I experienced Sydney for a week, but still feel like I only scratched the surface. People discount Australia as a mini America, but this is so far from the truth. Sydney especially is always seen as a very American city. If you come into Sydney with this attitude you will miss the unique and amazing culture the city harbors. Sydney is a thriving, unique, and beautiful metropolitan area. I immediately was able to see that the city had its own unique vibe and culture. Don’t believe the stereotype of “Mini America.” This could not be further from the truth. My Sydney Guide will disband this thinking.
This is part 2 of 3 of my Sydney Guide. Part one focuses on setting up your trip to Sydney and training while there (where to bike, swim, and run). This post focuses on the best places to see and the best places to eat and drink. Part three includes the best nightlife, what to see, and a view into the local culture. Be sure to check out the other posts!
I may have only had a week in the city, but I really explored many of the different neighborhoods. Just like any city, all of them had a different vibe and awesome food.
Sydney: The Health Food Mecca
I am a huge foodie and exploring a new city gives me the opportunity to try new foods. I always jump at this opportunity since I love trying new things. Sydney is the perfect food haven since it has so many influences from all over the world, especially their close South East Asian neighbors. What I really loved about Sydney and Australia in general was everything was fresh and there were countless healthy options. I had no trouble having amazing salads or fresh meat and veggies for lunch or dinner. There is a lot of produce produced in Australia and it shows. The people are also very health conscious creating countless healthy options.
One of the coolest things about Sydney is the food courts. These are not like the nasty food courts you see in the US. They have all different kinds of food from across the world. It is one of those things where you can walk around it four times and still not know what to get. My first meal was grass fed lamb with greens and sweet potato fries. Another day I had more grass fed lamb with an amazing handmade salad. The food courts contain an abundant amount of healthy food making eating right easy. The portions are pretty good and you will only spend $10-$20 AUD.
Check Out All the Small Shops for Food From Across the Globe
Besides the food courts, there are a lot of little shops with unique offerings. You can find anything from Greek to sushi. The options are really endless. I loved sticking to some diverse salads especially beet and sweet potato (Aussies love both). I had no trouble sticking to my healthy diet and enjoying some awesome lunches. Check out my post on staying healthy on the road for more on my methods. There are also so many healthy juice places. I destroyed so many green smoothies. You can also pop in to a Coles or Woolies (supermarkets) for pre made salads and grilled chicken. This is a great budget option.
The Diverse Food of Sydney: Kangaroo to Dim Sum
Sydney really has a diverse collection of food. You can smell the Asian influence just walking through the streets. Although the “typical” Sydney food may not be the most interesting (think meat pies and pub food), there are still some great “local food” options. There are also some amazing Australian food options since their meat and vegetables are so fresh. In Sydney you can get anything from kangaroo to dim sum and they will probably be two blocks away.
Swimming at Bondi got me hungry!
One of the first meals I had was Thai. I had been missing good Thai food since my trip to Thailand and I thought Australia would boast some great Thai food since it was so close. My expectations were blown away. I went to Chat Thai located in Circular Quay and immediately wanted to go back later (which happened). The food was so fresh and great tasting. It was perfectly spiced and hit the spot. Chat Thai actually has multiple locations across the city and all of them having amazing food. I highly recommend it.
My further expedition into South East Asian cuisine occurred at Mamak, a Malaysian joint. The food here was definitely good and not too expensive ($20 AUD). They have an awesome roti bread which comes with great sauces. I got the chicken curry with potatoes which was on point. It is very busy and often has a line, but you can always pop in to grab something to go. Mamak is in China Town. Sydney’s Chinatown is the most Asian Chinatown I have ever been to. There are Asian places everywhere along with diverse people. It’s just south of the central business district (CBD) and is a great place to explore.
Hitting Home With Some Hearty Aussie Food
In my first venture into Aussie food, I went all in. I ordered an emu and kangaroo pizza from the Australian Heritage Hotel Pub (located in the rocks). This pizza is called the coat of arms since an emu and a kangaroo are on the Australian coat of arms (pretty funny). It was surprisingly good and the meat was tasty. It is definitely worth a try. The pub is also fun to visit because it is a typical Australian pub. It has been around forever just like many of the iconic buildings in the rocks area. Grabbing a pint here is a must when visiting Australia (a pint is the large size – 16 ounces and a schooner is smaller – 12 ounces). They actually had some good craft beers and a surprisingly good IPA.
