Sydney is one of my favourite cities, being both a great place to live and visit. Good food, great coffee and an outdoor lifestyle are just the beginning. However, just like visiting Paris, Hong Kong or New York, knowing the right places to go will make all the difference in determining the quality of your experience. Below is a local’s guide to spending a couple of very enjoyable days in Sydney.
1. Start the day like a local and exercise outdoors. Surf Bondi or Manly, walk from Bondi to Bronte along the 6km return cliff-top route or go for a run harbour side in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Exercising in Sydney is all about being outside in close proximity to the water.
2. Breakfast with the locals in the inner city (an area comprising the suburbs immediately outside the central business district). Surry Hills, Potts Point, Redfern, Newtown and Alexandria all offer a slice of Sydney cafe life comprising superb coffee—see our list of the best ten coffees here—, quality ingredients (fresh fruit, yoghurt, eggs, smoked trout, etc) and often an outdoor setting. Some of the best and most consistent breakfast options are;
The Grounds of Alexandria [Building 7a, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria] An unbelievably successful operation that continues to expand its footprint. Long lines of people waiting for a table on the weekend testify to its popularity. Local’s tip, go during the week.
Bills [Bondi, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills] A modern Sydney dining institution, Bill Granger has exported this slice of Sydney cafe life well to rest of the world. The ricotta hotcakes and scrambled eggs are not to be missed.
Single Origin Roasters [64 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills] Serious coffee operators in the hip Surry Hills precinct, serving breakfast and lunch.
Cornersmith [314 Illawarra Road, Marrickville] A little out of the way for a visitor, however, the SMH 2014 cafe of the year consistently delivers meals based on the freshest ingredients and great coffee.
Boon Cafe at Jarern Chai Grocer [425 Pitt Street, Sydney] All day venue mixing traditional Thai food, Single Origin Roasters coffee and Penny Fours pastries by the team behind the wildly popular Chat Thai.
3. Lunch: Sydney’s best lunches feature quality ingredients, creative cooking and well decorated venues. Almost every type of cuisine is on offer including Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Greek, Italian and Chinese, alongside Sydney’s own take on all these styles. It is not unusual to go to a restaurant and see multiple influences done well by a single team. Here are a couple of our favourites;
The Cross Eatery [155 Clarence Street, Sydney] Healthy salads and great coffee in the central business district.
Spice I Am [90 Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills ] Serves spicy Thai cuisine including the best crispy pork belly with Chinese broccoli I have ever tasted.
Din Tai Fung [World Square 600 George Street, Sydney] The city’s best soupy pork dumplings and a delicious wonton noodle soup.
Gowings Bar & Grill [49 Market Street, Sydney] A buzzy business/casual atmosphere with the bulk of the tables full at lunchtime mid-week.
4. Drinks before dinner: So many places to choose from, although late night drinks can be hard to come by.
Baxter Inn [Basement, 152-156 Clarence Street, Sydney] Serves serious cocktails including Sazerac Rye and Bullet Rye Old Fashioned’s. Expect moustachioed bartenders who know their liquor.
Golden Age Cinema & Bar [80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills] A glamorous cinema and bar in the old screening room of Paramount House.
The Local Taphouse [122 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst] Craft beer heaven.
5. Dinner; Similar to lunch, all types of cuisine are available with three of the best fine-dining restaurants being Quay [Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks], The Bentley Bar [27 O’Connell Street, Sydney] and Tetsuya’s [529 Kent Street, Sydney]; Bookings are essential.
More casual dinning options include Bodega [216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills], Cho Cho San [73 Macleay Street, Potts Point], Nomad [16 Foster Street, Surry Hills], Sugarcane [40a Reservoir Street, Surry Hills] and Bondi’s Best [8/75-79 Hall Street, Bondi].
6. Recommended activities while in Sydney:
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb; amazing views, even for the locals.
Taronga Zoo [Mosman] wonderfully positioned overlooking Sydney Harbour, it takes around four hours to fully explore.
Art galleries: White Rabbit Gallery [30 Balfour Street, Chippendale], NSW Art Gallery [Art Gallery Road, Sydney], MCA [140 George Street, Sydney], Sculpture by the Sea [October/November] and Vivid [May/June]