Looking for restaurants the Rocks?
There are numerous restaurants the Rocks, which makes picking the best one a difficult task indeed. However, the good news is that there is a number of venues serving international, local, indigenous, American, African and Asian cuisine. Whether you are into tasting a different cuisine every day or into enjoying your favourite ones, the Rocks will not let you down.
Finding that special restaurant the Rocks
Some tourists have one favourite restaurant the Rocks, while others love tasting as many different courses as possible. If you happen to fall into the category of people who like eating like the natives do, you can’t go wrong with Scarlett Restaurant. Located in Hotel Harbour Rocks (34 Harrington St.), the restaurant has constantly topped the list of tourists’ favourites.
At Scarlett, it’s not all about food. Certainly their fare is no less tasty than generous, but it’s the setting that catches the eye first. Namely, Scarlett Restaurant is set on the site of Sydney’s first hospital. Fine dining there is coupled with a stunning time-travel experience, as you will get to enjoy the sight of the Nurses Walk.
Scarlett Restaurant serves some remarkable starters, such as beef Tataki with sushi rice and ponzu and baked scallops with miso and caviar. The mains cater to a wide range of tastes; we recommend Hazelnut and pistachio Mille Feuille.
Cheese lovers will have a very special experience at Scarlett, as their selection of cheeses is impressive for a hotel Circular Quay restaurant. Some examples include fleur du Maquis, chèvre dusted with ash, quicke’s oak smoked cheddar and Tarwin blue. The cheeses go nicely with a cup of a fine red wine, but that just might be us.
Finding those special restaurants near the Rocks
You will have no difficulties finding other recommended restaurants near the Rocks, either. Sydney is a marvellous city, built by numerous cultures. Need we say that all of the settlers have brought their culinary secrets with them? The result is a colourful display of tastes for all senses.
If you’d like to taste the best of national cuisines, Gourmet Safaris can help. The company organizes food safaris and all kinds of walking tours. Get to taste only the finest of European, Asian, African and local cuisines, and learn a good deal about traditional food-processing techniques. Why limit yourself only to restaurants the Rocks when there are so many fares to discover?
Take Asian dishes, for example. If you don’t know the definition of “umami”, it’s high time you discovered it. Or, rather, tasted it. As it happens, there is no better place in the wide world for that task than the Spice Alley.
Visit Spice Alley
Spice Alley (Kensington St., Chippendale) is as Singapore as it can get in Australia. The food to be tasted there, however, isn’t only Singaporean. The Alley is a hidden gem for all gourmets and fans of Asian cuisine. It’s suitable for travellers on a tight budget, but not necessarily intended only for them.
Everyone is bound to find a new favourite dish or two at the Alley, and many indeed come back every day. For, alas, our stomachs are way too small!
Recommended Spice Alley Venues
- Alex Lee Kitchen (18-20 Kensington St.) serves a number of authentic Singaporean dishes brought to the happy customers by acclaimed Singaporean chef Alex Lee.
Lee is one on the best known Singaporean chefs in Australia, who has spent his career in both Singapore and Sydney, and is also the owner and head chef of Ginger and Spice (240 Military Rd., Neutral Bay) and formerly Temasek (71 George St., Parramatta).
Lee’s culinary skills are no less impressive than his portfolio; Alex Lee Kitchen is one of the best-loved Spice Alley venues, with the absolute favourite dish being Beef Rendang with Roti. Its three marvellous dips are what make it so special, namely spicy chicken curry, coconut and lemongrass Laksa, and thick Sambal.
- Old Jim Kee (20 Kensington St.) serves Malaysian food. The venue is run by veteran chef going by the name of Uncle Jim (Jim Yong). Uncle Jim was born in George Town, Malaysia, where he specialized in Malaysian Nyonya cuisine. He has served his dishes in both Malaysia and Australia for over 30 years, which speaks volumes about their quality.
Customers’ favourite dish is the char kway teow — flat rice noodles with prawns, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), bean sprouts, fish cake and an egg. Traditional teh tarek (sweet Malaysian tea) is also to be had at Old Jim Kee.
- Bang Luck (31 Goold St.) serves Thai and Vietnamese street food. Chef Tiw Rakarin was born in Thailand, where his family-owned a market. It was exactly there that he acquired his love for cooking, which only expanded over years while he worked in some of the most renowned Asian restaurants and eateries in Australia, England, and the USA.
The customers’ favourite dish is the som tum (spicy papaya salad) with sweet pineapple, snake beans, peanuts, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and chicken ribs on the side.
- Kyo-to (38 Kensington St.) serves Japanese food (not a difficult leap). The restaurant is styled as a Kyoto’s laneway eatery, and an intimate one at that. For one thing, the Japanese treasure their privacy! Kyo-to serves all popular Japanese dishes and some of the less known ones, all of which have one thing in common: they are delicious.
Try their seafood okonomiyaki for the best experience. The ingredients include prawns, a baby octopus, mussels, calamari rings, katsuobushi and the sauce. It’s umami all the way!
- Hong Kong Diner (18-20 Kensington St.) serves Cantonese cuisine. It is the perfect venue to taste authentic Hong Kong dishes, including handmade noodles, dumplings, wontons, rice galore, all kinds of dim sims, soups and congees. A decent number of vegetarian dishes is also served. Prawn dumplings are customers’ favourite (four per serving).
- Koi Dessert Bar (46 Kensington St.) serves fine dining desserts at affordable prices. Many classic patisserie cakes are to be found at Koi, as well as signature desserts and cocktails. Customers’ favourites include Poernomo’s Little Garden and Mango Yuzu Cake.
