In Sydney there's a vast difference in dining options in terms of price, quality and cuisine. Really, there's something to cater to all delights. In my recent trip over, I managed to stop and try a few different eating spots while out and about. Here's a rundown of some of these places.
Hot Star Chicken
Earlier in 2014 Jeremy and I joined other members of my family for a catch up holiday in Taiwan. The entire trip felt very much like we were eating non-stop, and one of the munchies we experienced at the Shi-Lin market was fried chicken.
Large fried chicken
I come from a family who isn't too phased by chicken, but there's something quite special about poultry like this. Think the biggest schnitzel you've ever eaten... then triple the size (at least). These are HUGE. The photo above shows over half sticking out of the bag which gives you an idea of just how mammoth these are - and all for around $7ish from memory.
On our last day in Sydney Jeremy and I were due to catch up with my friend Weras for lunch. But having skipped breakfast and knowing we wouldn't eat for at least an hour, we were starving. And we gave in to the lure of Hot Star Fried Chicken which was across the road from our hotel.
Not wanting to get too full we decide to share a serving of the large fried chicken (original) with spicy seasoning, and some curly fries with chilli mayonnaise. Placing our order we wait about 5 minutes and then walk away from the small stand to find someplace to sit and munch away.
The chicken is juicy, beading with moisture as we bite into the crisp expanse of meat. It's just like the one we had in Taiwan, though the seasoning is not as spicy as we'd encountered there. Each bite is flavoursome and tender, with the right contrast of texture between the outside and soft inner.
I really like the curly fries. I know fries are often easy to just say yum to and that's that, but these were fluffy inside and delectably crunchy when you bit down. The chilli mayo is nice but nothing earth shattering - I prefer Grill'd's version which might be mainstream but really has made an impression on me in the taste department.
If you're in Sydney's CBD area, do yourself and your wallet a favour and stop by Hot Star for the economical and delicious chicken. It's simple but damn tasty.
Harry's Cafe de Wheels
If you're a regular reader of this blog you may have picked up on the fact that I'm a bit of an Anthony Bourdain groupie. Not only do I have all episodes of No Reservations, the Layover and Parts Unknown, I've also just finished reading his Kitchen Confidential book (it's amazing). There's something about his devil may care, say it as it is attitude and his overall knowledge of food that really appeals to me. He's the wild cowboy of the culinary world and in my eyes has the best job ever. Seriously.
Anyways, I bring this up because on one of his trips to Sydney he makes his way to the famed Harry's Cafe de Wheels - a 24 hour joint known for their pies and celebrity visitors such as Elton John.
Pie & peas
Strangely on a Saturday night in Sydney it's not as easy to find late night eating spots as you would think. Sure, you have Chinatown with a few venues, but outside of that it's hard to track down someplace to stuff your face after 11pm. While normally this wouldn't be an issue for me unless I was out drinking, on this occasion the boy and I had just seen the amazing Lion King at Capitol Theatre - and we'd run out of time before so hadn't had dinner.
After walking around different streets over and over again, we decided to sate our hunger by trying out Harry's. I have to admit with all the hype, I was expecting big things.
Pie & mash
We each choose the famed beef pie which has chunks of lean topside beef in a peppery gravy. Jeremy tops his with mushy peas and ketchup, and I go for mashed potato and ketchup. While some connoisseurs might sneer at sauce with a pie - it's the Australian way!
You can sit outside the cafe on wheels (a locked down giant food van basically) or you can opt for take away. Since it's the middle of winter and cold, cold, cold, we get our pies take away to enjoy on the brisk walk back to our hotel.
The pies are nice enough, very traditional. I think I'm more of a fan of your gourmet pies these days thanks to Tuck Shop but on a hungry stomach it hit the spot. The peppery gravy is indeed very pepper ridden, a little too much so for my palate. But I can see the appeal of this place, and especially thanks to what I vaguely remember being really cheap prices - plus the fact you can get these at any time of any day. I also really like that the pies are made fresh each day - never frozen. It's little things like this that really appeal to me.
On our final day in Sydney my friend Weras took us to the ever funky Newtown for some hipster culture and shopping, plus lunch of course! After an hour or so of walking around, we picked our lunch spot - Iberico, a Latin American small tapas bar.
I opt for a serving of fried plantains and hogoa croquettes, but once I spy what both the boys order - the bandeja paisa ($20.00) I immediately have order envy. What a feast! Known as Colombia's most popular dish, this vast plate is made up of beans, rice, chorizo, pork belly, beef mince, fried plantain, avocado, arepa (a corn flatbread) and topped with a fried egg.
I didn't even think of snapping my food but it was nice - probably not the smartest decision to order two fried items. The plantains were sweet and similar to fried sweet potato in texture. The croquettes were starchy and a little dry, but when you scooped up a mouthful of the accompanying guacamole it was tasty.
My attention to my dishes was lost when Jeremy offered for me to share his. My love of beans overtook all other senses! While not especially complicated in flavour profile, the simplicity and generosity of this dish hit the spot. The beef mince is a little plain, but the rice is fluffy and those beans are salty and slightly toothsome. I'm lucky enough to grab a little of the pork belly which crunches under my teeth with a loud, satisfying crackle.
Iberico didn't blow me away, but it hit the spot - a bit of a mixed bag in delivery. The only real downfall with this place I found was the wait for our food to come out. It took around 30 minutes - a little too long when you're hungry and know you need to go to the airport soonish.
Avenue on Chifley
Sometimes when it comes to booking flights I get a little swayed by cheap tickets rather than looking at sensible arrival or departure times. I fall for this every time I go over east! Sadly this trip was no different, with the boy and I touching down at 6am meaning we had hours to kill on no sleep before we could check in to our hotel. Lucky for us, the hotel was kind enough to check us in at 10am instead of the normal 2pm (yay!) so after a long walk and a delirious breakfast we were in.
Walking around Sydney's CBD is quite an experience and definitely the best way to explore. With long stretches of continual streets, there's little nooks and crannies to poke your head into all over the place.
As our tummies grumbled, we decided to stop off at the nearest cafe that was serving breakfast. A little outdoor seating (and indoor if you could squeeze in amongst the early business diners) venue that reminded me of the sort of sidewalk restaurants you see in Malaysia - long and skinny.
I was so out of it, so forgive me for the limited snaps. To be honest I'm surprised I even remembered to take photos in the first place!
Jeremy's breakfast was a tortilla with a scrambled eggs mix that contained tomatoes and chorizo, plus a chunky relish on the side. He says it tastes okay, not amazing but it warms him up and wakes him up a little (the coffee probably helped too!). The tortilla is soft though the eggs let off a little too much liquid which causes the tortilla to get a bit soggy.
Poached eggs and hollandaise is always a sure way to win my heart. While normally I call the combination of eggs, salmon and hollandaise 'Eggs Norwegian', Avenue on Chifley offers benedict as ham or salmon - the diner's choice. I opt for the smoked salmon, which sits atop of cooked spinach and a potato hash instead of your standard bread.
The hollandaise is good - buttery and thick, though there's not enough for my liking. Sometimes I really can be such a pig with it! The salmon is a little greying in the corners and dried out but when I cut around it, the fish is oily and delicious. I like the potato hash, which is crunchy and well seasoned, though a little soggy in the centre. If that was corrected it would be quite delicious indeed!
All up, it was a decent breakfast and one in a great location near the harbour. If I'd been less sleepy we might have tried something more adventurous on the menu, or opted for a place more like my preferred dining style - but this was definitely enough to wake me up for the walk back to the hotel before I passed out!