend and rightly so. Here, soup is king. Smooth in consistency, it’s porky tonkotsu base is well balanced between sweet and savoury and the toothy noodles are cooked to perfection. Rolled chashu, bamboo shoots and an egg make up the minimalist toppings.
Personally I like the karakama noodles, where each bowl comes with a big dollop of a spicy miso and minced pork paste that’s swirled into the soup.
Noodle chef doing his thing at Chefs Gallery.
The name says it all – a wall of glass is all that separates the kitchen from diners. The star: the noodle chef. Strong arms ply the oily dough with instinctive familiarity and after a few minutes of kneading, rolling and stretching the stubborn dough, a quick cat’s cradle manoeuvre and voila, (blink and you’ll miss it!) the noodles are made. From there they’re dunked into a sink of hot water then transferred into more water to rinse off excess starch.
Left: Spinach noodles on the go. Right: Siu mai pork dumplings (front) and sticky rice dumplings (back).
Dan dan noodles.
The hand pulled noodles are incredibly smooth, soft but still chewy. In the dan dan sauce, the noodles are barely coated as the sauce upon stirring transforms into a very thick, opaque ointment. It’s incredibly rich, spicy, full of peanuts and similar to a mild Malaysian curry sauce, though with a bit of pork mince scattered about. So good.
Owned by the same enterprise that brought Din Tai Fung down under, the restaurant also serves dumplings. Both the dumplings we had were excellent, but I have to admit I was totally won over by the ‘piggy face’ buns! Freshly steamed to order, we discovered both boy pig and girl pig were filled with sweet black sesame paste that just oozed out.
Piggy face buns!
Parlour Lane Roasters
Previous State Theatre costumes give Parlour Lane Roasters an old world character.
We dropped into Parlour Lane Roasters, part of the cooler-than-cool QT hotel for a quick shot of caffeine. Even though it was mobbed by theatre goers, the espresso bar with its costume displays and spunky staff (complete with attitude mind you) had personality and atmosphere. And considering this is Sydney, that’s quite a feat.
The coffee wasn’t half bad but it was the intricate theatre architecture detail that was most intriguing. The atmosphere continued up into the hotel (yes I couldn’t resist a peek), where it was dark, moody and had an almost Gatsby feel.
The original Bourke Street Bakery, Surry Hills.
Bourke Street Bakery
One bite through the tart’s crisp shell and into the thick, ginger cream brulee custard and I was sold. While the Bourke Street Bakery recipe book gathers dust on my shelf, there’s good reason why you leave these sorts of things to the experts. They are so darn good at it. The sausage roll was fabulous, a crunchy, light puff pastry rolled around a log of fennel and capsicum spiked pork mince – a far cry from the normal sausage mince variety. It didn’t even need sauce.
Croissant. Tried to make this from the recipe book. Needless to say, mine did not look anything like this.
The coffee was hideous, but the ginger brulee tart and sausage roll made up for it twice over. So fabulous.
And yes, there’s always a queue here and it’s often out the door (I’ve yet to see a picture of it sans queue) because the inside is so tiny. Like you could only fit two people in there, and they’d both have to be size zero. But outside, it’s bliss. Sitting on salvaged chairs and tables on that Surry Hills corner, pretending to be a Sydney hipster with nothing else better to do on a Monday morning, was priceless.
There are a few Gelato Messina stores, but the Darlinghurst one – the laboratorio (oh fancy!) – is the crown jewel. It’s a doable 20 minute walk from the city, through a terraced, leafy suburb and one wickedly steep street.
(There’s also a Gelato Messina in Surry Hills – what isn’t in Surry Hills you ask? Not much.)
Inside the gelato shop is an eye boggling range of gelato, from the usual suspects like chocolate gelato to the more experimental daily flavours like musk or earl grey. The gelato is a little icier than we’re used to but this allows for distinct flavours to come through.
But what I’ve come for are the laboratorio’s novelty ice cream cakes. We picked the mini-me which looked like a toadstool – it had a heart of salted caramel and popping candy cereal for ‘grass’. There were plenty to choose from including little hamburger cakes and mini bombe alaskas. Even better, these mini cakes come in upsized versions!!
Well no photos for this one. For special occasions I put away the camera. To sit there and enjoy the meal without reminding myself what I had eaten, without the camera, was just a pleasure. Out the window was the Harbour Bridge and to our right was the Opera House, lit up by the vibrant Vivid light show and in front of us, flawlessly fabulous food. Winning dishes included the yabby consommé with garlic custard, the slab of roasted goose (please sir, I want some more) and the veal with wallaby tail (tastes like beef) served with salsify and an intensely smoked bone marrow.
And obviously the guava snow egg.
Quay is definitely a recommended experience. The food is inspired, challenging and delicious. And there’s this view!
A breathtaking 20 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay.
Level 6, Shop 6001 Westfield Shopping Centre/188 Pitt St, Sydney
T: (02) 9223 8822
The Star/80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont NSW 2009
T: (02) 9777 9000
243 Wilson St, Darlington
T: (02) 9209 4735
Can be reached by ferry from Circular Quay. Prepaid tickets include a chairlift ride from the dock to the top of the zoo!
Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman
Westfield Sydney, Level 5, Sydney
T: (02) 8078 7020
Shop 12 Ground Floor Regent Place/501 George St, Sydney
T: (02) 9267 8877
Parlour Lane Roasters
47 Market Street, Sydney
Bourke Street Bakery
633 Bourke St, Surry Hills
T: (02) 9699 1011
Shop 1/241 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, Sydney
T: (02) 9251 5600
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