TRAVEL-3 to try Sydney.
Sydney may be better known for its beaches than its bites, and when it comes to gastronomy, it has historically always been in Melbourne's shadow - Melbourne with its trendy cafe culture, beautiful Victorian produce, and loyal community of top chefs. But this vibrant, picturesque city is giving its traditional rival a run for its money when it comes to culinary offerings - the success of last month's Crave Sydney Food & Wine festival bears testimony to that fact.
The Masterchef Australia phenomenon can probably take some credit for that - the popular series has been based out of Sydney for the first three seasons - but there's more to it than that. Sydney not only ranked higher than Melbourne in a recent UK survey of top foodie destinations around the world, but also walked away with a clutch of prestigious awards at the 2012 Australian Weekend Magazine Hot 50 Restaurant awards.
With plenty of new restaurants opening up, the city is developing its own foodie culture - one of relaxed cafes, top notch international names, micro breweries and food trucks.
Don't miss these Sydney must-dos when visiting the harbour city.
Try Tetsuya's: One of the city's dining stalwarts, this signature restaurant of legendary chef Tetsuya Wakuda has to be on every foodie's wishlist. Discreetly tucked away in a quiet side street off the Sydney CBD, the leafy refurbished villa the restaurant is housed in, is easy to miss. Everything about the three chef hat (Australia's equivalent of a Michelin star rating) restaurant whispers understated sophistication, from the neutral colour schemes to the service which is there just when you need it, without ever hovering. Testuya is a chef from Japan who effortlessly marries the minimalist simplicity and fresh seasonality of Japanese cuisine with classic French techniques, to brilliant effect. The Tetsuya experience is best had with their ten-course degustation menu, which offers a taste revelation in each course. Innovative, without resorting to gimmickry, the food is consistently delicious - expect anything from savoury sheep yoghurt ice cream, and braised ox tail with yuzu, to the Tetsuya signature dish, confit of ocean trout. The degustation menu is best enjoyed with a wine pairing - the multi-award winning restaurant even brought home an award for Hottest wine experience this year. www.tetsuyas.com.
2Zumbo-licious Try adriano Zumbo's
Macarons: This young chef has singlehandedly transformed the French confection into a statement dessert in Australia. A Masterchef regular - an Adriano Zumbo croquemboche (macaron tower) is what the judges trot out whenever they need to pull out the big guns from their challenge arsenal - Zumbo specialises in clever, creative, where-did-that-flavour combination- come-from kind of macarons, which are known as Zumbarons. All of his creations are fun, experimental mouthfuls of delight that you are guaranteed not to forget once you've tried it.
No visit to Sydney is complete without a trip to Manly - a posh island suburb of the city popular with tourists for its beaches and waterfront cafes - so the best way to experience a Zumbaron is to head to the Manly outpost of the Zumbo patisserie chain. A tiny bakery with a bare, studio- meets-warehouse feel and blink-and-you'll- miss-it signage, here you will find not only macarons in different flavours (salted butter popcorn or peach ice tea, anyone?) but an array of other inventive sweet treats including cakes, tarts, millefuilles and lots more. Grab what catches your fancy (the macarons may seem a little overpriced, at around Dhs9 a pop, but they are oh-so- worth-it), and take it to the quirky, arty cafe next door to sip on gourmet coffees while enjoying the Zumbo delicacies, sitting on oak barrel seats. www.adrianozumbo.com.
Try pancakes or a Food
Truck: Pancakes on the Rocks isn't the sort of place an average tourist would go to, but if you're with someone in the know, you'll see why Sydneysiders head here for a quick, fuss-free and tasty bite after a night out on the Rocks. The Rocks is a historical district where the earliest settlers of Australia landed, and is now a thriving nightlife district with bars, cafes and art galleries, housed in heritage buildings. Pancakes on the Rocks offers a lot more than pancakes, with everything from pizzas to crepes also on offer, in the vibe-y environment of a converted industrial warehouse.
If you're not in that area, then a meal on the move is probably the best option. The Food Truck trend - popular in many other cities - has taken a bit of time to arrive in Sydney, but now that it has, it's come with a bang. Designed to offer people more after- hours dining options - they usually go until around 2am - there are different cuisine options (with top chefs at the helm of some) serving up bite-sized portions of gourmet food at affordable prices. There's everything from Mexican and Asian, to organic and vegetarian on offer, making these an ideal option for on-the-go tourists to get a real feel for what is currently trending with Sydneysiders, and to get a taste of Mod-Oz cuisine. Visit www.sydneyfoodtrucks.com. au for details and current locations.
Where to stay
The Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay is a centrally located luxury haven that makes an ideal base for travellers, with the Sydney CBD and its fabulous shopping, the iconic Sydney Harbour bridge and Opera house, and the transport hub that is the Circular Quay ferry and bus station within easy walking distance. The hotel underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment earlier this year, which saw the luxurious rooms undergo a contemporary makeover - think clean, minimalist lines, neutral colour schemes with pops of bright colours, seriously cool art from local artists on the walls, and hi-tech gadgetry. Many of the rooms boast harbour bridge or Opera house views, waking up to which makes for the quintessential Sydney experience. The hotel has a luxe day spa as well as its signature restaurant Icons brasserie, which offers modern international cuisine; other dining outlets include the historic Customs House bar, popular with locals, and Macquarie lobby lounge.
How to get there
Cathay pacific offers convenient flights to Sydney at affordable prices, with a short stopover in Hong Kong that can get you there in almost as much time as a direct flight, with a distinct advantage of reduced jetlag, which breaking the journey offers. The modern aircraft offers comfortable seating and a range of dining and entertainment options. Ticket prices start from around Dhs3,000, cathaypacific.com.
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