Auckland's getting closer but Sydney is still the king when it comes to transtasman cuisine, writes Anna King Shahab.
Gone are the days when travelling to Sydney from New Zealand felt like an education in eating: we've come a long way and there are so many good things about our food scene. But here's a list of 10 fantastic things you might like to make the most of next time you're Sydney-side, because you won't find quite the same here (yet...).
1. Night Noodle Markets
If you're a food lover and thinking about planning a trip, October is a very good month because it's the annual Sydney Good Food Month. One recurring and ever-expanding event (last year's boasted 50 stalls) in the festival is the Night Noodle Markets, held every evening for a fortnight in Hyde Park. An open-air food market of epic proportions, some of the city's most celebrated Asian and quick-fire eateries have stalls here: Din Tai Fung with their dumpling-making deftness on display, Longrain, Luke Nguyen's pho, Harajuku Gyoza (whose wacky Harajuku fashion is as much a drawcard as the gyoza) and the queue-tastic Gelato Messina.
2. Wild food education
Champion wild food forager Diego Bonetto offers small tours in inner-suburb parks. On a tour in Rozelle we discovered, under Bonetto's wise and witty tutelage, all manner of edible things that we'd ordinarily dismiss as weeds - plantain, dandelion, warrigal greens. Plus his pro-weed advice "a lazy gardener is a good gardener" was music to my ears.
3. Club classics
The revitalisation of Returned Services', bowling and other such clubs is seriously impressive - the sooner this trend hits our shores, the better. From casual, buzzy and beachy to upmarket and ethnic, clubs are cool. Examples worth checking out include The Greens, Paddo Bowls, Waverton Bowling Club, North Bondi RSL, Montagne Restaurant at Fairfield RSL, Watergill at Cronulla RSL and Alpha at the Hellenic Club.
There's something special about Chiswick, Matt Moran's casual-chic bistro in inner suburb Woollahra; we have nothing quite like it here. It's just a few minutes from the central city but sits on a cute green space, surrounded by chi-chi housing. A beautiful little garden supplies the kitchen, a well-oiled machine that turns out endless plates of lip-smacking tastiness. Smart service, a clever drinks list, affordable pricing, and the contagious buzz of a roomful of patrons clearly enjoying themselves.
5. Ethnic enclaves
Catch a train out to the 'burbs and into the thick of Sydney's multiculturalism. In Cabramatta you'll find Vietnamese to die for, there's excellent Lebanese in Lakemba, Petersham does Portuguese, while Fairfield is a melting pot of options: Lao, Iraqi, Afghan, Peruvian.
6. Aussie produce
Gorge on Queensland mangos and look for native ingredients on restaurant menus - spices, berries and fronds. And gobble as many Aussie prawns.
7. Modern Asian
8. Middle Eastern
Sydney is one of the best places in the whole world to get a taste of the Middle East. Graze on sophisticated Taksim-style Turkish mezze on a balmy Balmain evening at Efendy, taste one of the oldest and most intricate cuisines in the world at The Persian Room and everywhere there is tasty food from the Levant area - try Sefa, Almond Bar or Jasmins.
9. Banh mi, baby!
Outside Vietnam, Sydney must be the king of the banh mi - the classic Vietnamese sandwich made by stuffing a crusty baguette with pork pate, meat grilled with aromatic flavours, crunchy salad and fresh herbs. A growing number of cafes and Vietnamese eateries on this side of the ditch are waking up to the brilliance of this sandwich but in Sydney, we're talking every street corner. The banh mi battle is ferocious; the cheapest was in Newton, a stellar example for A$3.50.
10. Sydney Fish Market
Marvel at one of the largest open fish markets in the world and wonder why we - a proud fishing nation - don't have our own. Try not to wince at the fact our snapper and tarakihi are selling for less than we shell out for it here, and fend off the hungry gulls who have their heart set on your piece of grilled barramundi.
Getting there: Qantas operates four flights per day on weekdays and three on weekends from Auckland to Sydney.
Further information: See sydney.com.
The writer travelled courtesy of Tourism Australia and Destination New South Wales.