Australian Recommendations?

Hey everyone,

Possibly thinking of a trip down under and just curious to know if anyone has good recommendations for food. Currently thinking of checking out Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, and possibly Brisbane as well.

Any input would be appreciated, thanks!

Wow. That’s one heck of a big trip.

Happy to give some advice (although I don’t know Cairns or Brisbane) - what sort of meals are you looking for, any dislikes or dislikes, price points etc etc…?

The food here is very diverse with lots of quality over lots of different cuisines reflecting the multicultural nature of the country.

Do you have an idea of where you aim to stay in each city - helps as a lot of great food is out of the CBD.

Ha… still in the planning stage and I won’t be there for that long. Set in stone though is that Adelaide is the starting point and Sydney is the end point.

Nice! Glad I can get some pointers.

In general, most people I talked to recommend to pretty much stay out of the cities and visit the natural splendor around the area so I’m still trying to figure out my plans. The two main cities suggested to visit are Melbourne and Sydney, and most people seem to consider Adelaide and Brisbane to be somewhat boring. I’m still trying to figure out the exact nights I’ll spend in each area, but likely 2-3 nights in Adl, 4 nights in Melbourne, 2 nights in Cairns, and 4 nights in Sydney. I have a few more days which I was initially going towards Brisbane, but everyone seems to tell me to go elsewhere haha.

As for meals, I’ll be going with my folks this time around. I personally just don’t care for mushy textured items and I’m not too big on desserts but other than that I think everything is fair game. I will say that we probably will want some sort of Chinese cuisine at least once (likely Cantonese to compare how it is to the bay and Hong Kong). The main issue right now, I’m not exactly certain what specialties there are for Australian cuisine. I honestly don’t have much knowledge on the culinary aspects in Adelaide, Melbourne, or Sydney and my frame of reference is this wikipedia article:

I figured as much, and outside of the stereotype of Vegemite I don’t know where to start. Is there anything city specific that is unique, a la Montreal and poutine? I’d be interested to see if there are any unusual fruits that cannot be eaten in the US. I’m just glancing at wikipedia for now, but it would be interesting to see bush tucker foods. As for focus, we are a big fan of seafood and fruits, but I’m more than game to see kangaroo and emu haha.

Ah, the main thing is, I do not think we will be renting a car as I don’t want my parents attempting to drive on the opposite side of the road nor do I want to do all the driving and navigating and so forth. I’m currently still doing research on where I plan to stay and possibly what mini-tours I can take.

Currently on my stop in ADL, I’m thinking of checking out the wineries in the area and see how their restaurant compares to the ones around Sonoma/Napa (I can’t say I’m a big wine drinker though). Outside that, maybe a day tour of Kangaroo island.

I haven’t fully researched Melbourne/Sydney but the way I schedule my itinerary is through placing all sites and interest on google maps and then branching out from there. From the initial glances I have seen, people have suggested the Blue mountains in Sydney, and in Melbourne to check out Wilsom’s Prom and Great Ocean Road (which is in two separate directions of Melbourne…). For Cairns I would take a look at the Great Barrier Reef. These are notable attractions, but I usually like to wander around museums and mini-gardens in between meals. For those far off areas I presume we would be doing bus tours so I’m at the mercy of the tour guides for food.

So basically, I haven’t decided much since the trip is planned next March and everything is still preplanning .

I agree with your friends that its important to get the balance between country and city right. Aus is a big as the US so its not possible to do everything but you can get a good feel.

First, I would suggest Port Douglas rather than Cairns - Cairns is high rise and lacks character. Port Douglas is as close to the reef and closer to the Daintree and has a much more laid back and relaxed vibe. Its a long time since I went so food recommendations are tricky - but there is a lot of great seafood up there and good interesting produce from the rain forest.

I like Adelaide and its far from boring. Its a nice scale and the wine areas are close to the city (McLaren Vale 30 mins, Barossa 45mins, Adelaide Hills 30mins, and the Clare (1+ hour). The food scene matches the wine scene with some excellent places - and even the rough music pubs sell top wine. There are lots of wine tours but they tend to stick to the tourist spots missing the smaller boutique ones - but if you don’t drive they are probably your best option.

Orana is the top restaurant - its a very modern (think bleeding edge San Fran food) degustation menu using a lot of native bush products and its a million miles away from tourist food - good if your parents are adventurous. Adelaide also has some great Chinese food - T-Chow was a favourite - and the area around the central markets has a lot of options.

Maghill Estate - owned by Penfolds - is a stunning restaurant in a modern building with classic modern Australian food its a short taxi away from the city. It has lots of rare Penfolds wine in the cellar. Up in the Barossa Hentley Farm is the top restaurant and FermentAsia is well regarded modern asian place. There are lots of other smaller, funky places dotted around and the city has a good bar culture.

