48 Hours: Sydney Springs to Life

Mind-bending meals by MasterChef masters, eye-catching shows at The Sydney Opera House, and well-appointed hotels in the heart of it all show there simply aren’t enough hyphens to herald springtime in the New South Wales capital.

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Lets Go Surfing instructor giving surf lessons at Bondi Beach. Photo courtesy: Destination NSW

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Rise to The Rocks

In the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge lies The Rocks, a network of cobbled lanes riddled with some of Australia’s oldest pubs, open-air markets, and fine hotels that look across the quay to the nearby Sydney Opera House. Both The Four Seasons and Park Hyatt frame the architectural masterpiece from their sleek suites, but tear yourself away from those soft sheets and get up-close to the real deal: A paragon of modern design that mesmerises from all the many angles and vantage points found in the frabjous districts that surround this seashell-inspired structure.

Start off with a walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge or book the Sydney Harbour Climb (bridgeclimb.com) to summit the stunning superstructure of the truss; unique options consist of dawn or dusk climbs as well as having an Indigenous storyteller recount Sydney’s Aboriginal history atop the panoramic vista. Another delightful daybreak activity is to take a ten-minute stroll to the Royal Botanical Garden Sydney (rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/what-s-on/guided-walks) in the Central Business District (CBD), which offers daily, volunteer-led tours of the 66-acre park that holds nearly 5,000 types of plants, many of which are native.

Right on the docks of The Rocks, another sparkling viewpoint of the Opera House extends from the Cafe and Sculpture Terrace (Level 4) of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. The MCA (mca.com.au) offers free admission and engaging exhibitions currently exemplified by the Collection’s Artist Room, a presentation of Australian eco-feminist performance works by Sydney-based Bonita Ely during the 1980s, and Perspectives on place, which probes the idea of place in a geopolitical and environmental context.

 

48 Hours: Sydney Springs To Life

Clockwise from top left: The Sydney Opera House seen from a boat tour of the harbour; Climbing the Harbour Bridge with Bridgeclimb Sydney; A view of the CBD towering over the Royal Botanical Gardens; A spot of brunch being served on a Lifestyle Charters vessel. Photos by: Julian Manning; James Horan/Destination NSW (top right)

 

Yet the best way to enjoy the full scope of the harbour is a boat tour of the harbour. Lifestyle Charters (lifestylecharters.com.au), a luxury yacht outfit, pick you up right in front of the MCA. Expect not only up-close views of the Sydney Opera House, drinking in the glory of its sea-facing glasswork, or the magnetic magnitude of the Harbour Bridge from its near underbelly, but an exploration of the bay at large, the backyard to a vast network of beautiful residential areas. Float past historic and modern manors neatly perched around the sprawling oval of seaboard, enjoying a kind of ivy-walled ‘lakeside’ living on the shores of Sydney. Sail boats, navy warships, historic schooners, and water ferries slide across the calm surface, while above you’ll set eyes on Russell Crowe’s behemoth bayside balcony along with soaring seaplanes and pelicans: All while noshing on the likes of buttery quiche and generous fruit platters aboard a yacht complete with multiple viewing decks and bedrooms to boot.

 

Bondi Beckons

Sydney is so much more than the relaxed refinement on The Rocks; Bondi Beach beckons travellers for a taste of tempting surfside life. Start out by brunching at The Depot (thedepotbondi.com), a family-run institution that embodies the bonhomie of Bondi. Sunlight and ocean breezes stream in through the café’s wall of tall opened windows, mingling with the buzz of content conversation cushioning the high ceilings. The tables are topped with hearty and healthy dishes, pretty plates adorned with generous portions of Lox Bagels, Harissa Eggs, Smashed Avocado Toast, and Vegetarian ‘Brekky Burgers’ loaded with halloumi, hash browns, and eggplant kasundifinished off with freshly pressed juices and smoothies.

