I‘ll admit right up front that Sydney was Mary’s idea. I thought it would be an okay place to visit but from the start my enthusiasm for it was so-so. Probably because she had done all the research for this portion of the trip and I was just going along for the ride. It was hard to get excited because I really had no idea what we were in for. Well, that all changed as soon as we arrived. Sydney is a world-class city. Period. If you like New York or London, Paris or Barcelona, you’ll love Sydney. Bustling, diverse, friendly, attractive — there’s no end to the positives you’ll find in this beautiful port. And to offset the cosmopolitan, big city feel, there is the indomitable Australian charm and unwillingness to take things too seriously. No worries, mate!
The day of our arrival in Sydney coincided with the last day of the Melbourne Cup, “the race that stops the nation,” Australia’s version of the Triple Crown, World Series, and Super Bowl combined, with a splash of Mardi Gras thrown in. The streets of the city were filled with revelers, all decked out in their finest party attire, many of them clearly worse for the wear after days of carrying on.
On our first full day in Sydney we ferried across the harbour to Taronga Zoo Sydney, as we had yet to check off a live kangaroo from our to-do list. While there we also met up with a few Tasmanian devils, some wallabys, pelicans, elephants, condors, penguins and other assorted members of the menagerie.
Our first evening meal was at this fine seafood restaurant, not far from the foot of the Harbour Bridge.
Fried calamari in a tapioca flour batter. Sublime.
A wonderfully clean, crisp, unoaked and aromatic chardonnay from Patina Wines, a boutique operation on the slopes of Mt Canobolas, near Orange, in New South Wales. The cool climate and volcanic soils there combine to help create a wine with bracing acidity and deep concentrations of fruit flavor.
Great sights on our walk home from dinner. Sydney takes great pride in its iconic structures and for good reason.
On day two we hopped another ferry, this time across the harbor and up the north shore a bit to the beach town of Manly. There we spent the day hiking, strolling the beachside, enjoying a few drinks, and generally taking in the beautiful and warming spring weather.
The exotically colorful lorikeets were everywhere in Manly. So busy gathering nectar they barely pay attention to the passers-by.
Slow down for what? Like the mystical Grampians kangaroo, not a bandicoot to be found.
Sydney’s outer neighborhoods in the distance.
Yes, we are hydrating. Drinking in the sunshine is serious business.
At The Cut Bar & Grill on Argyle Street, just off the Harbour, this cab/merlot blend was just the right thing for the prime rib that was carved tableside.
They look like regular fries, but, if memory serves me correctly, they were dusted in garlic and truffles. Amazing.
I’m not usually a big prime rib fan. This serving changed that. Maybe forever.
This bottle was an eye-opener on night three when we had a fun and delicious meal at Saké, a Japanese restaurant just a few doors down on Argyle from The Cut. This wine, due to its low abv and brilliant flavors, demanded we order another. We were happy to share this wonderful meal with the daughter of our next door neighbors, who was in Sydney visiting friends. One of the top nights out on our trip, for sure. If you’re in Sydney, Saké and The Cut are worth exploring. You won’t be disappointed.
We spent our last full afternoon strolling the quay and nearby shops of Darling Harbour, after having lunch at The Meat & Wine Company. Is there a restaurant anywhere with a better name? I think I’d like to live there.
Yes, those are people up on top of the bridge, shaking in their victorious boots after a climb of several hours. Thank you, no.
Always good advice.
I thought everyone already knew this.
Some impressive engineering history.
Our final evening meal was at Fix St James, one of Sydney’s better and more ambitious wine bars. The food was innovative and delicious, but the BTG (by the glass) wine list was superb. When the night was through we had tasted nine, new-to-us, Australian wines and chatted up the winemaker of one of those we tried, who was eating two tables away from us.
This was a tad too “natural” and not something I’d order again or recommend. The virtue does not overcome its brutish acid and clumsy, disjointed structure. Interesting…for a minute. Still not sure what folks see in these wines that intentionally ignore 150 years of advances in chemistry. I wonder why nobody notices, too often, that the emperor has no clothes.
Grilled asparagus with blue cheese and a perfectly soft cooked egg. A complete swoon.
Stuart Olsen, the man behind Eloquesta, likes wines that are “rich but soft, feminine and fragrant.” Well, he hit the nail on the head here. This was one of the most aromatic reds I had enjoyed in some time. I believe he vinifies almost entirely via carbonic maceration. These are beautiful wines, and I think he’s looking for US distribution. A small producer worth pursuing.
Somewhere I have notes on this and the other wines we enjoyed that night. Stuart Knox, the proprietor of Fix St James, could not have been friendlier or more welcoming. He walked us through the wine list and food pairings and was a complete delight during our entire stay. If I ever get back to Sydney, I know where my first meal is going to be.
The second most important room in our hotel.
Next stop, Queenstown, New Zealand!
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