The Great Ocean Road is a two day trip from Melbourne and its OK - good beaches and some nice coastal scenery - a bit like Highway 1 in California. Melbourne itself is a great food town with lots of great restaurants (better than Sydney at the moment), It’s very European in style with fantastic coffee and very interesting bars and wine bars. There are so many restaurants its hard to know where to start. I will add a few restaurant recs soon and also give some advice on Sydney.

Here are a couple of local sites that may be interesting:

The new upstart food site that covers the big cities - hip and trendy but good info (my preference):

The established guide - just gone national. Uses hats not stars - one hat is good, two something special and three is really high end. Its reliable but misses some of the hipper places:

Thank you for the suggestion, I haven’t kicked the bucket just yet… just merely on and off researching. Only major concern I have is time. I’m thinking at most 2 nights in that general area, and taking 1 hour just to get to Port Douglas seems a little wasteful.

I was told about a bus tour towards Barossa and that seems like a fine way to spend some time. I’m also looking at a 1 day bus tour to Kangaroo island so that seems pretty interesting so far. Coupled with a day or two just wandering around the museum and throughout town seems like a good idea for Adelaide.

Wow those sound like some great places. Thank you for the recommendations!

I know some people said to go visit that area, but at the same time, I fear sitting in a bus for a day (I think my folks will just fall asleep haha…). Also as you mentioned with the Pacific Highway that I have driven down before, seems a little bit much. I’ll check on time, but that isn’t exactly high priority for me. Have you ever done the Wilson Prom’s tour? I’ve been reading up on it, just unsure if my folks can easily walk around and hike the area.

Thank you! I’ve been having some hard time trying to figure out where to start with Melbourne. Is there any city specific specialties in Melbourne/Sydney/Adelaide?

Thank you for the links as well… it’ll be a fun read I think!

It has been a few years since I was up there but Cairns was all high rise hotels and had little character whilst Port Douglas had a nice small town feel and felt a lot more natural. Its not a bad drive up there from Cairns so I think its a good investment in time.

Just make certain its small and focussed on quality. Tours aimed at backpackers may not be fun. I liked Kangaroo Island but just remember its beauty is its wild and isolated nature. A couple of days wandering around Adelaide is OK but if time is tight it may not be best use of time - museums, galleries etc are far better in Sydney and Melbourne.

There isn’t much difference in food across all Australian cities and no real specialisation. Adelaide & Melbourne are better for smaller casual restaurants in my mind. Sydney tends to do the specular slightly better -it has the harbour etc. The ethnic mix is broadly similar, although I think Melbourne is better for Indian food, whilst Sydney probably has the edge for Vietnamese and possibly Chinese. Italian and greek are very strong in both cities given the migration history.

Sydney is my home town so some thoughts on food. You can eat in the Opera House at Bennelong which is a good thing for a visitor - decent food and reasonably priced. If you want a spectacular view then Icebergs overlooking Bondi Beach can’t be beaten - good, albeit expensive food. A classic Sydney meal can be found at Otto’s on the Wooloomooloo wharf - again Italian but great for people watching.

Authentic Thai food is really good - there are a couple of good options: Chaat Thai has a number of restaurants all are good; Spice I am is great but seating on the sidewalk and BYO booze, their other restaurant - Surry Hills Eating House - is more traditional. And David Thompson has Long Chim which is casual and central.

The more happening food in in the inner suburbs. St Peter a modern Fish restaurant is decent, but Cirrus Dining in Barangaroo is better IMO. Modern Greek at Apollo is good in Potts Point as is Kylie Kwong’s Iconic modern Chinese restaurant. Neil Perry (one of Australia’s top chefs) love Asian food and has just opened his Jade Temple if you want to try very high end food. More traditional regional Chinese food is available across many places in Haymarket - lots to choose from. The Dolphin is a good modern pub restaurant with a decent wine bar and a very buzzy atmosphere.

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Its about an hour away, so I’ll play it by ear. We mainly just plan to check out the great barrier reef and pretty much leave though.

Yeah, though I just figured the tour is more of an interesting look at the wineries in Australia (though to be honest, most wineries feel the same haha…).

I’ll likely be doing Kangaroo island through their only sea shuttle link tour service:

We will have a bit more time since we eliminated Brisbane so not too big of a deal. Thinking 4 nights ADL, 2 Nights CNS, 5 nights each in Syd/Melb.