Coat of Arms Pizza – Emu and Kangaroo
My Favorite Meal in Sydney: Cheap Yet AMAZING
I would be doing you a disservice if I did not mention my favorite meal I had in Sydney. It was wholly unexpected and unplanned, but turned out to be out of this world. After biking to Bondi, I had Little L’s Chicken which is right near the north end of the beach. All I can say is wow. It is a small hole in the wall, but the flavor is incredible. I had a grilled chicken burger on a whole meal (whole wheat) bun with chili sauce. They had an option for double chicken so of course I went for it. It was incredibly satisfying and turned out to be one of the best things I ate. Do not miss this place!
I checked out an awesome little gastropub in Newtown called Bloodwood. It has a great little vibe and had amazing farm fresh food. I had couscous with grilled lamb and pea pods. The roasted Brussel sprout appetizer was incredible (it’s hard to avoid healthy in Sydney). Newtown and Surry Hills have a lot these local and awesome tasting places.
My fav roasted brussels at Bloodwood 🙂
The other thing to try in Sydney is a meat pie. When Aussies refer to pie they are actually talking about this variant not the sweet fruit kind. They are often filled with meat and veggies or potatoes. They are surprisingly good and can be found across the city.
Explore the Fresh and Local Seafood
The Sydney seafood scene is awesome. You would expect this since it is right on the water. Darling harbor is much quieter than Circular Quay and it is a great place to check out local restaurants. Everything has outdoor seating almost right on the water. You really cannot go wrong with any option. The best way to do it is walk by and check out the menus to pick something you like. I ate at Nick’s seafood which was very good. The grilled snapper was fresh and delicious. The service is a bit slow here, however. Check out all the restaurants along the water in Sydney (there is a lot). Here you are bound to have amazing seafood along with superior views. You really can’t go wrong.
There are also some great bars and restaurants near the Opera House. They are right on the harbor near the bridge offering the chance to see boats coming in and out. I had some great wine sitting while enjoying the breeze off the water. Be sure to check out the local wine in Australia. It is cheap and usually comes from the vineyard from the next town over.
Lobsters ready for eating
Sydney is a huge city so there are a lot of spots to check out. I clearly just scratched the surface. It can be really difficult to figure out, but the key is to try a little of everything. Some other spots I recommend (and locals recommended to me) are Mr. Wong (dim sum), Café Sydney (modern Aussie with great harbor views), Lotus Dumpling Bar, and Din Tai Fung (more dumplings). This is obviously not an extensive list, but it will get you started. Don’t be afraid to try the diverse set of food that Sydney has to offer. There wasn’t anything I had that I didn’t enjoy.
Where Did This Amazing Coffee Come From?
You hear a lot about amazing coffee coming out of Melbourne, but I soon learned that Australia in general has amazing coffee. There is no such thing as a regular “coffee.” Everything is expresso mixed with something. The typical coffee was called a long black (expresso long pulled with hot water). A flat white is also very typical. This is expresso mixed with foam just like a latte. It is different than a latte because more expresso is used. These coffees emphasize the bean flavors which are really incredible. All coffee bars also have the typical coffee drinks you expect like mochas (my favorite) or macchiatos.
Single O Coffee Stop (taken from their site)
You can find coffee everywhere in Sydney. At the University of Sydney I literally saw four coffee places all within ten feet of each other. It’s safe to say Australians love their coffee. My favorite coffee I had in Sydney was from Single Origin or Single O. They have locations across the city, so it should be easy to pick one up. Don’t miss out on the Sydney coffee experience, it is really amazing.
With Coffee Comes Brekkie
Australians love their “brekkie.” Brekkie is of course breakfast and Australians are obsessed with it (they actually shorten a lot of words like Uni – university or Macas -McDonalds). Don’t miss out on your chance to grab an awesome breakfast with your coffee. I enjoyed an amazing breakfast every day in my hotel which included food from all over. I actually had kimchi everyday (loved it), mushrooms, green omelets, tomatoes, baked beans, and the occasional South East Asian food. It was incredible. Again, so many healthy options including chicken and veal sausages. Muesli and nuts were also readily available.
