Sydney has its share of posh dining, but if you’re coming into the city to enjoy the Vivid lights, you don’t want to spend too much or take too long for dinner, so here are Business Insider’s picks for fast and well-priced places to eat while you’re out in the CBD at night.
Vivid Sydney runs night from 6pm until midnight to June 9.
Bangkok Sidewalk, Kirribilli
Sit outside on a balmy night (or under the heaters) for authentic Thai street food at this BYO (the bottleshop’s opposite) in an old corner building. There’s the flexibility of pick-a-protein-and-noodle dishes, fresh and fiery salads such as yum pla muk (grilled calamari with chilli-lime dressing) and yum ped (roasted duck, lemongrass and chilli jam). The red curry of duck with pineapple and deep-fried barramundi with kaffir lime and chilli are among several irresistible dishes on the signature Sidewalk ‘specials’ list before you head down under the bridge to see Vivid’s perspex ‘sea of people’.
Medusa Greek Taverna, CBD
A massive $36 mezze plate of taramosalata, tzatziki, haloumi, sausage, dolmades, olives, and pita bread to share is also enough, but then you’d miss out on the excellent $26 mousaka. This cheery Greek, serving up generous, traditional fare, is one of the city’s best value restaurants, especially when the wine list starts at $28 a bottle if you want to go Greek.
The Malaya, King Street Wharf
For more than 50 years The Malaya has given the city authentic, great value Malaysian food, from a cracker coconut beef rendang to king prawn laksa, otak otak (fish wrapped in banana leaf and barbecued), as well as looking further afield with the excellent Singapore curry fish. You can go crazy with the multi-dish $55pp set menu, but most mains sit in the mid-$20 to mid-$30 range, while the smart harbour-side setting is a prime spot to watch the lights and murals sweep across the Australian Maritime Museum’s roof.
Ventuno, Walsh Bay
The menu at this large Italian, with plenty of waterside outdoor seating, ranges across antipasti, pasta and pizza, with nothing north of $30. It’s classic Italian fare, from involtini di melanzane (rolled eggplant filled with tomatoes, breadcrumbs, pine nuts and parmesan) to king prawns wrapped in pancetta with pea puree, calamari fritti and a panzella salad with fennel salami. The pizzas are mostly Neapolitan style and the diavola, smeared with nduja, the spicy spreadable salami, packs plenty of heat.
There’s an $18 kid’s menu which includes pizza or pasta, a drink and gelato; and on Sundays from 5pm there’s a $25 pizza and Italian beer deal.
Sailor’s Thai Canteen, The Rocks
The long zinc communal table, where great Thai street dishes, all priced under $30, land quickly after ordering, has served this city brilliantly for nearly 20 years. Simply delicious whether it’s the fab pad thai, crisp pork belly in sticky, sweet and sour sauce, or deep-fried whole trout with tamarind dressing. You can’t book, but the turnover is reasonably fast and there’s a good, well-priced wine list for relief from the crowds.
Cafe Sopra, Walsh Bay & Bridge St, City
This casual Italian trattoria-style, linked to the Fratelli Fresh providore, focusses of fresh, lively, vegie-laden salads and pasta dishes on a big blackboard menu, although on a cold night you might find yourself tucking into pork belly with polenta. The Walsh Bay branch is open nightly until 10pm, while the Bridge St branch does six nights (closed Sundays). You’ll also find a pizzeria and mozzarella bar in Bridge St, and unlike Walsh Bay, where it’s first-come-first-served, you can book.
The Orient Hotel, The Rocks
This historic 1844 pub has a pretty good bar menu full of classic pub grub.
There’s nothing over $25, with most dishes priced mid-teens and there’s a midweek daily deal of pies, burgers, pasta, chicken parmi for $10-$12 (steak is $15 on Tuesdays).
The kids’ menu is $9.50 and the wine under $10 a glass.
Tapavino, Circular Quay
You could blow the budget hoeing into the famed Pata Negra jamon, from the acorn-fed pigs of southern Spain, but this cosy two-storey tapas bar, with a handful of outside tables, is just a great grazing spot for snacky morsels such as morcilla (blood sausage) with manuka honey and walnuts; piquillo peppers stuffed with smoked mackerel; and sherry-glazed pork belly with red cabbage slaw. It’s loud, bustling and fun, with a wine list that will certainly blow the budget as it temps you to settle in for the evening.
Ash St Cellar, Martin Place
An outdoorsy, laneway bistro and wine bar that’s part of Merivale’s ivy. Chilean-born chef Claudio Morales offers a mix of tapas and European flavours, from empanadas, croquetas and cured meats, to kingfish ceviche with spiced popcorn, a roast duck, coleslaw and bacon sandwich; and lamb shoulder, tuscan beans and salsa verde. It’s not the cheapest wine list but it’s an interesting one and you can order tasting glasses and carafes as you watch the rest of the world stroll by.
China Lane, Martin Place
This pan-Asian in the birdcage-adorned lane just off Martin Place has a long, sassy, spicy menu, from crisp masterstock-braised pig’s ear to snack on, sashimi, gin-cured trout on tofu, steamed dumplings, wok-fried crispy chicken with black vinegar and five-spice drunken lamb with pickled radish. There’s a big range of vegetarian dishes too and the service is smart and speedy, the beers plenty cold and there are some sublime (and expensive) wines if money’s no object.
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