NSW has a diverse array of culinary pleasures: from pop-up restaurants to a burgeoning craft beer scene, to truly multicultural neighbourhoods influenced by the food heritage of its migrant communities. Local resident Carla Grossetti shares a few of her favourite places in and around Sydney, so you're ready for when the borders open up again.
On any given day, the queues outside Black Star Pastry (blackstarpastry.com.au) in the southern Sydney suburb of Rosebery form what amounts to a guard of honour while waiting for a rectangle of the cafe's famous strawberry and watermelon cake. The delicate cake developed by Black Star Pastry founder Christopher The has a cult following and is one of the most Instagrammed cakes in the world.
If sweet treats are your jam, continue on to Brickfields (brickfields.com.au) in Chippendale for passionfruit and white chocolate lamingtons that look like they've passed through a coconut snowstorm. The artisan bakery also doles out divine Danishes injected with vanilla-infused cream and fruit compotes.
Dessert in Sydney comes in many guises thanks to the city's multicultural make-up: join Gourmet Safaris' director and TV presenter Maeve O'Meara on a tour through the streets of Auburn, which is a little slice of Turkey in Sydney's Western suburbs. In addition to sampling authentic Turkish Delight, the Turkish Gourmet Food Safari of Auburn (gourmetsafaris.com.au) will guide you from emporiums filled with fragrant spices to bakeries where the counters are piled high with pide, the large rounds of puffy sesame-coated bread.
Ask any bread sleuth in Sydney and they will tell you that a foray into the city's Eastern Suburbs is worth it when you get to fill your eco bag with a craft-driven loaf of Iggy's Bread (iggysbread.com). Forget about making yourself presentable to gain entry to Iggy's; here you will join everyone from grizzled surfers to artfully scruffy A-list actors asking for wheels of sourdough.
Bella Bruta (bellabrutta.com.au) means "beautiful ugly" in Italian, which is on-brand for the misshapen pizzas that are pulled from the wood-fired oven in this Newtown pizzeria. The mortadella, fior di latte, garlic, parmesan and green olives vies for glory against the classic clam pizza at the pizzeria brought to you by the team behind LP's Quality Meats (lpsqualitymeats.com) and Porteno (porteno.com.au/portal). Follow the signs written in an Iron Maiden-esque font to get to Mary's Underground (marys69.com), which has taken up residence in the space formerly occupied by The Basement, which kept Sydneysiders entertained for 45 years. You'll feel like you're in the diviest dive bar of them all at this restaurant and live music bar owned by Mary's Group, especially when you ask for your cheeseburger to be supersized with "trashcan bacon". There are nods to the other ways Sydneysiders like to eat upstairs at Mary's Circular Quay (marys69.com), which turns out pun-tastic burgers in line with its "get-fat" philosophy. The full Mary's menu can also flip to vegan.
Merivale (merivale.com) CEO Justin Hemmes has pimped up the Ivy's nearby laneway precinct to include two new distinct drinking and dining spaces that have helped reinvigorate Sydney's CBD. The Little Felix (merivale.com/venues/little-felix) is a Paris-inspired cocktail bar in the CBD and little sister to Felix (merivale.com/venues/felix), while Bar Totti's (merivale.com/venues/bar-tottis) is the rebellious younger sibling of Totti's (merivale.com/venues/tottis) at Bondi Beach. As sexy as the crowds at Totti's in Bondi are the delights on the menu such as the woodfired bread that arrives as a 10 cm-high puffball amid a haze of fragrant wood smoke and the king prawns with chilli and fennel.
If you're someone who doesn't want your wine messed with, head to Urban Winery (urbanwinerysydney.com.au) in the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park where A. Retief Wines are hand-crafted on site. Winemaker Alex Retief sources grapes from cool-climate regions around NSW to produce his minimal intervention wines and the more on the nose they are the better; The Oak Barrel (oakbarrel.com.au) in Elizabeth St is one of the city's oldest bottle shops and has a huge range of hard-to-find wines.
Sydney also outdoes itself with inner-city breweries: pull on some comfy kicks and bounce between Willie the Boatman (willietheboatman.com) in St Peter's, Batch Brewing Company (batchbrewingco.com.au) and The Grifter (thegrifter.com.au) in Marrickville and Young Henrys (younghenrys.com) in Newtown. You can also get your thrills sipping straight from the stills at Archie Rose Distilling Co. (archierose.com.au), Poor Toms Gin Hall (poortoms.com), Manly Spirits Co. (manlyspirits.com.au) and Brix Distilleries (brixdistillers.com) in Surry Hills.
While in the heart of Sydney, make time to enjoy a bowl of glossy noodles in Little Hay Street near Chinatown, sample modern Israeli food at Kepos Street Kitchen (keposstreetkitchen.com.au) and enjoy drinks and nibbles at Smoke (barangaroohouse.com.au/smoke-bar), a rooftop bar in Barangaroo.
Motor just two hours' south of Sydney and you will find the landscape starts relaxing, gradually rambling downhill towards the beginning of the stunning beaches of Kiama. Forge connections with those growing and making the food at the Kiama Farmers' Market (kiamafarmersmarket.com.au), held on Wednesdays, where everything from sustainable locally grown produce to artisan cheeses are in the spotlight.
