Sydney’s Inner West food scene
Admiring the Opera House – easy peasy. Checking out the beach babes at Bondi – a cinch. Getting underneath the skin of Sydney and discovering the local providore hot spots – well that’s a bit trickier.
Us travellers are demanding more from our holidays. A bucket list of “touristy to dos” simply doesn’t cut it anymore. We want more – we want the real deal; the local’s fave spot for gelato, the vibrant inner-city villages and the quirky stores with authentic produce from the neighbourhood.Even as a local in your own city there are hidden pockets of food and culture just screaming to be discovered. So on one fine Saturday morning I set off to play tourist and with the help of Ultimately Sydney tours I uncover the city’s Inner West food scene.First stop – coffee. As any good Sydneysider would attest only locals know where to sniff out a decent coffee. And our shot of the hard stuff comes from The Coffee Roaster – an expert joint in Alexandria that make caffeine their business roasting and grinding fair trade beans. This place services many local cafes so you know you’re onto a good thing.
With energy levels boosted we hit our first foodie spot and it’s an unusual one – a humongous butchers housed in a giant chiller that requires a thermal jacket to enter. For the BBQ-king or queen in your house this factory outlet of stellar Aussie meats and unusual cuts will be a meat-filled dream and more. We sample a variety of gourmet sausages and chutneys and I note down the address to return for throwing the mother of all beach barbies.
With bags bulging with meaty goodness we climb back on our minibus and tour guide Rohan drives us across town to Rozelle. Rohan, a local and die-hard foodie, expertly guides us through the districts as we speed along pointing out top local spots and unusual facts. (It’s worth noting that the bus has plenty of space for any purchases including a cooler box.)
Next stop – Herbies – a local mecca for cooks and a treasure trove for fiends of herbs and spices. From fragrant Moroccan Tagine spices to sweet cinnamon-nutmeg combos this cosy shop has experts on hand for all your culinary questions.
With appetites at the ready we make tracks to Sydney’s Italian ancestral and cultural hub – Haberfield – for colourful characters and European treats. (Read: this isn’t the Sydney that you’ll find at Circular Quay.)
We enter Raineri’s, a delicatessen institution run by a vibrant family where Mama still serves behind the counter and her son is out the back whipping up a bowl of creamy, cheesy pasta for the passing customer. You don’t need to speak Italiano to order here but it might help you negotiate the hoards of locals picking up their daily loaves and slabs of Reggiano.
We sample plates of antipasti, rich pasta sauces, extra virgin olive oils and the most incredible Asiago black label cheese.
Carb-laiden there’s only one thing to round off this food coma and that’s chocolate. But not just any chocolate, chocolate at Haberfield’s Rino Saffioli – another independent family-run Italian store. Here the masters of confectionary take us behind the scenes, Willy Wonka style, to watch the mixing and swirling of chocolate perfection. After a brief history of the heralded cocoa bean we get to sample Rino’s wares and it’s pretty darn good.
A day of eating finishes with wine. Wine-not indeed. We make our final stop at an independent liquor store in Annandale for a smorgsboard of boutique tastings.With full, merry bellies we roll back into the city with a deeper appreciation for Sydney, it’s cosmopolitan inhabitants and the rich food scene.