Sydney’s food scene is one of the few in the country that I consider to be on par with Melbourne’s. Every time I get the chance to visit I try to make the most of it by eating as much as I can across a variety of price levels and cuisines. Naturally, that includes fine dining, so where else to go but Sydney’s second most popular fine dining restaurant (according to Urbanspoon)?
Situated in the top level of Customs House in Circulay Quay, the view from Cafe Sydney is enviable. The familiar harbour bridge arch breaks up the stock-photo perfect blue sky and matching water.
I’d heard the seafood is good here; we start with an entree of Moreton bay bugs and king prawns ($27).
The meat was plump, substantial and fresh. The salad was just the light accompaniment it needed.
We followed with steak tartare ($27), decorated with tiny piles of brightly coloured seasonings. When mixed together the result was a slightly less presentable but utterly delicious mess of meaty, yolky, truffley goodness accented by the salt and pickle.
Bob’s main was the chicken ($38). The harissa added a nice zing to the mixture of de-boned chicken and herby lemon pearl barley.
What’s even better than duck? Twice cooked duck! Cafe Sydney’s duck leg ($39) was offset nicely by sweet roasted peach, and pillows of thyme-flecked gnocchi served well to mop up the juices.
We hadn’t fine dined for a while prior to this, so we were a little ‘out of practice’, so to speak. Unable to eat a dessert each, we decided to share a warm lemon pudding ($19).
It was delectably moist, with soft, curd-like top layer. Raspberry sorbet and tart creme fraiche completed the simple, winning dessert.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed that bread was not free, as is usually the standard in restaurants of this type, but $2.50 per sourdough roll or plain naan. I’m well aware that restaurateurs operate on very thin margins, but surely there is enough fat to absorb the cost of one bread roll per diner? It’s not so much about the cost of the rolls (I’m sure most people can spare $2.50) but more about the principle of it. When you are spending $80 each on dinner there is a minimum standard you expect, and complimentary bread forms part of that.
My experience at Cafe Sydney reminded me somewhat of Eureka 89 in Melbourne: the location is exceptional, to the extent that the cost of dining is not commensurate with the quality of the food. Not to say that Cafe Sydney is particularly expensive or the food is sub-par – that’s certainly not the case – but it goes without saying that a similar meal could be obtained elsewhere for fewer dollars. It’s a worthy experience though, especially for a date.Cafe Sydney 31 Alfred Street Sydney, NSW