While it is entirely too far from the US for a simple weekend getaway, Australia needs to jump to the very top of your travel list. I went to Sydney for the first time a few weeks ago and yowza, it's amazing. You could easily spend years laying on the sandy beaches, wandering through museums and exploring every neighborhood from Paddington to Manly Beach. The real tragedy is that I only had a couple of days to work with, so I made sure to hit all of the big stuff and tried to check out as many great restaurants as possible.
Sydney's food scene is incredible and it's entirely possible that I gained at least 8lbs. last week. I stayed at the Four Seasons Sydney in Circular Quay which was centrally located, had amazing sunrise views (jetlag is no joke) and an even better hotel bar called Grain. In between snapping the requisite pics in front of the Opera House and doing the Bondi to Coogee cliff walk, I highly recommend that you check out one - or all - of the restaurants below. They will not disappoint and they're just as gorgeous as they are delicious.
3 Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000
Mr Wong – a two-level Cantonese restaurant serves everything from fancy dim sum to green beans stir-fried with pork and house-made XO sauce. Order a crab. The big tanks hold sweet, fleshy mud crabs waiting for a dousing in the deep fryer with salt and pepper and to be served on a bed of salted chilli and green onion. Or go for the Singaporean-style black pepper crab, cooked in butter and fragrant with a mountain of fresh black pepper. It’s a three napkin, two hot towels and a bucket of ice water kinda job. The vast, moodily lit warehouse space is a mix of huge wooden columns, gleaming stainless-steel kitchens, marble tables and a 1930s Colonial teahouse vibe. The fact that it's located in an alley, relatively unmarked makes it even cooler in my opinion.
80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009
There’s no terracotta at Balla. No amphora jugs, no rustic Italian landscapes. No, instead you’ll find yourself in a room where enormous glass windows open out onto Pyrmont Bay with sparkling city views and cool water breezes. This Italian restaurant is a slick room with a 60's Italian movie vibe including white booths, vintage spotlights, bleached wood floors and a long bar out the front. Impressive references to the paintings of Giacomo Balla – the restaurant’s Futurist namesake – beautifully contrast with a menu of traditional Italian food. My dish - Spaghetti with Spanner Crab, Cherry Tomato and Garlic was perfect, just like the Tiramisu tasting I had for dessert. I'm not a big dessert fan but if you see a Tiramisu tasting on a menu, you order it and you don't look back.
No. 1 Bent Street
1 Bent St, Sydney NSW 2000
The menu here is ever-evolving based on "what is best and most brilliant at the markets on any given day" and on the night of our visit, the lineup featured a selection of 'smalls' and 'bigs' with a lot of wood-fired and wood-roasted meats and veggies. Everything I had was wonderful, from the Ash Baked Eggplant with Edamame and Sesame Sauce to the Spit Roast Chicken Vinaigrette I had as a main course. It was so good that I actually bought Chef Mike McEnearney's cookbook on the way out. The interior of natural and reclaimed wood, stripped-back walls and concrete floors looks like any smart, fashionable restaurant that I'd imagine fashion editors frequent between showroom appointments.
8/13 S Steyne, Manly NSW 2095
I honestly don't know what I can say about Manly Wines to do it any justice but maybe I could start by noting that I came here twice over the course of a six-day trip and Manly isn't anywhere near Circular Quay. This restaurant is everything I like in a dining experience: casually chic aesthetic, great food and aloof-yet-quirky servers who look like they should be modeling in a Zimmerman campaign instead of bringing me another Sauvignon Blanc. Right across the street from Manly Beach (one of the coolest beaches I've ever seen), the seafood is fresh, the fries are crispy and the rose is very cold. What more do you need in life?