9 things to check out in Sydney
I have been to Australia at least half a dozen times. I am always blown away by the quality of food and wine, informed, friendly service and charming down-to-earth no-nonsense Australian attitude to life. There is a humility and dignity which is refreshing and very “new world”. Sydney is the perfect first stop Down Under and what a foodie paradise it is!
Start your journey on Singapore Airlines, not the national carrier Qantas. You won’t regret it. Apart from the seamless service, great big seats and plenty of legroom, the food and drinks are outstanding. SIA has won the prestigious award for the Best Overall Wine Cellar 2017.
If you’re in the rarefied atmosphere of first class, they serve Krug 2004 Champagne and one of the best Aussie wines, a Pinot Noir from Paringa Estate. In business and in all the lounges, you’ll be very happy with the delicious Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. The food is designed by a panel of international chefs, so you’ll find Indian, Asian and Australian menus on routes Down Under and fabulous ‘illy’ single-origin coffees, TWG teas, cocktails and mocktails, all served with a smile.
Ready for a bit of the high life? The luxury seaplane operator offers sightseeing tours in a classic Beaver aircraft. Whether it’s a scenic flight over the beautiful Sydney Harbour, a flying journey of the golden sandy Northern Beaches, a romantic picnic for two on a secluded beach, or the best ‘taxi’ ride to one of Sydney’s river or ocean restaurants — Sydney Seaplanes will get you there in style. They take off from Rose Bay, which you can reach by either taxi or even better, a lovely inexpensive ferry ride from Circular Quay. On a fine day, the dashing young pilots in shorts are happy to take you on a scenic tour of Sydney over the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, down along many of Sydney’s beautiful northern beaches and harbours to our destination, which happened to be Whale Beach, a stretch of pristine white sand and spectacular views. It would normally take an hour or so to reach here by car from Sydney but in the seaplane it takes only 20 minutes.
Karen Anand is a culinary consultant, food writer and entrepreneur. In recent times her name has been synonymous with farmers’ markets. Follow her on www.facebook.com/karenanand
Rock a 180-degree view
Location. Location. Location. Whoever said that must have been thinking about the Hyatt Sydney. Right opposite the Opera House, under the Harbour Bridge on the edge of the fashionable area known as The Rocks, the Park Hyatt is the place to stay in Sydney if you want a view to beat all views. Choose one of the suites on the circular front of the hotel and you’ll have a 180-degree view of the Opera House as your 25ft electric curtains draw open. It also has one of the city’s nicest restaurants on the ground floor facing the boardwalk and Sydney Harbour.
A new Australian brand of hospitality, QT Sydney had a much-anticipated opening this year and is the only Sydney hotel to be a member of the exclusive Design Hotels. Rocking the city with their edgy, quirky design, happening F&B spaces, bars and beautifully decorated contemporary rooms, QT Sydney shares the building with two of the city’s most majestic historical buildings, Gowings and The State Theatre. The eccentricity of the hotel is offset by the historical features of the building, such as the blend of gothic, art deco, and Italian-influenced architecture. Although I didn’t stay at the QT, the vibe intrigued me as I walked in off the busy and bustling Market Street where most of the high-end shopping, restaurants and bars are. I was hoping that quirky didn’t stretch to the bedrooms and was pleasantly surprised at the comfort level of their spacious rooms. Apart from this, it seems to be the place for the wild, wacky and cool crowd to party.
Upmarket yet relaxed, Bennelong Restaurant is an absolute treat for lunch. The bar is literally under the Opera House’s shell vaulted sails with spectacular views over the Harbour Bridge. The restaurant with huge glass panels overlooks Circular Quay and the Harbour. The menu is based on award-winning chef Peter Gilmore’s vision of Australian cuisine. Incidentally, he also runs the other culinary icon in Sydney, Quay restaurant which is just opposite. You can choose from a two- or three-course a la carte menu with service starting early, catering to the pre-theatre dining crowd. Dishes to go for are the salad of spring peas, smoked almonds, asparagus and tomato chutney; wild cape york barramundi and the mooloolaba yellowfin tuna with kohlrabi remoulade. Benelong offers 180 of the country’s favourite and small-scale wine labels from an eclectic collection of winemakers. This is quintessential Sydney for me.