Ohh that sounds good. Though I would have thought there might have been some regional variations in cuisine like in the US (Southern food, etc.). But thank you for the heads up on certain cuisines we should try out in those cities!

Thank you for the information on some restaurants in Sydney. Are some of the suburban restaurants within easy reach of the Sydney via the Opal network?

We still have a lot of very small boutique places that usually offer the most interesting wine and a chance to chat to the maker. In the Barossa they sit side by side with big boys like Penfolds, Jacobs Creek, Seppelt etc. And whilst these big wineries have some decent wines they tend not to offer them at the cellar doors (Note: very few charge for tasting).
Unfortunately a lot of the tours stick to the big wineries - as they allow coaches - so if you can find a boutique orientated one it will be better.

Generally yes - most by bus (Bondi Beach Surry Hills, Wooloomooloo, Chippendale) a few by train (Kings Cross for Potts Point & Darlinghurst, Newtown for Newtown) and some by ferry (Manly - The Boathouse on Shelly Beach). Get the “TripView” app for your phone - it makes it quite easy.

In your first post you mentioned fruits you couldn’t get outside Australia. Port Douglas is close to the Daintree Forest and there is a lot of very exotic produce around there - tropical fruit as well as bush tucker. It may be worth extending the time up there to get a feel for both the reef the Daintree.

For the reef a small boat is going to be better than the large tourist ones - some seem to take 100’s of people and thus don’t go to the best spots.

You may find it better to shave a day off both Melbourne and Sydney to enjoy Queensland - Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney are quite similar in many respects whilst FNQ (Far North Queensland) Cairns/Port Douglas is very different.

I suspect it because a lot of our migration was quite uniform with the people of similar backgrounds settling in the main cities - our national dishes were once the meat pie or the lamb roast. That said Greek & Italian are strong in Melbourne and Sydney, and Asian is really strong in Darwin. Melbourne has a reputation for being “European” (its the climate) and the bars and coffee shops are very stylish and good. Sydney is more beach orientated so restaurants and pubs reflect the more casual side.

Both Sydney and Melbourne are getting better Asian foods - Sydney had the edge, whilst Melbourne seemed stronger on Indian. Cairns may still be good for Japanese as it was a hot spot of Japanese tourism some years ago, I understand that has now been superseded by the Chinese tourist market so it may have changed.

Hmmm since our family really isn’t much of a drinking one, are there certain wineries that have an exceptionally delicious restaurant? I just anticipate a nice walk around the wineries and just overall looking around.

Ah thanks, glad to know that there is another app in case google maps fizzles out.

Oooh… now that makes it more interesting. I can try to see if we can cannibalize a few days from Sydney/Melbourne. Though the little bus tours seem to be adding up haha…

Is there a good website to examine tour operators around the general area of Cairns or Port Douglas?

Ah that makes a lot of sense. I’ll keep an eye out in reading the reviews of your aforementioned sites.

Hentley Farm is the best and Fino at Seppelt has a well regarded one - just be careful to check which days they open. Many restaurants in the one areas are Thursday to Sunday only.

Its quite a different app as it has live bus, train, tram and ferry data so you can track when a service will arrive at your stop and even see how full the buses are (they use the Opal data to see how many passengers are on board).

Try the tourist offices as the first option:

A couple of Daintree fruit farms - I am certain there are more:

Ah that works out for us, as we are flying in Thursday–that’ll be no issue.

Nice! Thanks for the recommendation.

Ah ha! Time to scroll through fruit farms haha. I see most places do tours from Cairns/Port Douglas, just have to figure out how to get to Cape Tribulation without me driving a car.

Not trying to bring a topic from the dead but I haven’t exactly left just yet and want to bring up to speed on some questions that I still have.

I just talked with them, and they’re still closed by the time I reach the farm. Alas, I think I’ll keep the trip to a one day trip to Cape Tribulation. The farm has suggested Scommazzons that sells fruits a little north of Mossman, so I hope I can convince the tour to stop by there and check it out.

I placed an advanced reservation ahead of time to Orana for lunch so I’m excited to check that out in Adelaide.

I just have a few questions regarding Sydney which now appears to have the least amount of time in our itinerary. Our hotel is around the Paddy’s Haymarket area which doesn’t seem too far from Darling Harbour. Are there any interesting dining destinations you suggest around that area?

A few relatives also suggested to check out the Sydney Fish Market which sounds like a fun area to explore. Anything you care for in the market?

You are staying in the prime tourist area - lots of hotels. It’s in the middle of Chinatown so lots of asian food choices. I tend to eat Thai around there: Chaat Thai (Campbell Street) is very good. Lots of other choice but I rarely eat Chinese there so can’t recommend…lots is quite average.

