Thursday, 4 October 2007

A homecoming

When Sydney has been your home for the bulk of your years and you visit as often as I do, it is quite impossible to pop into Tetsuya’s, Guillame or even Bill’s on every trip. Even if my finances would permit such indulgences, my approach to travel rarely involves being organised enough to make reservations. This time I was on a mission of sorts. To prove that the city that is all too often criticised as having more expensive and less satisfying dining experiences than Melbourne can offer delightful fare to those on a budget who never think to book ahead. Melbourne certainly stands up to the test for the fiscally and organisationally challenged with inexpensive and memorable spots such as Camy’s and Tiba’s, so it was time to see if Sydney was up to the challenge.

The Buddha Belly

Although it’s located in the suburbs, this little treasure is worth the drive. Discretely hidden away between a nurseries and vegetable sellers, it’s a real treasure. The restaurant consists of a series of open Balinese structures that allow the flow of cooling breeze on a warm Sydney day. An impeccably manicured Japanese style garden surrounds. The eye is immediately drawn to a pond filled with the fattest golden koi and crowned with a waterfall spilling over moss-covered rocks. A traipse through the gardens and over the Japanese bridge is a must between courses.

The food proves fusion cooking is far from dated when it’s as well executed as it is here. There are also a few standard café options. Our table samples the fried calamari with green papaya salad, fried tofu salad with green tea soba noodles and the pumpkin and leek soup with goats cheese dumplings (all approx $16).

Washed down with the Buddha Belly juice consisting of mango, lychee, coconut, jackfruit and pineapple, it’s the perfect spring meal.

The Buddha Belly
327 Mona Vale Road, Terry Hills
PH: 02 9450 1504

For those in search of a faster, cheaper Asian meal you can’t beat Chinatown or for something a little different, Newtown with its array of Thai and Japanese restaurants in the sub-$10 bracket. No wonder the students love it so much.

Different Drummer Cocktail and Tapas Bar

For those in search of an affordable dinner venue it’s hard to go past Glebe Point Road. It’s a sensational melting pot of candlelit Italian, exotic Morrocan, spicy Indian, trendy vegetarian and cheap and cheerful take away spots. In search of a drink and a nibble we settle into the more discrete of the two tapas establishments, Distant Drummer. It’s packed with locals by 7pm which isn’t surprising given they offer a free cocktail with every one that you order from 6-7:30pm.

Perched on a bar stool at a window counter it’s the perfect spot for people watching and to linger over a cocktail on a balmy evening. The tapas (all $10) are actually a mix of Spanish style dishes and bar snacks with a few ethnic twists. We opt for the chargrilled lamb brochettes in Moroccan marinade and chorizo with cherry tomatoes & basil. The skewers of juicy lamb are paired with a simple green salad. The richness of the chorizo works beautifully with the sweet tomatoes and clean flavours of the basil. We order bread to mop up the juices.

Different Drummer
185 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
Ph: 02 9992 9406

It’s hard to pass up the churros with chocolate sauce for dessert but for those in search of a real chocolate fix, visit Chocolateria San Churro, a little further up Glebe Point Road or the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Martin Place or Cockle Bay where we indulged in the below on another evening.

Badde Manors

Perhaps unsurprisingly I find myself back in Glebe a few days later for a visit to the market. I’m led to a café that easily rivals Melbourne stalwarts such as Ray. Featuring indulgent vegetarian fare ($7-14), the sensational plates passing by suggested meat eaters would feel far from deprived. There’s also a tempting cake selection. With eight pastry chefs in addition to the café’s own there are unsurprisingly some fantastic creations on offer. On this occasion I just indulge in a couple of scoops of refreshing sorbet but I’m determined to return to sample more.

Badde Manors
37 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

Lyne Park Café
On my final morning for a farewell brunch I’m eager to do something traditionally Sydney and what could be more Sydney than a waterside meal? In a city where $40+ mains are the norm, my self-imposed fiscal constraints lead me to Lyne Park Café, Rose Bay. The service alone is enough to make me return. It’s warm and attentive with a sincerity that’s all too rare.

