Sydney! What’s not to love? With her sparkling harbour, iconic Opera House, and spectacular Bridge, she’ll have you under her spell in no time. Like all fabulous cities, Sydney is evolving and no area more than her CBD laneways. If you’ve never been or it’s been a while, here are a few places to start grazing.
Long Chim, 10-14 Martin Place. (Entrance on Angel Place, Pitt Street end)
David Thompson is back! 15 years after leaving Sydney to open Nahm (in London & Bangkok) he has returned with Long Chim (already in Singapore & Perth). The draw was the CBD location off Angel Place, reminding him of the Sois and Sub-Sois of Bangkok.
Long Chim is a little less serious than Nahm focusing on the marvelous street food of Thailand. The idea is to “come, sample, try” or maa long chim. You’ll find all your street favourites, grilled pork neck, papaya salad, hot & sour soups, tasty filled beetle leaves, and red, green and yellow curries.
China Lane, No. 2 Angel Place.
Follow Angel Place’s dog leg to China Lane for Chef, Kristian Vale’s produce-driven modern Asian menu. Think inspired dumplings of Moreton Bay bugs or prawns with sugar snaps; steamed buns with pulled pork and sriracha mayo; scallops in chilli and turmeric.
From the wok try pork or prawn San Choy Bao or charred Freemantle octopus with tofu cream. Not to be missed are soy glazed crispy pork with chilli caramel and the 10-hour braised lamb shoulder with pickles. On sunny days and balmy evenings, grab a table outside under the “forgotten song” birdcage installation and take your time grazing this superb menu.
Mercado, No. 4 Ash Street.
Mercado has been in its basement location for just over 6 months and already has a Good Food Guide Chef’s Hat. Chef Nathan Sasi (co-owner and son of a smallgoods producer) is reviving traditional kitchen skills with meat curing, preserving, pickling, cheesemaking and baking in this Spanish restaurant.
The menu is another produce-driven one, reliant on small farmers, growers, and producers. Standouts from a recent visit include an amusing take on “fish & chips”; Turkish ravioli with yoghurt and burnt butter; spit-roasted whole cooked lamb served with roasted carrots, almond dukkah and tea smoked currants; Dulce de Leche with butterscotch and candied bacon. Yes! Candied bacon! *swoooon*
The menu is vast, so a reasonably priced 10-course set menu ($80 pp) is on offer. Knowledgeable staff, delightful flavours and a great wine list make an experience at Mercado one to repeat.
Mr Wong, 3 Bridge Lane.
An entire post could be dedicated to Merivale Group‘s restaurants so let’s do that another time. One that must be mentioned, however, is Mr Wong. This impressive colonial inspired Cantonese restaurant is all about detail. French woven bamboo chairs, slow turning overhead fans, timber floors and painted murals on exposed brick walls. Oh, and then there’s the food!
Dim Sum Chef, Michael Luo, (ex Hakkasan, Dubai) shines at Mr Wong. Don’t miss silky lobster and scallop dumplings; Pork Xiao Long Bao; King crab golden soup crystal dumplings. All are incredibly good.
Wait, there’s more. Crispy calamari and foie gras dumplings, Sichuan style lamb dumplings and more foie gras on prawn toast. This is just Dim Sum! Entreés, roast meats, a vast array of live seafood, meat dishes, veggies & tofu, noodles & rice and dessert complete this extensive menu. Check it out here.
Under Executive Chef, Dan Hong, Head Chef, Brendan Fong and Dim Sum Chef, Michael Luong, Mr Wong is wearing 2 Hats from Good Food Guide; polishing 3 glasses from Gourmet Traveller (Wine List of the Year) and was awarded Best New Restaurant from both in 2014. These awards are well deserved.
Uncle Ming’s Bar, 55 York Street. (Under the Suit Store)
The notorious Uncle Ming saw an opportunity in 1920s Shanghai. Dressed as a policeman, he extorted “protection money” from opium traders. Fleeing Shanghai, he settled in Sydney and opened a community drinking hole. Uncle Ming’s is an opium den inspired whiskey and dumpling bar.
The dumpling menu is short while the Chinese Gangster inspired cocktail list is long. Suntory whiskey is the hero in a Shanghai Roller, Yamazaki whiskey in the Uncle’s Old Fashioned and Hibiki whiskey in a Karuta Kicker, but for tequila lovers, go for the Blushing Dragon!
Stitch Bar, 61 York Street.
As you descend the stairs, the vintage sewing machines reference the bar’s name, although the only “tailoring” done in this Speakeasy/ American Diner is on beverages and, what appear to be substantial burgers. You can also order hot dogs, pulled pork tacos, and mac and cheese, but for the time being, check out the cocktail list.
Baxter Inn, 152-156 Clarence Street. (well not exactly!)
Hidden bars, secret bars, VIP bars, whatever they’re called, once you’re a “World’s 50 best” it’s hard to maintain anonymity. Baxter Inn has been floating in the top 10 with the likes of this year’s #1, Dead Rabbit (NYC), for the past 5 years. Although a little tricky to find, the queue in the loading dock at 152-156 Clarence Street tends to give it away.
Baxter Inn is a whiskey bar beyond compare. The whiskey wall challenges the expert bar staff to select your personalised whiskey, shake it, stir it, or serve it straight up. From an ex-non-whiskey-drinker, trust them!
Have you been to these restaurants and bars in Sydney’s CBD? Do you have a favourite or others to share? Grazing Sydney’s CBD, it’s a thing we love….
**paraphernalia.co pays for all accommodation, dining, and drinks resulting in unbiased and honest recommendations you can rely on.