 

48 Hours: Sydney Springs To Life

Clockwise from top left: The Depot, a beloved Bondi Beach café; The youngest Turland brother with his dingo; A bird’s-eye view of Bondi Beach. Photos by: Julian Manning; Destination NSW (bottom)

 

Despite the laidback aura of the cafe-owners, a host of brothers (Guy, Clint and Cade Turland) and cousin John Kelly, these gents are industrious, fostering a space that tributes the essence of this beachside ‘burb. As Guy reveals, “For me, Bondi Beach is a lifestyle, it is all about balance. I work really hard, seven days a week, but after work I can go for a surf and wash away the day.” He continues, “To have that work-life balance, that is really important, that’s why I never left.” Follow suit and jump into waters of Bondi Beach, a two-minute walk from The Depot, where there is a centrally-located public changing room (waverley.nsw.gov.au/access_bondi), for a quick body surf. Or, sign up for a surf lesson at any one of the nearby schools, such as Waves Surf School and Let’s Go Surfing.

 

Nosh Thru The Noon

Chiswick Woollahra (chiswickwoollahra.com.au) brings the charm of the Sydney suburbs and a refined ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy to the table. Created by Matt Moran, a globally-renowned chef and ex-MasterChef Australia judge, and manned by Head Chef Taylor Cullen, the seasonal menu at Chiswick Woollahra is influenced by what’s growing in the restaurant’s lush kitchen gardenand washed down with a superlative wine list. The 2022 spring menu is diverting and diverse, indicative of the new Australian cooking that has chiseled out a name for Chiswick over the years.

Start off with Sydney rock oysters served with a lively sunrise lime mignonette, and fall for the comforting elegance of the Harvey Bay scallop: a melt-in-your-mouth morsel basted in seaweed butter, carrying the gentle scent of thyme. Swirl a bit of Pinot Gris (Geelong) or Riesling (Adelaide Hills) across your palate as the bright red and yellow tones of the Ox-Heart Tomato Carpaccio reach your table; the refreshing tumble of heirloom tomatoes are tastefully tied together with homegrown shiso and white balsamic, prettily paired with the herby tones of the Chiswick Flatbread or the Globe Artichoke Blossom, garnished with a gorgeous gob of aioli. But the hearty platter of Bannockburn Chickenroasted and served by the half or full birdand its spring brassicas, of broiled Brussels sprouts and tangle of mizuna greens atop a pleasantly-piquant pool of mustard jus, is simply a soul-satisfying incarnation of Spring in Sydney: the meat temptingly tender, its skin a golden curtain of crispy chicken fat, begging to be dragged through the nourishing jus.

 

48 Hours: Sydney Springs To Life

Chiswick Woollahra (top right) draws from its kitchen garden (bottom left) to bring lively flavours and colourful dishes to the table (bottom right), like the standout Bannockburn spring chicken (top left). Photos by: Julian Manning; Destination NSW (top right and bottom left)

In the suburb of Surry Hills, wood fire and smoke are the catalysts in Head Chef Jacqui Challinor’s kitchen at Nomad (nomad.sydney). They are the expressive medium for the pinguid punch of umami that is hurtled from the Bone Marrow Empanadas and its assortment of wood roasted mushrooms, or the Charred Maple Pumpkin: its blacken body doused in chilli burnt butter and topped with a light macadamia cream. Such roasting is exceedingly satisfying when applied to the brined and harissa-smeared spackcock pousaaine, the young chicken a winning combination of soft meat and crackling-like skin, its bright marinade singing for the guindilla peppers and gobbets of toum scattered across the ceramic salver.

The well-maintained theme of scrupulously-sourced New South Wales produce and Nomad’s Maltese-to-Middle Eastern-accented vision means digging into a cross pollination of menu items that really compliment each other; for instance, scooping a bit of the Lamb Neck Pie–open-topped and brimming with an herbaceous crown covering green olives and pine nuts, flecked with saffron salsa and yogurt–makes for an esurient endeavour when done with the expertly-charred flatbread rubbed in an earthy wattleseed za’atar.