Sydney Opera House
Go for a guided tour or, even better, go see an opera at any of their six halls. Join the one-hour Essential Tour and see inside the World Heritage-listed ‘House’. Your guide will show you the theatres and stages where more than 1,600 performances come to life annually. You’ll see some of the thousand rooms and 300 corridors of the building. You’ll leave this tour with a fascinating account of the House’s history and architecture — it’s an exciting introduction to Sydney’s vibrant performing arts scene.
I heard plenty about Bondi Beach but had not realised that it has a sub-culture of its own. It’s not just a series of serious beaches (Bondi/Tamarama/Bronte) but an area of great restaurants, cafes and shops which makes Bondi a real Sydney suburb worth talking about well beyond the “hippie” image it once had. Musts to visit in the area are Camilla for silk kaftans, Gertrude & Alice for books and coffee, and Icebergs for the most spectacular lunch overlooking Bondi Beach. It’s not just a restaurant serving outstanding food (not surprisingly a huge variety of seafood and Italian), it’s a style statement. And don’t forget to listen to Bondi 88 FM, the local radio station, while you are there.
Sydney fish market
Firstly, unlike many fish markets I have visited round the world, it doesn’t smell fishy. The variety of Australian seafood alone is quite staggering — from Tasmanian giant abalone and crabs weighing 17kg to prawns, crayfish, Moreton Bay bugs, marons, Balmain bay bugs (all Aussie crustaceans), rock lobster and, of course, oysters galore. Each fishmonger in addition to selling fish has ready-to-eat dishes, including sushi, lobster thermidor and shucked oysters. If that isn’t enough, there are plenty of restaurants both within the market and outside where you can enjoy a seafood lunch in comfort.
On the first floor is the Sydney seafood school, which conducts cookery classes. On certain days of the week, they also have master classes by Sydney’s top chefs. Although most of the classes are over $100 for a two- or three-hour class, lunch or dinner and a glass of wine is included. For someone who really enjoys cooking, this is a must-do. Classes run throughout the week but there seems to be a better choice over the weekend. Check for substantial discounts if you’re a group of six or more.
Perhaps the only feature that can divert your attention from the stunning view at Jonah’s is the exceptional food and wine offering. The award-winning “hatted” restaurant offers excellent contemporary Australian cuisine under the direction of chef Matteo Zamboni. They were the recipient of Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards in 2017 by Gourmet Traveller with a cellar containing over 11,000 bottles of vintage Australian and international wines and a wine list of more than 1,600 different labels.
Apart from the fabulous food and wine, Jonah’s is a little luxury getaway with 11 beautiful rooms, all with stunning sea views, a spa and all the trimmings. The seafood platter for lunch which consists of a deck of raw and cured fish and oysters to crayfish thermidor and warm Coffin Bay scallops along with a glass of Aussie Arras sparkling, is a must-have. And yes, an added bonus is that you can spot whales as they migrate between May and November.
Yes, believe it or not, there are some really world-class food experiences to be had in the city. One of my favourite fine dining restaurants is Tetsuya’s, which combines a masterful blend of skill, artistry and taste. Tetsuya Wakuda’s attention to detail is consistent and beyond sublime. Signature dishes include the confit of Ocean trout, consomme of tomato and tea, Tasmanian Pacific oysters with rice wine vinaigrette, tuna with daikon and wasabi, sea scallops with lemonade fruit and yuzu, and the sashimi of hamachi (kingfish) with blood orange and vinaigrette.
The petuna ocean trout dish has been served in the restaurant ever since it was a humble first-floor dwelling in a very ordinary suburb of Sydney. Tetsuya was the first chef to ‘discover’ this fish and to source many wonderful products from all over Australia. Do not leave without trying the warm kombu bread and truffle butter served regularly in between courses. Not that you need any more food but this is a must-do. Tetsuya’s only does a degustation menu — 10 courses paired with world wines. There is no a la carte. Each dish is truly a culinary masterpiece. If you have the time, budget and inclination (you’ll have to reserve way in advance), don’t miss it. Aus $240 pp for the whole experience.