This Week's Top Tips in Sydney - Restaurants (in no particular order):
1. Chinadoll Restaurant (Woolloomooloo Wharf) - I visited China Doll restaurant in March, and was so impressed I sent an email thanking them for such a great night. 'The food was amazing and plentiful, the cocktails divine (I've never tasted anything like the rhubarb cocktail), the location and decor is stunning, and the staff were just amazing. We had a very patient waiter who gave us just the right level of attention, was charming and indulged our less-than-sober states.' Superb is the only word to describe this place! Book a table - you'll thank me!
2. Ripples (multiple chains) - my all-time Sydney favourite. Both the Chowder Bay and Milsons Point branches of this mini-Sydney chain are just fantastic. In great locations - both with such typically Sydney stunning harbour views, and fabulous well-priced tasty food. Chowder Bay is actually my fav. of the two, but only because the staff at Milsons Point are often a little rude, and they never ever let me just have a coffee, even if there is no one in the restaurant and it is 3pm (and it is pretty much my closest cafe). Whereas Chowder Bay let Sarah and I have a coffee once (and gave me a free pastry - albeit with a tiny huff and puff) But still I go back to both and always take my visitors - with views like theirs, they can almost get away with being just that little bit rude. Book ahead, well ahead! And BYO.
3. Table for 20 and Sticky Bar (Surrey Hills) - Great, great, great on so many levels. My main draw card to this place is its charity focus. And so many people rave about it - and it is justified! I think it is best described on its own blog, so I'll point you in that direction. The idea is great, the menu and food were great on the night we went, the bar upstairs is great. Just love this place - but it is difficult to book so plan ahead and be willing to go with their flow (they are in control, not you - just flow with it) and whatever you do, don't make the same mistake as I did and drive - I couldn't find a park and held dinner for 40 people up for over an hour (oops - more embarrassing, I coincidentally knew some of my fellow diners). It is important to be on time!
4. Bodega Tapas Bar and Restaurant (Surrey Hills) - I'm not normally a fan of Spanish food, but this was great. Be careful of the lucky-dip hot chillies - I got them all! Great cocktails again. Not sure about the booking system because Rohan organised it all, but the place was pumping - so you might need to book early and arrive on time (from memory maybe they phoned us when the table was ready!?). Recommended for Spanish Tapas.
5. Mother Chu's Vegetarian Kitchen (Pitt St, Sydney City) - How many nights have I ended up here, and how much do I love this place? The food is all vegetarian, in fact I think the whole menu is suitable for vegans. Tasty, tasty, tasty! A typical cheap and cheerful Asian restaurant - plastic chairs and tables, no alcohol, but that is half the charm. Try it - you'll love it!
6. Marigold Citymark Restaurant (Haymarket) - Trolley based dim sum! Oh it is great. This is one of my fav. ways to spend a Sunday lunch, and this huge dining hall in Chinatown is one of the best places I've ever found to do it. Trolleys after trolleys of great, fresh, unusual dim sum, with all your old-time favourites too. I'll never forget the plate I had which I renamed 'fruits of the forest'. Great value if you pick wisely, and lots of fun and fabulous food if you don't. No need to book ahead - go on an empty stomach.
7. Cold Rock Ice Creamery - need I say more? Pick a flavour, pick your filling(s), and chop, chop, chop on the cold rock and you have your own little piece of yummy ice cream heaven. Branches all around Sydney.
8. All of Kirribilli, to be honest! One of the best dining strips I know (but then I'm biased). Very busy on a Friday and Saturday night, most places do take away and BYO. Highlights include Garfish, Bangkok Sidewalk, the square pizza place, the fish and chip shop near the bridge, the chocolate shop, the bread shop, Freckle face, Stir Crazy, the Spanish place (although be aware, they often add more to your bill than you've actual ordered), and the Kirribilli Village Cafe. All very friendly places, and all places to take your newspaper for a long afternoon in the sun.
9. Lavender Blue Cafe (Blues Point Road, Lavender Bay) - how could I write this blog without mentioning a single cafe on Blues Point Road. I've only been to two places on Blues Point Road (and didn't eat at the other, so don't know if I can recommend it). But this place is just so friendly. The waiters knew what I wanted and needed before I did (on one visit I was being particularly clumsy and managed to drop each piece of cutlery a number of times, and mis-order a coffee I knew I didn't like, but the lovely staff were there to catch each knife and bring me lots of milk). I think it has recently renovated. Have the vegetarian breakfast stack - yum, yum, yum and quite guilt-free.
10. Bathers Pavilion Cafe (Balmoral Beach, Mosman) - one of my long term, show-off-Sydney-to-visitors type favourites. I can thank my godmother for introducing me to this cafe many years ago, and for recently giving me its very glamorous cookbook (which is full of challenges - such complicated and impressive food). There is a posh-table clothed restaurant side, but I'd give it a miss over the cafe side which is so nice in itself. Set on Balmoral Beach in an old building, this is a gorgeous cafe and the food isn't too bad either (breakfast is the best time to go). No bookings, so go early and be prepared to line up. Views of the beach are perfect - take your sunglasses and swimmers. I can guarantee you'll be taking your Sydney visitors too.
I hope you try some of these places and enjoy them as much as I have. Many of you who have visited Sydney will have already tried some of these places with me. I'd also love to find some new places! If you've got some suggestions and your own top 10, please let me know.