 

Cricket, Cocktails, and Craft Beer

48 Hours: Sydney Springs To Life

Clockwise from top left: The lush labyrinth of plant life at The Potter’s Shed; Customers clink cocktails at The Potting Shed; A life-size bronze sculpture of Australian cricketer Steve Waugh at SCG; A glimpse of the SCG stadium. Photos by: Julian Manning

 

Stretch your legs at Sachin Tendulkar’s favourite cricket stadium outside of India, Sydney Cricket Ground. If there’s no time for Big Bash, Test, or T20 International cricket at SCG (scgt.nsw.gov.au), sign up for a tour of the grounds (sydneycricketgroundtours.rezdy.com/42813/scg-tour-guided-walking-tour), for Australia’s oldest cricket stadium holds a truly special place in sporting history.

Step inside the handsome, 19th-century member’s pavilion, and enter the locker room where icons like Ricky Ponting once laced up, and legends like Nathan Lyon still do, complete with original benches from the heritage structure. Equally intriguing is passing through the long and elegant Member’s Bar, which whispers you towards a cold pint, to the away team locker rooms. Not only do you get to feast your eyes on Test records hit by visiting players–filled with names like V.V.S. Laxman, S.R. Tendukar, and Virat Kohli–but you get to see the hand-written century records of away team members that were not part of official Test cricket.

Treat yourself to a tipple, after much trotting about the NSW capital, at the nearby Grounds of Alexandria, a converted warehouse district that holds The Potting Shed, a cocktail bar tucked in a lush labyrinth of potted plants and eclectic bistro lighting. Otherwise, head back to The Rocks and pick up a pint at any one of the neighbourhood’s many historic pubs. Venture to 1828-established The Fortune of War, considered to be Sydney’s oldest pub, and pull up a stool at the hamper-style bar filled with Swans fans; walk up to The Australian Heritage Hotel and enjoy an al fresco craft brew in the shade of the Harbour Bridge; amble over to the 1840s-era Orient Hotel for live music, typically rock; and enjoy the rooftop vistas of the three-level, 1920s-established Glenmore Hotel. If you’d like a guided outing of these legendary watering holes, opt for a pub tour (daves.com.au/sydney/pub-tours/the-rocks-pub-tour).

 

Dinners That Dare To Dream

Sydney eats so well it’s hard to say there’s one place to dine over others, And the truth is there isn’t just one place, there’s three, all started under the vision of Josh Niland, whom you may recognise from his skillful yet grueling MasterChef challenges: a homegrown NSW chef that has reconfigured how we eat fish with fascinating creations that somehow taste better the stranger they sound—think fish fat ice cream, swordfish bacon, and yellowfin tuna salami. There’s Saint Peter (saintpeter.com.au), the upscale flagship for fine dining fish creations, Charcoal Fish (charcoalfish.com) for delectably grilled Murray cod, and then there’s The Fish Butchery (Paddington and Waterloo, fishbutchery.com.au), the Waterloo location literally you showing how the fish is made. The latter largely functions as the production kitchen for Niland’s avant garde seafood empire, opening its doors to the public on the weekends like the Willi Wonka of the water-based food world.

 

48 Hours: Sydney Springs To Life

Two-and-a-half tonnes of fish (top left) move through the Waterloo outlet of The Fish Butchery each week; Claudio Morales (right), Head Chef at The Fish Butchery, Waterloo, butchers a Murray cod, its fat an integral ingredient used in many of their seafood-based sausages (bottom left). Photos by: Julian Manning

 

Simply speaking, Niland’s philosophy is to treat surf how you would treat turf. Claudio Morales, Head Chef at The Fish Butchery, Waterloo, explains, “A lot of people walk into the butchery and immediately mistake the displays of salamis, chorizos, and bacon as red meat, when it’s all fish.” He further explains that in commercial kitchens, especially in the West, “often only about 45-55 per cent of the fish is used, you cut out the filets, and maybe use the head, collar, bones for a stock, that’s it, the rest is in the bin… Here, we use close to 95 per cent of a fish, only chucking out the gills and gallbladder.” He pauses to skillfully butcher a large Murray cod filet, before slicing out a handful of fat from its belly. “This is great stuff, the Murray cod just carries so much fat, and we can render that and use it in our sausages.” He slices open a burgundy-toned, dead ringer of an aged salami, yet the cured but unfermented meat is yellowfin tuna, and the pockets of white fat next to the pistachios are Murray cod fat–the texture is eerily on point, and the taste is terrific, salty, spicy, and hard to put down.

