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.
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.
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.
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