Cafe Sydney set a high standard for all Aussie food experiences on this trip Down Under. Unfortunately, for the successive restaurants on my 118-dayfood tour, everywhere else suffered an unfair comparison. Save up your dollars and if you have only one fine dining experience while in the city make a reservation at Cafe Sydney. A Friday or Saturday night table for two can be pretty hard to find so plan on going during lunch or a weeknight or book well in advance. Weather allowing, definitely, the best spot to be is on the balcony with spectacular views of Sydney Harbour, the Rocks, and Circular Quay.
After working and traveling overseas for 15 years, I’m always impressed with the quality of service I encounter when I come back to Australia. I was, however, blown away with the professional, knowledgeable, efficient, outstandingness of staff at Cafe Sydney. The waitstaff here have tasted all of the menu and are so capable they’d pass a pop quiz on the tasting notes with flying colours. Ask for a wine recommendation – no worries – they know their grapes and there’s a good choice of local and foreign wines on the list. Or fancy a cocktail? Choose from the cocktail menu or ask the bar tender to whip you up a creation of his own and watch him do the cocktail dance (rumour has it they actually pinched him from another place – always on the lookout for top personnel).
Now the most important bit – the food! I thought I was living in the best country in the world for naan – but Cafe Sydney has outshined everywhere else again – with a tandoor oven and Indian chef I would have been quite content nibbling on naan and drinking wine all afternoon. Choose from goat cheese and spinach, spiced caramelised onion or garlic naan. Priced at around $3 a serving it’s worth taking a little extra home. On this trip to Oz I discovered the new recurring theme on many hip menus was beetroot, goats cheese and watercress (replacing the old avocado, mango and baby spinach). The baby beetroot and goat cheese tart with caramelised onion, walnut, watercress and cabernet vinegar at Cafe Sydney has to be one of the best things I have eaten this year! The pastry was so light and unobtrusive but perfectly complemented the other ingredients with just the right balance of moisture and crispness. The grilled quail with pear, celery heart, walnuts and apple cider vinaigrette proved to be another delightful starter. For the main dish you can’t go past a good barramundi and prepared Cafe Sydney style with goat cheese ravioli, butternut pumpkin, pine nuts, raisins and sage brown butter it doesn’t get much better. Another Aussie winner has long been lamb, so if you’re a fan, the roasted lamb loin and confit lamb breast with a feta cigar, eggplant, olives, tomato and jus is a must try. As a side dish, I’ve always loved Brussel sprouts, however, if you’ve never come to appreciate their taste you must sample them here – barbecued with garlic and bacon all smoky and yum you will be converted. For dessert the pear tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream, pear parfait and almond praline paired with 2009 Oakridge Late Harvest Viognier is a perfect finish. Prices range from $24 for a starter up to $39 for a main with a free view and spectacular service included – I’d say it’s a pretty good deal.
Cafe Sydney definitely makes The Yum List!
Customs House 5th Floor
31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 (0)2 9251 8683