One of my most favourite things to do when I arrive in a city is to go on a tour straight away. This isn’t a tour in the usual sense where you get on a bus and drive around to find one of the 7 wonders of the world or a famous building or bridge. No, for me it is to get in amongst the cafes and markets and see what’s happening in the food scene. Get a snap shot of what people are eating and drinking.
It has always been the same for me. It’s not a new fad, I’ve been in the restaurant industry all of my life. And so…in Asia or Europe or Australia, that is what I like to do. I find a local or a professional food guide and set off at a cracking speed to see & hear as much as possible. So when my darling friend Julie arrived from New Zealand a couple of weeks ago, I thought she might like to do a bit of a tour of a handful of diverse Sydney places. This is our whistle stop tour. You might like a little look yourself.
I was picking her up from Central Station, in Sydney’s centre, and rather than go for the congested lower end of Surry Hills I decided on the newly gentrified Chippendale. Something for Jess provided us with a satisfying coffee and a freshly baked orange praline muffin. This tiny personal space relies on a weekly changing menu of home grown produce and local favourites like Pepe Sayer butter and luxe bakery bread to lure the locals. Recycled and reclaimed and a definite place to return to. It was hard to leave with the smell of bacon in the air and the friendly service. Don’t come here for shiney and new and leave your Ikea mentality behind but be prepared for fresh interesting food that leads rather than follows. Quirky.
Something for Jess, corner Abercrombie and O’Connor St Chippendale
Then off to the country in the city. There may be endless things good and bad written about “The Grounds of Alexandria ” both in print and on the net, but you cannot beat a twirl past here with a visitor to Sydney. On this Friday mid morning, the place is full and we have to go to the garden with a “buzzer” until they are ready for us. The garden visit is certainly not painful. Out here produce used to be grown and picked but the restaurant seems far too busy to be able to support itself in this way now. The garden has sprouted a children’s play area, private alfresco dining and pop up food sales as well as gorgeous tables to sit at amongst the garden greenery. To me though the draw card was Kevin the oh so adorable pig, who rolls over and lets you tickle his tummy.
They have recently introduced markets. See their facebook page for details, but on this Friday there are market stalls set up along the walkway outside the restaurant with some very delicious looking foods.
Once inside we ordered a little snack to see us on our way. A plate of toasted Quinoa rolled Soft Boiled Eggs on an Asparagus Salad and some Falafel with a fresh green salad .
Once you leave the grounds walk across the carpark and into the Salt, Meat and Cheese warehouse. Here you’ll be able to buy hard to find ingredients and the just plain gourmet….there’s a fresh pasta and a cheese and charcuterie shop overflowing with cured meats and cheeses stacked in tempting stacks leaning towards you displaying their names. Ask for a taste of their very reasonably priced Jamon. Buy flavoured salts from the salt box and all manner fresh and packaged foods.
My New Zealand pal is suitably impressed so far, but I have plans to wow her further and we move on to another surprising place for the second part of our lunch. One of my favourites in the Alexandria area is Bread and Circus Wholefoods Canteen. This hippy- centric cafe is open 7 days. 7 am to 4pm. The menu is posted daily in a nod to seasonal & fresh and it’s chaotic free form nature just makes me smile. Like visiting an Aunt in Byron bay, the share tables are crowded with cutlery containers, pinch bowls of salt and pepper, flowers, jars of condiments, organic jars of vegetables and well, if it all gets too much, you can go and recline in a striped beach chairs on the concrete slab beyond the by-fold doors.
Rosetta Stone Artisan bakery is also in the warehouse style complex along with Campos coffee and the innovative Cipro Pizza a taglio (another great love, but not on this tour). This warehouse is a one stop cafe treat. You can stay here from breakfast to dinner
Bread and Circus Wholefoods Canteen
21 Fountain street Alexandria
So thats lunch. Now it’s time for other surprises and I am so pleased Julia is still up for more. Bourke Street bakery is even famous in New Zealand and when I mention we will be swinging by here she is very happy. We buy one of their famous ginger brulee tarts to share. I so love these, with their crunchy pastry base and creamy ginger custard and the finest cover of caramelized sugar that cracks when your teeth bite into it.
Bourke Street Bakery original location 633 Bourke St, Surry Hills
Now for a change of pace we head to the grotty back streets of Newtown to visit Young Henry’s micro brewery. This surprising business opens out before you as you walk in through a side door and down the corridor of a garage style brick complex to end up in front of a bar. There are huge vats and nimble looking bearded chaps climbing ladders to peer over the top of each vat checking the product. They are a welcoming mob and you are cheerfully offered a tasting of all of their ales for $10.00. There are “Feather and Bone” charcuterie plates paired with local Cornersmith cafe pickled Brussel Sprouts if you intend to settle in for a while. Buy a take away bottle for home and bring it back for a refill when you get to the bottom.
Young Henry’s Newtown Brewery Units D & E Wilford St Newtown
Newtown is home to many interesting places but none quite so special as Black Star Pastry and it could be a crime to leave this suburb without sampling something from this shop. It is now well past 3pm and the tiny shop is still a sea of people snapping up the last cakes and tarts on display. We buy the last Salted caramel and Chocolate tart made with beautiful Amedei Italian chocolate. We find the last two plastic stools out side on the street. There is no where inside Black Star as the single window bench is full of people gobbling down the last watermelon and strawberry cakes.
Black Star Pastry 277 Australia Street, Newtown 7am – 5pm
Our last stop is in the Rock’s. It’s a quintessentially Australian pub in the oldest part of Sydney. This is another brewery and we have a chat to the young brewer while we sip a cold beer called “three sheets” ale. This is the oldest continually licensed pub in Sydney.
This is the end of the day, we have laughed and chewed our way around a mere 4 suburbs. There are so many amazing places to visit in Sydney. I am planning another tour shortly….now Julia has gone back to New Zealand….who wants to come?
The Lord Neslon 19 Kent St The Rocks
Footnote: Since I wrote this story Kevin ( the Piglet) has grown up and been taken to a farm. there are other animals to visit here now.