You are also not far from Chippendale and Esther which is a highly rated Sydney restaurant for modern food - lots of wood fired oven dishes - I have enjoyed it on every visit - you need to book. Also down that way is The Old Clare Hotel which is a nicely renovated pub and has good craft beers, at the back is an alleyway with some interesting options for food - including Automata (not tried).

Darling Harbour is a big tourist development dating from the '80’s and the food there echoes that. As you walk around it morphs into King Street Wharf which looks better but resist. Just a bit further is the Barangaroo development and there are some decent spots there: Anason (Turkish), Cirrus (Fish), Banksii (Mod Oz), and the brand new Barangaroo House which has three floors of different restaurants from Matt Moran a renowned Sydney chef (too new so have not tried it).

Not far away from where you are (across the Darling Harbour swing bring) you find the Star Casino with Momufuku Seiobo (not been) but heard good reports. My favourite around there is LuMi a modern, innovative Italian style restaurant.

The Fish Markets are a big tourist draw, a bit run down, and quite commercial. Lots of food outlets and Fish & Chips are OK. Best food there is in Vic’s Meta Market - the Smokehouse & Grill which does US BBQ - so may not appeal.

Enjoy Orana - the food is great and the sommelier is very good - if they still have any wine from the Ochota Barrels winery it is really worth trying. Almost opposite the restaurant is the Exeter Hotel. A really old pub, it looks a bit edgy but its great and has a wine list that would put most restaurants to shame.


Wow thanks for the recommendations!

I might not try Momufuku Seiobo, wasn’t too big of a fan of their noodle bars when I tried it in NYC, Toronto, and Las Vegas.

Oh and I’ve noticed you mentioned a few Chinese restaurants in your previous posts, but any good Cantonese ones? I think I’ll have to have at least one in every city to uh… pacify my parents.

Lots of Cantonese but as I used to live in HK they have nearly all underwhelmed me. For traditional Golden Century near you has the established reputation but I thought it was just OK - lots of talk of expensive seafood especially mud crabs.

I also find the dim sum/yum cha a bit disappointing. I prefer the ALC process over carts as I don’t want my food to have hung around. but Sydney seems wedded to carts so it never seems as fresh as it should be.

Neil Perry is one of Australia’s top chefs (Rockpool - now closed) and he has always had a fascination with Asian food and techniques. He maintained Sydney had no decent Cantonese restaurants as none had the subtlety and sophistication in their cooking to satisfy a discerning palette. So he has now turned his flagship restaurant into Jade Temple a sort of retro Cantonese food. Its on my list to go to but not got there yet (its in the other side of the CBD to your hotel). He also has an older restaurant Spice Temple which ranges over more regions - Sichuan, Hunan, Jiangxi etc - I found it all a little too polite for my tastes.

The other top recommendation would be Kylie Kwong’s place. She started as the chef at Neil Perry’s Wokpool and gained a great reputation. She now has the 2nd incarnation of her own restaurant Billy Kwong and has moved to a more sustainable produce centric menu with a lot of focus on locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. Its a menu based on Cantonese food but with a few regional twists and the incorporation of some Australian native ingredients like Duck with Davidson plums. Its a short cab ride from your hotel.

Nice! How packed are these restaurants if you don’t mind me asking. I don’t have concrete plans yet and might play it by ear in Sydney based on location.

And yeah, personal preference is ordering ALC versus Carts but sometimes there is a bit of delight just seeing things pushed around. I do wish the carts in SF would have the little signs showing whats in the cart (I recall seeing this in Hong Kong’s Maxim).

And out of curiosity, how delicious are those Australian lobsters? I’ve seen a few around, but they were close to 36ish USD per pound. Wondering if its a better price due to locality in one of the Australian cities I’m visiting. I’m also guessing mud crabs are the local crab delicacies?

The Great Ocean Road is a two day trip from Melbourne

We met our guide in the lobby of our Melbourne hotel, drove down the Great Ocean road for quite a stretch and then circled back through an AMAZING rainforest and were back for late night cocktails.

Its totally worth the one day trip.

We did this about 16 months ago. Melbourne to Adelaide to Kangaroo Island to Alice Springs to Uluru to Cairns to Lizard Island to Sydney.

Cairns was the only place we disliked – very “Jimmy Buffet,” if you will. But it was a stopping off place before we went out to Lizard Island and the reef. Get out to the reef but don’t waste your time in Cairns itself.

Definitely go to the wineries around Adelaide. We liked Penfolds.

If I could, Id move to Sydney. It is so very lovely and vibrant, while still sort of CA chill. We enjoyed David Thompson’s restaurant Long Chim quite a bit.