Since I spent most of my breakfasts at the hotel, I did not get to experience many local breakfasts. However, everywhere has great looking pastries and usually healthy juices. I had a great experience at Café Shenkin, a cool little Israeli café in Newtown, one morning in Sydney. I had my first Shakshuka which is two poached eggs over slow cooked tomato, capsicum, and garlic sauce served with a delicious pita ($19 AUD). The tomatoes and the freshly made ingredients hit the spot before my long flight.
Very good AND different Israeli brekkie
Newtown and Surry Hills are great places to have breakfast just like this. They are all locally owned places with their own flavors. Australians love their brekkie so you really can’t go wrong.
More Gelato and Please
Australia has more gelato places than I have ever seen in my life. They are on every street corner and you see a new one almost every block. Sydney is no exception; you can find somebody walking with an ice cream cone everywhere. It makes it really hard not to want ice cream. Normally I don’t have much gelato or ice cream, but I felt compelled to try some. I was not disappointed in the least. I was walking and exercising so much that I really needed some! My favorite spot near the CBD was RivaReno Gelato. This gelato was decadent and creamy. It’s in Barangaroo near Darling Harbor. Be sure to check it out.
I was “lucky” to even experience my other favorite gelato. I actually missed my flight to the US due to bad weather on a connection from Melbourne to Sydney. As a result, I was stuck in Sydney for the night. This is when I got to try the ultimate dairy free gelato from Gelato Blue in Newtown. I could not believe it was dairy free since it was the best gelato I had WOW. Sydney has also liquid nitrogen gelato. The gelato is literally frozen with liquid nitrogen and mixed with all sorts of flavors. It was bomb. Check out the N2s across the city for this sweet and sciencecy experiment. I admit I don’t have much ice cream at home, but Sydney gave the perfect chance to try some awesome flavors. Its really all about balance. Check out my post on eating abroad for some tips.
N2 – Liquid Nitrogen Gelato
Have a Shout and Connect Over a Beer
Beers in Australia are typically the heavier lager style and don’t have all that much taste. However, drinking beer is a huge cultural thing in Australia and enjoying a beer with some mates is a must. There is also a growing craft brew scene in Sydney. King Street Brewhouse is right on Darling Harbor and a great place to enjoy some beers outside. Their beer is OK but the location is awesome. Red Oak Brewery is right in the CBD and has excellent beers. We met some locals there who would not stop buying us rounds. This is really common in Australia and is called a shout. One person shouts drinks for everyone and the next round is shouted by someone else. As Americans, they just wanted to keep buying us drinks. Australians are just beyond friendly!
Good view demanded good drinks!
If you head towards Newton, there are a lot of breweries out there. I didn’t have a chance to try most of them, but I did make it to Staves Brewery. The owner was an awesome guy boasting some great beers. If you keep walking or take the train towards Newton and Erskinesville, you will find a lot more breweries. The craft beer scene in Sydney is really new as there are only five or six breweries (this is nothing for a big city), but it is expanding and the beers are really good. I was surprised at how many of them matched up even to the best US IPAs.
Eat and Drink Your Way Through Sydney
As you can see Sydney is an amazing place for food and drink. There are so many diverse options for every meal of the day. There are also so many healthy options which left me very happy.
To eat and drink your way through Sydney follow these steps:
- Hit up the food courts for a diverse set of foods (healthy options abound)
- Get some fresh produce from the local Coles or Woolies
- Delve into the heavily Asian influenced food scene
- Check out the local Aussie pub scene
- Get some of the amazing seafood
- Have a great brekkie along with a better coffee
- Have some local beers with some new mates!
I hope you enjoyed this part of my Sydney Guide on eating and drinking. I really explored many areas of the city and spared no time trying everything. This post is nowhere close to exhaustive, but it gives a great start. Sydney is a great city to try new things. Get out there and expand your boundaries. Don’t be afraid of losing your health; Sydney makes it easy to eat healthy. Part three of my Sydney guide includes the best night life, what to see, and a view into the local culture.
Lots of walking means more excuses to eat and drink!
This is part 2 of 3 of my Sydney Guide. Part one focuses on setting up your trip to Sydney and training while there (where to bike, swim, and run). Part three includes the best nightlife, what to see, and a view into the local culture. Check out the other posts to get the full Sydney picture!
Have you explored any of the local Sydney cuisine? What are some of your favorite spots to eat in Sydney? Where have you had some awesome beers? What are your favorite coffee and brekkie spots? Let me know in the comments. As always email me with any questions.
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