Where to start? Well first of all I should probably start with a BIG thank you to the wonderful people of Sydney for making my trip so incredibly special and to my host for his hospitality. I started out needing a break but what I got was an experience that changed my life forever, and which gave me the strength I needed to start over and make the changes I’ve been needing to make for a long time. For the first time in as long as I can remember I suddenly felt like I could breath. So, before I get carried away on a personal journey through healing and self-discovery, I should get right down to the nitty gritty and tell you about all the wonderful places I discovered on my journey – just in case you ever happen to be there. I do this whenever I travel, I make a list before I go, I try to get through it while I’m there although mostly get a quarter of the way through, and then I make a list after. Weird, I know, but somehow beneficial to me; it also serves to keep me entertained on flights and ensures I’m busy wherever I go.
So let’s start with a little bit of the good stuff – FOOD! Breakfast spots in Sydney are in abundance; there’s the infamous Bill’s; brain child of chef Bill Granger and home to his world-famous breakfasts. This place is ALWAYS packed so I suggest booking in advance. Bill’s flagship store is located on Crown Street in Surrey Hills and there are plenty of awesome little eateries nearby if you don’t get a table – try Fifi Foveaux’s which is a little further down, opposite the Crown Street Grocer; The breakfast we had here was definitely worth going back for, and the coffee was superb. Heading in the opposite direction towards Oxford street you will find Kawa, another local hot spot, and although I only grabbed a juice and snack I must note that it was really delicious, the menu here looks interesting and people seem to love it, so much so that there was a 14 person waiting line outside when we left. Four Ate Five is another Crown Street favourite and TimeOut magazine rate it pretty highly too. If you are willing to travel a little further then The Pantry in Manly does a mean Eggs Benedict, has the best view of any restaurant in Sydney, and their lunch menu is to die for.
Then there is the question of coffee; something you may be aware I am very particular about. I had several recommendations and a whole list of my own to try so we started with the basics. Campo’s coffee is well known in Sydney and they have been roasting here for a long time; it’s never just about a good roast though, baristas make up 50% of a good cup and Campo’s flagship store in Newtown have some great staff who can knock out a pretty special coffee. It was good. It was really, really good. Big thumbs up! Another notable one is the coffee at Max Brenner the chocolate specialists, especially their Oxford Street store in Paddington. My favourite coffee came from Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville – this tiny store has the best baristas East of Italy and their own blends are roasted right there on the premises. The mind simply boggles. I drank in silence and watched them in awe.
While in Marrickville we also happened to stop in at the Yeeros Shop; this place has been around for decades and the namesake traditional Greek dish is served up to local patrons by the younger generations of the Greek family who have owned the store since they first landed in Australia – talk about authenticity. Nothing has changed apparently, and although this is simple street food, it’s damn good. Other must-see, must-eat lunch spots include Doyles (either Watsons Bay or The Fish Market) for serious seafood, Sea Bay on Pitt street and Yoshii for sushi (or Sushi Train). Darling Harbour has great restaurants, as does Bondi – be careful with your choices though as a lot of it is the same. There are some great little gems in Sydney, you just have to look for them. For instance The Grounds in Alexandria is absolutely fabulous, you just have to find it!
Evenings in Sydney are always magical, especially if you are there in summer (although I don’t know why you would go during their winter). If you are on a budget and want very good but simple Seafood there is Nick’s Seafood in Darling Harbour; if you want simple but well cooked, melt-in-the-mouth ribs try Hurricanes in Bondi (or Darling Harbour) – I would suggest sticking with the ribs and chicken here as the steak is not that good. Food in Sydney is pricey for anyone holidaying here, no matter where in the world you are from; if you have the budget though, there are some really top notch restaurants in Sydney and a few of them are still on my to-do list for my next visit. For French fair and reasonable prices try L’Etoile in Paddington. If it’s more of a fine-dining experience you’re searching for then my suggestions are Quay which has an incredible view over The Rocks, Momofuku Seiobo at The Star, Rockpool Bar and Grill in the city and Porteno in Surrey Hills. Make bookings before you head out, a lot of these places get really busy. If you don’t know where to go, try heading out into Paddington, Surrey Hills or Newtown; filled with great restaurants and hidden gems, these places come alive at night and can make for a great spontaneous evening out.
If you’re after an evening tipple and fancy something underground and a little more interesting than the loud bright city bars, there a few quiet corners of Sydney where wine and cocktails can be found served to the beat of some rather interesting music. A host of bars have opened in recent times, paying to the speak-easy / underground bar scene which is currently so popular. My first suggestion for cocktails would be The Baxter Inn on Clarence street in the city (or their sister bar The Shady Pines Saloon in Darlinghurst). Next up on the list is wine; The Wine Library on Oxford Street is pretty cosy and has a fairly substantial and well chosen selection which is followed closely by William, a wine bar on William street in Paddington. Nights in Sydney can be a whole lot of fun if you know where to look.
Sydney seems to be the kind of place you go to relax, eat, drink and wander around in the sunshine among the scantily clad, perfectly toned locals. Its a tourist hot-spot and a rich kids playground all at once; I am particularly fond of the old architecture and terraced housing, it has a sort of New York meets Cape Town feel to it and yet still maintains a uniquely Australian vibrancy. I only managed to get through a quarter of the things I wanted to do during my time here and I hope to get back to Sydney very soon.