Check in and take a load off at 57 Hotel:
Hop on the Sydney Airport Link express train to Central Station. Takes 15 minutes and costs you much less (around A$17) than a taxi ride. Buy the Opal Card – a stored value card that is the primary payment mode for the trains and buses in Sydney, including the Airport Link express.
Drop your bags off at your hotel (I recommend 57 Hotel, it’s near the Central Station) and head off for Sydneysider’s favourite meal of brunch.
Brunch: Sydney’s Favourite Meal!
Bills, from Sydney’s godfather of brunch, Bill Granger, is perennially popular and their ricotta hotcakes are still rocking.
Bills is at a couple of locations: Bondi, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. Speaking of Surry Hills, this area is home to several wonderful cafes, including the likes of Reuben Hills and Single Origin Roasters. One to check out is Paramount Coffee Project that serves Crumbed Eggs on Toast and Breakfast Burritos, among other brunch fare.
I wanted something more Mediterranean and also, to check out a place that was new to me. So I headed to Kepos & Co.
Kepos & Co. is opened by the folks behind the 1-hatted (Australia’s “version” of the Michelin stars is the “hat” system) Kepos Street Social.
We enjoyed the fig and haloumi salad and a really delicious veal ragout in all its chunky, meaty glory.
Walk off the meal by enjoying a stroll in the neighbourhood before heading back for a snooze.
Visit Sydney’s Chef of the Year:
Visit the Sydney Morning Herald Guide’s (the company that dishes out the hats) Chef of the Year, Federico Zanellato, at Lumi Dining.
Housed in a glass box over the Pyrmont Harbour, the 2-hatted restaurant is buzzing right now and proved to be my favourite meal in Sydney.
It’s Japanese Italian fine dining, so think of a twist on dashi with artichoke, little parcels of lamb in an japanese-influenced mushroom broth and a rhubarb pre-dessert sitting nicely alongside a yuzu tart. With the unique flavour pairings and excellent execution of each dish, you’ll see why Chef Zanellato has been bestowed the Chef of the Year title.
It’s all about Sydney’s hottest hood – Chippendale!
After a perk-me-up cuppa at The Reformatory Caffeine Lab (or any of Sydney’s fab cafes, for that matter), head over to the buzzing Chippendale area.
Now, this area, previously an inner-city working enclave, has recently seen many high-profile openings and houses some of the hottest restaurants, boutiques and galleries in Sydney right now.
In fact, it’s so hot, I’ve written up a post dedicated to Exploring Sydney’s Hottest Hood – so check that out.
My highlights include a visit to uber-cool The Old Clare Hotel pre-lunch, lunch at Automata, dessert at Koi and the quirky White Rabbit Gallery.
By dinner time, if you haven’t had enough of Chippendale, Kensington Street Social is worth a visit. The man behind this is Jason Atherton, he who has trained with luminaries like Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay.
I personally would have loved to try Ester – an eclectic little restaurant at Chippendale that creates dishes like king prawns with fermented prawn butter and lamb with garlic and sesame sambal.
The day starts with another chance to enjoy Sydney’s famed coffee scene. I discovered this cute little place in the CBD called Piccolo Me where I almost tried the Piccolo Me Nutella Bomb… but well, stuck to my cappuccino instead!
A Garden and A Gallery:
But if you’re feeling even the slightest bit athletic, grab breakfast to go and head towards the Royal Botanic Garden for a stroll and a morning picnic.
The gardens is also where you can get a vantage view across to the Sydney Harbour; Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is a popular stop point for many people to enjoy views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
Next, visit the Art Gallery NSW just around the corner from the gardens. Housing an impressive collection of modern/contemporary, European, Australian and Aboriginal art, you can definitely spend a few hours here before heading for lunch. Entry is free.
So many restaurants, so little time!
One of the hottest restaurants on the scene right now is Yellow. Not suitable for meat-lovers, Yellow is all vegetarian with a focus is on heirloom varietals. Make that reservation for brunch/lunch if you’re in Sydney over the weekend; on weekdays, Yellow is only open for dinner.
We were there on a Monday, so we had made reservations at a new CBD hotspot – No. 1 Bent Street. Rockpool alumnus, Mike McEnearney, helms the kitchen which wraps itself around a gleaming open pass and the chef’s favourite cooking device – the wood-fired oven.
Of Heritage and Heights:
After lunch, walk down to The Rocks, home of Sydney’s early convict days where a stroll around brings you to the sandstone houses and some of the city’s oldest pubs.
If you’re there on a weekend, do check out their markets. This time, I wasn’t there over the weekend but I remember browsing through jar after jar of honey, condiments and the like. I also remember getting a tarot reading at one of the very intriguing hippie shops – those were my long-gone incense-loving days!
These days, museums and galleries beckon more, so off I went to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art – a must-visit if you’re an art lover. It focuses on Australian and Aboriginal art and boasts a collection of over 4,000 pieces. Entry is free.
Even if you don’t feel like getting some artistic stimulation at the MCA, The Rocks is a great place to wander around exploring boutiques and the bars.
Now, I have considered doing The Bridge Climb before, but somehow the A$250 price tag had always put me off. So, I was pretty glad to have discovered The Pylon Lookout where a very short climb up 200 stairs on one of the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge rewards you with views of Sydney’s beautiful harbor.
After all that energy expended admiring the gorgeous Sydney view from the top, get another view from the ground by heading to Opera Bar.
Settle in with a glass of bubbly as the light turns a midnight blue over the harbour and watch the beautiful people of Sydney pass on by. Lovely!
And, why not take that chance to watch a show at the Opera House?
Finally, if you’re in Sydney for a short stopover and don’t want to spend too much money, check out my list of Top Free Things to do in Sydney!