The countryside blooms as you head further south to Bangalay Dining (bangalayvillas.com.au/dine), where the menu designed by chef Brent Strong reads like a love note to the land. Bangalay Dining is the on-site restaurant at Bangalay Villas (bangalayvillas.com.au), part of a growing network of restaurants with rooms offering refined food in regional NSW.
Bangalay Villas has recently ramped up its food-and-wine-centric offerings with a bespoke Oyster Experience and Native Ingredient Experience making this place a hit with road-trippers looking for a pleasurable place to pull up for a few nights.
Veer slightly inland to Berry, past rolling hills pocketed with patches of fertile farmland, and you will find a town with a lively pulse thanks to the presence of day-trippers from Sydney. For sustenance, head to The Hungry Monkey (thehungrymonkey.com.au), where the Bad Boy Burger with Day-Glo-bright Monterey Jack cheese will keep you fuelled up for hours.
South on Albany (southonalbany.com.au) is Berry's newest neighbourhood restaurant with a "get what you're given" style menu driven by the very best seasonal produce.
Although it's one of NSW's lesser-known wine regions, the Shoalhaven is a fully fledged destination for oenophiles thanks to excellent cellar doors and restaurants such as Cupitt's Winery (cupitt.com.au) and Coolangatta Estate (coolangattaestate.com.au).
Hop heads will also be kept happy at Flaming Galah Brewing (flamingalahbrewingco.com) in Huskisson and Jervis Bay Brewing (jervisbaybrewing.co).
If you have another window for a few days' downtime, extend your food-focused itinerary further south for a stay at the Paperbark Camp (paperbarkcamp.com.au) where great stands of paperbark gums guard the site. Australia's first glamping retreat is set up where three national parks converge near the shores of Jervis Bay. The Gunyah (paperbarkcamp.com.au/the-gunyah) (Aboriginal word for meeting place) is the open-air restaurant at the heart of the camp and, as far as the chefs are concerned, you must have some knowledge of native ingredients to get a better understanding of the land.
Celebrity chef Rick Stein (bannisters.com.au/rick-stein) has a reputation around the world for his love of seafood and his eponymous restaurant nearby at Bannisters (bannisters.com.au/rick-stein) in Mollymook celebrates the great bounty of the Shoalhaven region of the NSW South Coast.
Tallwood (tallwoodeat.com.au) in Mollymook is also notable for local seafood as is the Quarterdeck Restaurant (quarterdecknarooma.com.au) at Narooma, which is one of the most popular places to pause along Australia's Oyster Coast. The Milk Haus (milkhaus.com.au) in the old Cheese Factory at Woodstock also gives artisan food on the NSW South Coast its due.
The beauty about visiting the birthplace of Australian winery is that you can come as you are — in a snug fleece or all your finery. All up, the region has about 150 wineries contained in its boundaries, and while choices for cellar doors abound, you can also enjoy refined plates of food. Executive chef Troy Rhoades-Brown seems to have harnessed the best Hunter Valley talent at his three-hatted winery restaurant Muse (musedining.com.au) and its more casual sibling, Muse Kitchen (which has held two toques since 2015). The degustation menu at the Hungerford Hill Winery restaurant is an ever-evolving conversation starter with dishes such as Jurassic quail, Morpeth drumhead cabbage and fermented and fresh salsa verde designed to take your fancy.
Frank Fawkner is one of Rhoades-Brown's proteges and you can now watch the talented chef plate up at the pass at his new EXP. (exprestaurant.com.au) digs, considered dress-circle seats when it comes to kitchen theatre in the valley. The restaurant is next to Fawk Foods Kitchen & Bakery (fawkfoods.com) where foodies can pick up souvenirs such as local marmalade and black garlic paste. The sustainability movement has well and truly spilled over on to the national stage in Australia over the past decade and Margan Restaurant (margan.com.au) has been at the centre of the movement amid the winemaking fraternity.
In addition to being accredited with Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, the chefs at the Broke property pluck organic produce from the kitchen garden to create dishes such as Sebago gnocchi, with pumpkin, pepita, sage and parmesan, a highlight of the five-course degustation menu.
After a morning spent knocking on cellar doors, follow up the liquids with lunch at Bistro Molines (bistromolines.com.au), which is surrounded by vines and impressive stands of gum trees. Here you will be given the grown-up choice between confit chicken leg, baby vegetable risotto and a slow-cooked pork collar with apricot puree. You can also enjoy a cheese platter alongside a tutored tasting with winemaker Ian Scarborough at Scarborough Wine Co. Cellar Door (scarboroughwine.com.au).
While most visitors to the Hunter Valley are familiar with the vineyard embroidered on to the rolling hills near Pokolbin and Cessnock, the patchwork of vineyard parcels around the township of Maitland should also be on your map. In Maitland, it's as much about the low-key experience at the Slow Food Earth Market (slowfoodhuntervalley.com.au) as it is about the less-travelled wine trail. Follow the Allyn River through the foothills of Barrington Tops to Boydell's (boydells.com.au) brand-new cellar door and restaurant located in Morpeth and on to the Icky Sticky Patisserie (ickystickypatisserie.com) in Maitland where a wodge of orange-and-almond cake is a must.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Australian borders are currently closed to New Zealand passport-holders but a transtasman bubble is being investigated by both Australia's and New Zealand's governments. In the meantime, go to sydney.com/nz for more information, ideas and inspiration.