Four days in Sydney
After my 9 days in Cuba, I spent 4 days in Sydney before heading home to Perth.
My journey back to Australia was from Miami to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Sydney. I used my frequent flyer points to upgrade my flight to Sydney to premium economy, which turned out to be a great decision. As it turned out, the flight was nowhere near full, so I had no one sitting next to me – having my own space was easily the best part of the flight, even better than the premium economy service (excellent) and food (definitely superior to economy but nothing extraordinary).
I don’t sleep well on planes though, and I felt very tired when I arrived in Sydney after the almost-15 hour flight. After checking in at my accommodation (the Meriton apartments on Kent Street), I only had energy to grab a takeaway lunch from the Thai cafe next door – roast pork and rice, with kailan tossed with garlic and chilli in a hot wok to order – I ate quickly, relishing a freshly cooked ‘real’ meal (always such a pleasure after airline food) before crashing for the next few hours.
I love Sydney and try to fit in a visit every 1 – 2 years (see my blog post on my long weekend in Sydney from 2015). My agenda this time was to go walking (catching Pokémon along the way), catch up with friends and enjoy some great food. Don’t worry, no Pokémon talk – this post is focused on the food part of my visit.
I had a craving for congee, and with Chinatown a five minute stroll away, I googled for breakfast joints nearby. I found Ching Yip Coffee Lounge, a Hong Kong-style coffee shop that sounded perfect for my needs. It is located on the second floor of a building called Dixon House, on Sussex Street. It was early (8am) and when I arrived, the cleaner was still dragging his vacuum over the carpet. With the air-conditioning not yet switched on for the day, it was a dingy, stuffy, kind of sweaty-smelling place. At that time, the escalators were just stairs. Thankfully, the air was cool and circulating at Ching Yip, apparently the only shop open at that time.
The next morning, I was startled to see news stories about a gas explosion at Dixon House. Almost 12 hours after I had enjoyed breakfast on the second floor, a gas main exploded, injuring people who’d been in the food court downstairs having dinner. You can read a couple of reports about the explosion here: Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.
I googled for an alternative breakfast venue and came up with Super Bowl Chinese Restaurant, just a street away, also open at 8am. I had breakfast at Super Bowl twice; the service was as disinterested as it was brisk, but the food was tasty and cheap.
*You may remember my late onset crustacean allergy? Amazingly, I can eat dried shrimp and dried shrimp paste with no ill effects -dishes with sambal belacan seem to be OK, for instance – I still only have small amounts, to be safe. Sadly, I definitely can’t eat har gow (steamed prawn dumplings) at yum cha though…
My friend Caroline took a few days off work for my visit (I went to King Island and Hobart with Caroline and her hubby Craig, and I spent time with them on my previous long weekend in Sydney).
Caroline and I met up for lunch each day. Poor Craig wasn’t able to take the time off work to join us, so what did we do? Tortured him with photos of whatever we ate, of course!
On our first day out and about we went to Spice Alley at the Kensington Street precinct in Chippendale. We got there just before the office crowd arrived for the lunch rush. There are six Asian eateries at Spice Alley – Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Cantonese. I’d love to work near a place like this.
I tasted Black Star Pastry’s signature strawberry and watermelon cake for the first time at the Perth Night Noodle Markets last year and was looking forward to having another slice while I was in Sydney.
After lunch at Spice Alley, we walked back to George Street to the Black Star Pastry cafe at Kinokuniya, which is one of my favourite bookshops of all time.
The great news for Perth cake lovers is that Black Star Pastry is returning for the Night Noodle Markets at Elizabeth Quay (22 March – 2 April 2017) so you can enjoy this sensational creation for much less than the price of a plane ticket to Sydney. Also at the Night Noodle Markets, Black Star will be partnering with N2 Extreme Gelato again on Cake Smash Gelato, which is a flash-frozen, whipped version of the strawberry watermelon cake, complete with the rose petals and pistachios. Personally, I think nothing beats the cake itself.
The next day, Caroline and I went for a walk around Barangaroo. There are loads of cafes and restaurants to choose from here, but we joined the queue for Belle’s Hot Chicken, another place I’ve had my To Eat list for a while.
I had wanted to check out pie specialist The Pie Tin on my previous trip to Sydney but ran out of time. This time around, Caroline and I caught the train to Newtown for lunch on my final full day in Sydney. The Pie Tin’s range varies daily and they published the day’s selection of savoury and sweet pies on their Facebook page, which always made delicious reading. I wrote the previous sentence in past tense because they haven’t posted the daily list of pies since 1 February 2017.
I met my friend Karen for dinner on the first night, after waking up from my big nap. I had considered a number of different restaurants for our dinner and Cirrus Dining‘s menu was by far the most enticing. As it is a seafood restaurant, I checked before making a reservation whether a crustacean allergy would be problematic. I would of course avoid dishes that clearly featured crustaceans, but wasn’t sure if crustacean-based ingredients were widely used in the other seafood dishes. I was assured there would be no problem accommodating my allergy, so I went ahead and made a booking for us.
And so, besides the marron, Moreton Bay bug, crab and lobster dishes, our waiter advised the only other dish I should not order that evening was the coal roasted bass groper + paperbark + aromatic broth – because the broth was crustacean-based. Easy! Like most of the trendy places these days, sharing is encouraged, and that’s what we did. We were one of the first tables seated for dinner, and one of the last to leave. It was fantastic to catch up over what turned out to be one of my best meals of 2016.
Such an outstanding meal would’ve felt incomplete without dessert. We ordered the magnolia ice-cream + passionfruit + almond meringue. Karen was intrigued with the idea of magnolia ice cream; I was ambivalent but open to suggestion. As it turned out, the floral note of magnolia was perhaps too gentle, easily upstaged by the dehydrated tropical fruits that included lychee and pineapple, and meringue shards, all delivered in a rocky cluster. It tasted better than it looked; we dug in with spoons until the asteroid collapsed. Karen described it as “pavlova on acid”.
In 2012, Caroline, Craig and I had a brilliant dinner at the now closed down Greek restaurant Xanthi at Westfield Sydney. I’ve kept track of chef David Tsirekas’ ventures since then and had his latest eatery, 1821 Restaurant, high on my To Eat list for this trip. I made a dinner booking for Caroline, Craig and me. Again, sharing was a no-brainer.
In 2011 Juji and Jay, Craig and Caroline, and I went to Porteño , the restaurant of celebrity chefs Elvis Abrahanowicz & Ben Milgate in Surry Hills for a feast of meat and fire, barbecue Argentinian-style. This trip, I was eager to try their new venture Bodega 1904, located at yet another new dining precinct in Sydney – The Tramsheds Harold Park – and Caroline and Craig were my dining companions again. The bistro-style menu is – you guessed it – designed for sharing!
There are plenty of other interesting dining options at the Tramsheds at Harold Park (and there’s a tram, as you can see below!). Check out the link in my list at the end of the post.
Pizza and cats
We also had homemade pizzas for dinner, made by Caroline, at their apartment one night. Friends and cats, pizza and comfy couches… can’t do much better than that!
I think you can see why I love Sydney so much…
Where I ate in Sydney
Ching Yip Coffee Lounge
Shop 210, Second Floor, Dixon House
413-415 Sussex Street, Haymarket
Super Bowl Chinese Restaurant
41 Dixon Street, Haymarket
Old Jim Kee and Alex Lee Kitchen
Spice Alley, 18-20 Kensington Street, Chippendale
There are many places to eat and drink (in addition to Spice Alley) at Kensington Street
Black Star Pastry
We went to Black Star Pastry at The Galeries, right next to Kinokuniya on Level 2, The Galeries, 500 George Street, Sydney
Other Black Star locations: Newtown, Rosebery, and Carlton in Melbourne.
Belle’s Hot Chicken
We went to Belle’s Hot Chicken at Barangaroo – Shop 5, 33 Barangaroo Avenue, Wulugul Walk.
Other Belle’s Hot Chicken locations: Tramsheds Harold Park and in three locations in Melbourne – Fitzroy (the original Belle’s), Richmond and Windsor.
There are many places to eat and drink at Barangaroo
The Pie Tin
1a Brown Street, Newtown
23 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
122 Pitt St, Sydney
Tenancy 15, The Tramsheds Harold Park, 1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge
There are many places to eat and drink at The Tramsheds Harold Park
Until next time…