Alongside the traditional egg options the menu boasts superbly fluffy ricotta pancakes and fruit. They don’t even raise an eyebrow when my dear dining companion requests a side of bacon. I opt for the corn fritters with bacon, avocado and relish. The fritters are perfectly cooked and all the components work together beautifully. It’s sweet, salty and zesty. Although there isn’t a spare table the staff happily let us linger over our coffees.

As if I needed any more convincing that you can find exceptional dining experiences on a budget in this city, this was the view across the park.

Lyne Park Café
600 New South Head Road, Rose Bay
Ph: 02 9388 3834


Anonymous said...

This a sensational post!I must visit Sydney and try these some time. Great photos.

Cynthia said...

The Austrailian Tourism Board should hire you!

Hungry Hamster said...

Hey, thanks for dropping by! You have great pics yourself too! Looking forward to reading more posts! They are making me hungry!

Agnes said...

Sure looks like you had a great eating time in Sydney! I'll keep your post in mind for a future visit :)

Truffle said...

Anon- Thank you!

Cynthia- I wish! Any job that involves travel always appeals to me. Thanks :)

Hungry Hamster- You're very welcome. Just the desired effect!

Agnres- It was a great trip and the money I saved on food meant more funds for clothes!

Deborah said...

It's posts like this that make me wish I could afford to travel more often!! A flight to Australia is not cheap from here - but if it was, I'd be there!

Belinda said...

Wow! What a wonderful, beautifully photographed post! Gosh...those fish really look striking in the photos, gorgeous! And ALL of that food! It sounds and looks like you had a fun trip...and it sure makes me wish I was in Sydney. :-) Great post!

Wendy said...

:) Australia just worked it's way up my Dream-holiday list.

Katie Zeller said...

It looks like you ate very well indeed...I'm so jealous... I need a travel-y job...

Truffle said...

Deborah - I wish you could visit! Whenever I travel overseas I'm always so frustrated by the long flight times from Australia and I imagine it must be a deterrence for a lot of people that would otherwise love to visit here. If only it could be quicker and more affordable!

Belinda - thank you so much! Looking back I've realised I don't have any of the classic Sydney photos (the Harbour bridge, Opera House etc) but I guess it just shows Sydney is beautiful in many ways.

Wendy - you really must visit! I didn't even show you the touristy highlights so think of it as a very small sample of a truly wonderful city

katiez - I would adore a travel job or at least one that allowed more time and money for travel!

GS said...

Great post - the Sydney-Melbourne culinary divide is a hot topic in this house as my partner is from the harbour city. However this will give him a whole heap of ammo!

stickyfingers said...

Wow I loved that post. Thank you so much for that insight. It's so rare to hear of anything other than the big name venues in Sydney, which paints the food scene there as being rather pretentious. You have put some soul back into my view of Sydney dining which is hard to find as a tourist.

Truffle said...

Another Outspoken Female - It's a divide in our relationship too although despite my Sydney roots I'm afraid I'm a converted Melburnian now.

I was nevertheless delighted to discover Sydney isn't all overpriced, often overly pretentious food.

stickyfingers - That's so lovely! Thank you so much! That was just what I was hoping to achieve with this post.

KellytheCulinarian said...

Man, you had some great dishes. Everything looks beautiful!

Vida said...

What a feast of photos you have posted, makes me want to run out the door and head to a favourite food place and run amok. You are coming with me in my suitcase next time I go to Sydney, I NEED you with me!!!!! Vida x

Truffle said...

Kelly Mahoney - thanks! Beautiful food in a beautiful place. I want to go back already!

vida - I'm happy with any excuse to travel! :) x

Jann said...

What a fabulous post~I need to visit these places on my next trip. All is this food was low cal, correct?

Truffle said...

Jann- Absolutely! Fat free and low sugar too ;)

Big Boys Oven said...

Such lovely food....something I would die for!

Truffle said...

big boys oven- come for a visit! If the food tempts you, wait until you see the views. It's such a gorgeous city!

Cindy said...

That's some good eatin'! I haven't spent a lot of time in Sydney, but will be taking this list of low/mid-priced finds with me next time. :-)

Truffle said...

Cindy - so glad you liked it!