'‘Yet another reason never to visit Melbourne again,’’ brayed the newspaper social pages when Frank Camorra opened an offshoot of his hugely popular restaurant MoVida in Sydney in October. They had a point. For years the Spaniard’s original MoVida in central Melbourne has been a destination for food-loving travellers in its own right.
I was there a week after Camorra opened his new MoVida in Surry Hills. Chef and TV presenter Kylie Kwong was at the bar waiting for a table, chef and TV presenter Neil Perry – yes, still with that ponytail – arrived a few minutes later. The place was so full at 7pm on this Saturday night that I was directed to sit – with the wine list for light reading – on a stack of boxes of Spanish beer by the fish tank while my setting at the bar was prepared.
It was worth the wait: the artisan (well of course) Cantabrian anchovy with smoked tomato sorbet; a simply perfect smoked eel and horseradish croquette and luscious beef cheek with cauliflower puree. As many of the dishes come as single serves, it’s easy and fun – especially for indecisive types like myself – to order as you and your appetite go. The service is excellent – several of the wait staff are longtime MoVida employees – the buzz is irresistible and the food superlative. Sorry Melbourne but it’s a winner.
MoVida, 50 Holt St, Surry Hills, movida.com.au
Over at Rose Bay sits a restaurant that couldn’t be anywhere but Sydney.
The Sailors Club was for many years home to Pier, a fine-dining restaurant jutting out into the bay, owned by Greg Doyle. He recently handed the site over to his daughter Jacqui Lewis who has imbued the decor with a sunny, loungey Palm Beach-type decor and overthrown formality in favour of fun.
It’s open from lunch till late but with these views, you’re in for some true Sydney magic in daylight hours: the boats, the houses, the harbour, the handbags of the well-heeled ladies who lunch.
The dish for summer? The crudo of snapper, char-grilled chillies and blood orange. Sunshine on a plate.
New South Head Rd, Rose Bay, thesailorsclub.com.au
I tried to think of the last time I’d been to a Greek restaurant for dinner and to my shame, I realised there hadn’t even been a first time.
Xanthi, at Westfield Sydney, set that straight. A newcomer to this year’s influential Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, Xanthi, with its golden tent-like interior, proves an ideal introduction to Greek food.
What to expect? Haloumi drizzled with honey and topped with dried figs, a whoppingly massive moussak, slow-roast lamb, rabbit. The wine list is all Greek which could be a challenge but the staff are well-versed in food and wine matching. The standout of my meal was the dessert, Garden of Aphrodite, a pretty as a picture assemblage of honey milk panna cotta, caramalised figs, candied almonds and almond milk sorbet. Heavenly.
Xanthi, Level 6, Westfield Sydney, cnr Pitt St Mall and Market St, xanthi.com.au
Was I the only Kiwi to have never set foot on Bondi Beach? Possibly not but for years, this place was known as the Earls’ Court of Sydney. Now it’s the haunt of rich-listers, celebrities and the budgie-smuggling stars of the reality TV series Bondi Rescue.
Andi Solo, a local blogger and photographer, is my guide to Bondi’s best. We meet for coffee at Chapter One, nab an outdoor table with views over the beach, then head along the beautiful coastal walk, passing the glorious waterfront restaurant Icebergs and the swimming pool below; installations for Sculpture by the Sea, which was opening the following day; loads of tourists and locals soaking up the sun after an inclement week; and a surprisingly svelte James Packer, whose four-level Bondi apartment is on the market for a cool $20 million.
Solo describes Bondi as ‘‘the people’s beach’’ – a place where locals and visitors can co-exist easily, though the northern stretches are usually where you’ll find most of the Bondi locals. Admittedly she has no time for the strip of tourist shops and fast-food restaurants along Campbell Parade, noting the true Bondi treasures are to be found in the blocks back from the beach. Here you’ll find some great places to eat – the Asian tapas of Mama Sun, cafes including Gertrude and Alice, which doubles as a bookshop, and Gusto. On Hay St, make sure you look up as you walk along too, to check out the collection of art deco buildings lining the street.
