In May, my Masters graduation was held at The University of Sydney. I was keen to attend even though I had studied via distance and it was in another state (I’d never even been to the university!), since I’d enjoyed the course so much more than my Bachelor. The ceremony would be on a Monday so I made plans with T and my family to make it a 4-day trip (Saturday to Tuesday). My Dad actually couldn’t make it for four days so he travelled in on Sunday morning and left on Monday evening. This was my fifth time visiting Sydney in the last decade, so I didn’t need to tick off many touristy sights anymore… but we still a lot of tourist-y things for my travel party.
Day 1: April 30
We (minus my Dad) took a morning flight to Sydney (I’ve learned that carry-on only is pretty difficult if you’re a guy bringing a suit!). We landed after midday and took an Uber into the city. We ended up taking Uber a lot and no public transport, which is not typical for how I travel, but with three people and my Mum who can’t walk super long, it worked out more time and cost efficient. We tended to walk throughout the city but took an Uber when going further. We booked two rooms at The Tank Stream Hotel (I would stay with my Mum on the nights my Dad wasn’t there – she’s never been able to sleep anywhere on her own in her life). It was a nice hotel with thoughtful amenities. The location itself is in the business-y district so it’s pretty quiet, but it’s pretty close to both Circular Quay and the busy areas of Pitt St and George St. The train from the airport stops nearby, but it’s a decent walk to the areas in the city with good food.
We walked across the road to eat some late lunch at Bowery Lane, which I actually visited on my previous one-day trip to Sydney to attend the introduction night for my Masters over a year ago. The space is nice, their opening hours suited us, and the menu is uncomplicated but good.
Bowery Lane – Seared scallops and blue swimmer tagliatelle were sooo good (spoiler: we went back again two days later because of it’s convenience, and my Mum ordered the tagliatelle because she liked mine so much). I like that this place does a decent breakfast, lunch and dinner Modern Australian menu. It’s in the middle of super casual and fancy, so it’s really comfortable and food is pretty good.
We took an Uber to Watson’s Bay, to visit Lady Bay Beach (there were definitely naked people here at this tiny nude beach) and Hornby Lighthouse, a great lookout point.
We spent about two hours walking through suburban streets filled with really wealthy and beautiful houses with gorgeous gardens to Nielson Bay, which was supposed to be another great lookout point, but there wasn’t really a clear view not blocked by the trees. It was dusk by now, so we got an Uber to head back into town. We looked up a chemist to stop at briefly before our dinner appointment – I had burned my arm really badly the week prior (I’m talking special bandages needed) and wanted to get a change of bandages because I ran out of the ones the doctor gave me. Luckily there was one really close to our dinner reservation. It was funny trying to explain to the Uber driver that our destination was actually chemist, haha.
Dinner was at Chaco Bar, which had been on my radar for some four years. It was supposed to be a really authentic yakitori restaurant. Expectations were high (but we tried not to get them too high)!
Chaco Bar – This restaurant is tiny and honestly looks exactly like you stepped into a Japanese yakitori bar. We sat on a long shared table and most of the seats (on the shared table or individual tables) are quite uncomfortable and cramped. But sacrifices can be made when the charcoal grill skewers are this good. It was amazing and definitely the real deal. Everything was cooked perfectly and the smokiness was strong. T is a huge fan of Japanese charcoal grill, and he said Chaco Bar was pretty much the best thing ever. I would totally fly us both to Sydney for special occasion dinners here. We also saw Australian chef, restaurateur and TV chef Neil Perry trying to get a seat. He was still loitering around outside when we left.
We decided to walk the 20-30 minutes across the city to our hotel. We stopped at a 3-storey Woolworths supermarket on the way. This blew our mind because Melbourne does not have any multi-level supermarkets! We picked up fruit and banana bread for breakfasts.
Day 2: May 1
In the morning, we walked south across the city (our hotel area, in retrospect, was pretty far from the good food areas) to Koi Dessert Bar. We walked through Hyde Park, because my Mum loves gardens.
I visited Koi the last time I was in Sydney (and carried cakes back home to Melbourne), and also purchased their desserts many times when Koi was temporarily at HWKR last year. I am definitely a huge fan of Reynold’s desserts, and not just blinded by the hype. I would argue they’re my favourite artisan desserts. We picked up three little cakes to take back to the hotel. Unfortunately there was just no other time that I could work out in our schedule other than picking up this morning.
My Dad had landed in the late morning, so he took the train into the city (the hotel is close to a train stop on the airport line) and dropped of his bag. We all met at Chat Thai (Thaitown location) where I made a lunch reservation.
Chat Thai (various locations) – Chat Thai appears, from the Internet, to be the most popular Thai restaurant(s) in Sydney. I went to their main location in Haymarket even though there was one location much closer to our hotel. It’s a narrow restaurant with a half second level. We ordered five dishes between four. The food was really good across the board. The boat noodles, one of T’s favourite Thai dishes, was weak though. Overall we are not sure Chai Thai is actually better than Melbourne’s best Thai restaurant, so T feels like “we’re not missing out”, haha. That said, the latter has been noticeably decreasing their portion sizes in the last two years, but Chat Thai’s prices and portions were really good.
After lunch, we walked north through the city again, dropped off the cakes in our hotel’s fridge (the reason why there’s no good photos to show of our desserts is that they got squished in the fridge!), and continued on to Circular Quay to view the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’ve been so many times in recent years, but half of my travel team (T and my Dad) had not seen these in decades.
We walked to Darling Harbour, which has always been my Mum’s favourite part of Sydney.
We were meeting my friend to go on a cocktail cruise around the harbour a bit later, and had some time to kill (plus we were a little tired), so we stopped at a tourist trap bar in Darling Harbour to have some drinks and a snack.
I booked the five of us the Sydney Harbour Cocktail Cruise by Captain Cook Cruises. It was enjoyable but mostly I was catching up with my friend who is studying and working in Sydney for a few years.
After the cruise, it was pitch black, and we walked across to The Star for our dinner reservation at Sokyo. I’d never visited The Star before.
Sokyo – Sokyo is a fine dining Japanese restaurant, and reminds me of Koko and Nobu which are also housed in Melbourne’s casino area. I’m generally pretty sceptical of Japanese fine dining, but we all agreed that Sokyo was really excellent. I couldn’t fault any dish at all and I’ve probably never seen such a photogenic souffle before. It was a great dinner!
We walked back to our hotel and ate our slightly squished desserts from Koi – still delicious!