Buying Food Around Sydney

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Food in Sydney used to be terrible. In the first few years, the colony would have starved if they had not been supplied with food from Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. Be aware that things have improved since the early days!

There are a few sections here already, but this page is lower on my priority list.

Buying basic foods

One rule about tourist places: the people who live there need to feed as well. If you buy your food in the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, you pay horrid prices, but two blocks away, you are back to normal prices. Indonesia has harga wisata (tourist price) and harga biasa (usual price), but we don't. We still have rip-off places, though. Avoid city shops, if you can.

Sydneysiders don't buy their food supplies in convenience stores in the city: they go to supermarkets. That said, if your time is valuable, the convenience stores can be useful. Just understand that you are paying to save your time.

Fast foods

Yes, Sydney has the usual fast food places. McDonalds, Burger King (sometimes trading as Hungry Jacks), KFC and more. For a quick gobble, there are worse places to go. They have the usual logos. Nando chicken is good, and they have intelligent ads and marketing -- support their fight against the bland!

Gourmet food shops

London has Harrods or Fortnum and Mason, David Jones would like me to say we have the
David Jones Food Hall at the top end of Market Street. It isn't a bad facsimile, and you will certainly pay equivalent prices, but the service is excellent and the food is superb. You can also snack there, if you like. Let me stress that I am listing places I like and use -- there may be better choices, but they are unknown to me. And nobody is paying me for this recommendation.

Restaurants and restaurant areas

I discovered this for myself before I found that the creator is known to my son, so I shall follow my original plan and award it three hats. Eatability is a brilliant site to track down places to eat near where you are, with the right characteristics, and you can also use the site to get a booking by email, rather than phoning up. Look carefully at the ways you can re-order the choices. I just asked for Lebanese restaurants, grouped by region, ranked by rating, then I looked at Singapore/Malaysian, ungrouped, rated by price. Another thing: pay attention to the symbols that identify places with outdoor dining, romantic settings, water views, and allowing BYO.

When Joe Borg contacted me about his neat listing system, I tested it out, and found that it worked. It is Tablesonline. Please note that I do NOT take advertising on this site, but I reserve the right to point at useful stuff. Tablesonline is useful stuff, though I wish they gave a bit more detail on prices. I have tested it on Newcastle, Manly, Surry Hills and Leichhardt, and you can certainly see what is around.

Leichhardt and Little Italy

This suburb is pronounced Like-heart, and it celebrates one of the great exploeres of Australia, who disappeared without trace, somewhere between Queensland and Western Australia, in the 1840s.

Leichhardt, Annandale, Stanmore and Petersham were all strongly Italian up until the 1970s, when migrants began accumulating enough money to move out to other, more affluent parts of Sydney. For some reason, the shops that opened to support that concentration have remained, and Norton Street remains a lively sort of place where Italian is spoken and Italian food is served.

more to come -- but until I get to it, you could certainly do worse than look at


Once, Chinatown used to be down near Circular Quay, in The Rocks, but it moved, around 1900, to the Haymarket area, at the bottom of the hill on which the Town Hall is situated. Over the generations, new waves of Chinese immigration have kept the ideals true, even as cooks have adapted to western tastes, adding more meat, and perhaps taking out a little of the sweetness.

Circular Quay

Quay Deli and coffee shop: two good places for a quick cheap feed, near Wharf 4, on the landward side. The G'day Café, George Street, The Rocks.  Eat in the courtyard out the back. The Orient Hotel, George Street, The Rocks.
Pictures above, from left to right:

You are in a tourist area, so prices are a bit excessive. There is a McDonalds across the road from Number 5 wharf, there are a few hotels, but I usually use the Quay Deli or the coffee shop next door, which has excellent pies and good cheap coffee. Meat pies are a traditional Australian food, but a recent survey, carried out at great expense and personal inconvenience found no pub in The Rocks that offered meat pies. In fact pubs everywhere are letting the side down like that.

If you want a sandwich and a coffee, The G'day Cafe is the place to go, or for a cheapish feed, the Orient Hotel, just next door. These are just a spit away from Argyle Cut which has a large police station, and the poloce tend to eat at the G'day, so it is a very safe place. Generous sandwiches and good coffee, and cheap! In spite of that, the service is brilliant as well.


This is the place to go to eat Indonesian food, because much of Sydney's Indonesian population lives in this general area. It began with students at the University of New South Wales attracting a few shops and restaurants, then more people came, and so it spiralled. That said, you will also get excellent Thai and Chinese food along here. Kensington and Kingsford are in the same area, and offer the same quality.

I will get around to listing a few favourites later, but as a rule of thumb, follow the crowds, expecially the crowds of Asian people, because they are likely to be the locals who know good value.

To get there, use the 374 bus or for Kensington, the 393 and 394 bus or the 395 and 396 bus.


When you come off the ferry wharf, cross the road and look for Coles on the right, for all your grocery needs or staples. For upmarket stuff, walk on to Darley Road, go right, and shop on the right, or cross the road, go ahead and turn left into Wentworth Street.

Manly is a tourist spot, but it is also a dormitory suburb, and just outside of the area of shops smelling of stale fat, there are lots of people living normal lives. That means there are touristy places, but there is also good value to be found. I can't recommend any of the outdoor places on the Corso, but I am developing a nice list to add in a few days.

Highly recommended Manly places:


Newtown is a tolerant place. There is a large gay community, but there is also a large ethnic community, and Sydney University is nearby.
People there are nice. Look for places with a crowd in them.

You can get there by train from Central Railway, or down in Railway Square, look for a bus with a number in the 420s, heading west for Broadway, and going along City Road. These buses leave from the furthest-south-west of the bus stations there.

Australian cuisine

A friend in Berkeley asked me, on behalf of her son, to explain what Australian cuisine night be. Here is how I answered:

The Pavlova is a bone of contention between the Kiwis and the Australians -- we both claim it. We certainly have foods that are pretty much uniquely Australian, but Oz dishes are rarer, because we have been a constant melting pot, with new traditions coming in, all the time.

If we were serving up a larrikinish feast, we would offer Vegemite sandwiches, Lamingtons (stale sponge cake cubes, dipped in chocolate icing and rolled in desiccated coconut), meat pies either served as is or as a pie floater -- see We would probably barbie a few snags as well -- but our snags are sausages that are often so spiced as to yield technicolour burps.

Then there is bush tucker, which is much more than witchetty grubs and snake or goanna, but includes damper (unleavened bread cooked in the coals of a camp fire -- but some people use self-raising flour) and beer.

Then there is the Tim Tam Suck -- which Wikipedia prefers to call by a foreign and more effete name, and the ANZAC biscuit (NOT cookie!!!) which you can read about at Vic Cherikoff's page on it but pause to pursue some side-tracks: it is an excellent commercial site.

If we were being more upmarket, we might suggest kangaroo and black bean sauce, or barramundi or crocodile or buffalo steaks. We might add some King Island cheeses and a Margaret River red.

And yes, we barbecue what Americans call shrimps and we call prawns, but we also barbecue octopus, squid, fish or anything else that wriggles. Some of those are Mediterranean habits that we have stolen, because waves of migrants have given us a taste for new forms of cooking. In fact, we have been too busy to come up with much of our own.

Special places

This file is, first created on March 16, 2006. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on May 30, 2008.

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