The marlin as well as the swordfish bacon are exactly what you want them to be, so thinly sliced you could read the newspaper behind the curtain of cuts, full of fatty goodness; though the Murray cod bacon that is used on the tuna burger might just be the best, tasting so much like a beef-based cheeseburger, your brain refuses to register it is fish until you’re about halfway through. For lovers of cold cuts, it’s hard to think of a better creation than the Murray cod and smoked salmon mortadella, speckled with bits of swordfish bacon and pepper. And if you’re craving a garum-esque flavour bomb, the big eye tune andulli is a spicy and fatty explosion of all that is good in the world, whether it is spread over crostini or pan fried with calamari.

“I didn’t know you could do this either, but working with Josh, he is just like, ‘Go for it,’” says Morales, stealing a glance at the butchery display, clearly wondering when his seafood-based saucisson sec will be ready.

 

A Night At the Opera

Even if you had to listen to an ancient uncle regale you with stories of his glory days, they would be captivating in the confines of the Sydney Opera House (sydneyoperahouse.com), the design as dazzling on the inside as it is on the out. Thankfully, the performances that take the stage are somehow equal to the grand setting they are graced by. The venue recently wrapped a season of the iconic musical The Phantom of the Opera, a production that skillfully sashays your emotions from watery-eyed to slack-jawed, heightened by debonair illusionist stunts and superb set design. The rest of the annual 2022-2023 calendar holds performances of La Traviata, Attila, and Cinderella. Note, the showtimes that best show off the elegance of the Opera House are during the evening, best paired with an aperitif and antipasto at the Opera Kitchen, an eatery that curves around the edge of the harbour where the Opera sits.

 

48 Hours: Sydney Springs To Life

Performances such as The Phantom of the Opera at The Sydney Opera House (top) and Moulin Rouge at The Capitol Theatre (bottom) make for a memorable night out in Sydney. Photos courtesy: Opera Australia (top); Destination NSW (bottom)

 

However, the abundant appeal of the Sydney Opera House should not eclipse the Capitol Theatre (capitoltheatre.com.au)Australia’s last remaining atmospheric theatre, outfitted with a huge orchestral pit and an outrageously spacious fly-tower. Over a century ago the structure was built to host the circus, a space that now seems to have been destined to put on Moulin Rouge, Broadway’s ten-Tony-winning production based on Baz Luhrmann’s original film. The theatrical adaptation, helmed by Director Alex Timbers, is a jamboree of impressive, ever-shifting set design and swirl of creative costumes. A staggering 161 musical works of artists–from Bowie and T-Rex to the Broadway standards like “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”–make up the production’s medley of mash-ups, resulting in a jubilant journey that’s somewhat of an artful acid trip. Just like the on-screen original, it has that ample appetite for l’amour that keeps its audience coming back.

The afterglow of a performance at The Sydney Opera House or The Capitol Theatre is akin to departing Sydney in the springtime, for the city on the harbour sure knows how to put on a beautiful show.

 

Also Read | Local Lens on Sydney: Tasteful Art, Queer Pride and Aboriginal Heritage

 

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Essentials

Travel direct on Qantas Airlines’ new daily connection between Bengaluru and Sydney. The NSW capital is well-connected by trams, metros, ferries, ride sharing apps, and taxis, not to mention being highly walkable. Also, outfits such as Unique Limo (uniquelimoptytd@gmail.com, +61 287837888) provide luxury vehicles that can be hired for the day. Doubles at The Four Seasons Sydney start at AUD 360/INR 19,000) and at Park Hyatt Sydney they start at 1,200 AUD/INR 65,500). For more info, check www.sydney.com

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
  • Julian Manning can usually be found eating a crisp ghee roast with extra podi. The rare times his hands aren’t busy with food, they are wrapped around a mystery novel or the handlebars of a motorcycle. He is Senior Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India.

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