Further back from the beach, you’ll also see some references to Bondi’s past as the home to many of Sydney’s Jewish and Russian Orthodox communities. And don’t miss Eugene Tan’s Aquabumps gallery on Curlew St, which Lonely Planet has rated the number six best thing to do in Sydney. I didn’t expect to be taken by a collection of beach and surfing photography but I was more than pleasantly surprised.
There’s Zara, the new TopShop, a refreshed Queen Victoria Building and the soulless black and glass surrounds of Westfield Sydney. And then there’s The Intersection, the city’s newest shopping hot spot on the corner of Glenmore and Paddington roads.
Here you’ll find most of the top names in Australian fashion – Scanlon and Theodore, Sass and Bide, Zimmerman, Josh Good, Ksubi, Kirrily Johnson and Camilla and Marc, along with rising stars including Rachel Gilbert, Alice McCall and Ellery.
The Intersection is also a top spot for celebrity shopping – it’s become a must-do for visiting celebrities to pop here for a fashion fix: Alexa Chung’s a fan of Ellery and Basic, Reese Witherspoon took a fancy to Camilla and Marc and Kirrily Johnson and Miranda Kerr is known to give her credit card a frequent working out here. At the heart of The Intersection is Jackie’s Cafe so grab one of the courtyard tables on a Saturday morning for some of the best people-watching in town.
‘‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’’
If only Coco Chanel’s sage style advice was taken up by the designers of Sydney’s new QT hotel. While’s there’s certainly a lot to like about this bold and brash new addition to Sydney’s five-star hotel offerings, there’s such an awful lot going on it’s sometimes just a bit much.
The good: A great location on Market St, next door to the State Theatre and across the road from the shopping meccas of Westfield Sydney and the QVB. You’re also only a five-minute walk from the station to catch the airport train – use what you save on a cab fare to the airport for the city’s shops or restaurants. QT is certainly a welcome remove from the cookie-cutter beige stylings of so many modern hotels and the service is fluid and on-to-it without being obtrusive. The lobby is slightly bonkers but all the better for it.
I also loved the design features of my room and the fact it included one of those great pod espresso machines. Indeed, if you like the furnishings and decorating touches so much you just can’t live without them, there’s a ‘‘menu’’ of prices for some of those too. (Coat hanger $10, cute ceramic rabbit, $39, mirror $90, etc.) High-speed wifi is, as it should be everywhere, included.
And not so good: The voyeuristic theme of the somewhat pervy website followed through in the keyhole motif prevalent throughout the hotel and to me, just seemed a bit naff. Likewise the long, leather-look coats and red wigs worn by the female door staff. Sexy? Really? Then there’s the lifts. They have a sensor which notes how many people are in the lift and plays music to fit – eg, love songs for couples, party tunes for groups. Since I was travelling alone, I was met at least six times a day with dirges including Eric Carmen’s All By Myself, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s sad sack classic Alone Again Naturally and Al Green’s Tired of Being Alone – a song I used to love but is now somewhat tainted. Let’s just say the novelty wore off really quickly.
QT Sydney, 49 Market St, qtsydney.com.au
Shopping trips to Sydney are nothing new for Kiwis but cultural expeditions? For anyone with even a passing interest in modern art, there are two very good reasons to head across the Ditch this summer, with the city hosting major exhibitions by the late Francis Bacon and Indian-born, London-based artist Anish Kapoor. The Art Gallery of New South Wales is home to Francis Bacon: Five Decades, which opened this month and runs until February 24. It’s the first major exhibition of Bacon’s work to be shown in this part of the world and it also marks the 20th anniversary of Bacon’s death.
Meanwhile down at the harbourside Museum of Contemporary Art, which reopened earlier this year after a $50m-plus redevelopment, Anish Kapoor runs from December 20 to April 13 and includes some of his most recent sculptures. Make sure to pop upstairs to the MCA’s cafe and sculpture garden for some great views of the harbour and Opera House.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery Rd, artgallery.nsw.gov.au; Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St, mca.com.au
Angela Walker visited Sydney courtesy of Destination New South Wales. For more information on what’s on in Sydney this summer go to sydney.com
- © Fairfax NZ News
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