There’s so much more to the Harbour City than just best Sydney CBD restaurants
It is fully understandable that many tourists inquire about best Sydney CBD restaurants first. Still, not mentioning numerous activities to enjoy would be a pity. Therefore, here are some of our recommended adventures to attempt in between the meals.
Visit Wendy's Secret Garden
Wendy's Secret Garden (Clark Park, Lavender Bay) is a stunning place with a curious story. The garden was planted by Wendy Whitley, wife of the artist Brett Whitely. When Brett died in 1992, Wendy went on to transform the once abandoned train yard space into what it is today. Ever since then, Wendy and two gardeners have tended to it.
The garden grows native and exotic plants, as well as various herbs. It features winding paths and benches, sculptures and wooden carvings, all of which make it a perfect spot for unwinding. Wendy's Secret Garden is known for lending inspiration to many. Indeed, many local artists have donated their artworks to help enrich it.
Visit Carriageworks Farmers Markets
Carriageworks Farmers Markets (245 Wilson St., Eveleigh) welcome visitors every Saturday from 8am to 1pm. The market is quite famous and features seasonal produce from farmers from across New South Wales. Bio-dynamic and organic food is only a small part of the offer.
Expect to find more than just carrots and radishes, though. The display is organized by Chef Mike McEnearney, after all, who makes sure every kind of product gets its proper place. Make sure to visit Chef Kylie Kwong’s stand! Order some pork buns and enjoy your day out.
Discover Bondi Icebergs Pool
Bondi Icebergs Pool (1 Notts Ave., Bondi Beach) is the best-known ocean pool in entire Australia. Not to mention, it is located at Sydney’s Bondi Beach — the most famous beach of them all. The 50-metre saltwater pool is favoured by many passers-by, as it is conveniently located alongside the Bondi-Coogee walk.
It’s a great place for sunbathing and chilling out, in general. For $6.50 you will also get access to the pool, the gym and the sauna. Work out, swim and relax!
See Sydney by Kayak
Thinking about it properly, Sydney is actually a perfect place for kayaking. The city boasts spectacular views, sandy beaches and more attractions than anyone cares to count. If you are of a like mind, the Sunrise Kayak and Coffee tour is just the thing for you. It’s not for night owls though, as the guides run dawn tours — before the buzzing Sydney life begins.
It all starts with a cup of fresh coffee of your choice delivered to the kayak before you start paddling. The tour is one-and-a-half hours long and equally suitable for beginners and experts (all equipment hire is included in the tour). The tour departs from Lavender Bay boat ramp; small groups of eight people are guided from there by a professional Kayak instructor.
Get trampolining at Sky Zone Alexandria
Sky Zone Alexandria (55 Doody St., Alexandria) is an indoor trampoline park Sydneysiders love no less than tourists. Set in a huge warehouse, Sky Zone will see you jumping inside the Stratosphere, and through dodgeball zones and basketball games. Once you’ve had enough, simply dive into a pit filled with pleasantly gargantuan foam squares.
Do some espionage on the go in the Cipher Room
The Cipher Room (640 King St., Newtown) is a popular escape room in Newtown. There, the year is always 1945, and you will find yourself not only teleported back in time, but also to someone’s study. An abandoned Scrabble game is left in the corner, and the radio plays some big band music. Sounds interesting? Enter Espionage, the best-loved escape puzzle!
Your co-players and you (up to six people, in total) will have only one hour to locate the secrets hidden by the Agent M somewhere in the room. If you like detective games, this activity is not to miss! You’ll get a walkie-talkie, a pen and a notepad, and mini-torches to help you get started. It’s loads of fun, mildly put.
If you are more into hunting serious killers, the Cipher Room’s second game room the Cabin is the place to visit. We find it difficult to decide which one we like better, as that a lot of thought has been invested into devising such marvellous puzzles. Hats off to the owners!
Take the Sydney Harbour Sunset Dinner Cruise
The Sydney Harbour Sunset Dinner Cruise is just the perfect thing to do after racking your brains in the Cipher Room. You do deserve a reward, after all! This deluxe sunset cruise includes a two-course dinner with unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks. Enjoy the landmarks while dining — Sydney Opera House, Fort Denison, Luna Park and the Harbour Bridge are just some of them.
The cruise boats are MV Sydney 2000 (summer) and the John Cadman III and Captain Cook III (winter). Sample menu: spinach and porcini mushroom gnocchi with puttanesca sauce and shaved pecorino cheese and semi-sundried tomatoes, grilled seared salmon oven roasted chat potatoes, tomato, olive, and caper berry sauce, chicken breast grilled in rock salt and rosemary with Serrano ham and greens. They also offer Lamb Shank with garlic mash and vegetable ragout, and roasted eggplant and capsicum with zucchini ribbons and Napoli sauce (vegetarian). Dessert: caramelized pear frangipane tart with coconut mascarpone cream with praline dust maple drizzle, Bailey's Irish Whiskey creme brulee and almond biscotti.
Finest restaurants the Rocks
We’d be curious to find out which restaurants the Rocks you find most appealing after reading our recommendations. We firmly believe that (with so many adventures Sydney has to present) fine dining should not come first. It should be –no, must be! -the absolute cherry on top!
Treat yourself to a cruise, a cuisine you’ve never tasted before, a food safari, creative cocktails and vintage wines. That’s what vacations are all about, after all!
Learn more about Sydney in our guide: