What to see
I grew up a couple of hours north of Sydney. When I got to the city, one of the first things I did was climb Harbour Bridge. It’s an amazing experience because you can take in the whole city that way. Another thing, of course, is to visit the Opera House. Even though it’s a very touristy thing to do, seeing a performance there is like nothing else you’ll ever experience. If you’re feeling daunted by the prospect of a big, formal experience, head to the Opera House’s Cured & Cultured bar for a table with a gorgeous view without the huge price tag.
Where to stay
Base yourself in Surry Hills and stay at the award-winning Paramount House Hotel. It’s a beautiful hotel, but the best thing about it is the room-service menu, which is provided by a wine bar called Poly – sister restaurant to the famous Ester in Chippendale. Their food is just so good. And nearby, Artificer is one of the best places in the city to get coffee; we use their beans in my restaurant, Saint Peter.
There’s also Mrs Banks, a small boutique hotel in Paddington, which is an area that’s really come a long way in the past few years. It now has loads of great spots to eat and drink, plus the nearby Paddington Markets, open on Saturday afternoons, is a great place to browse for art and fashion and try local snacks.
Where to eat
I’ve got three kids and live on the other side of Sydney, but if I could, I’d go to Room 10 every single day. It’s a little café in Potts Point that’s basically just a hole in the wall, but there’s always a line out the door. Their coffee is consistently phenomenal, and the menu is so simple and awesome. Everything is super high quality, from their eggs to their salads and avocados.
Don’t miss the Old Fitzroy, which is a pub by the water in Woolloomooloo that I’m sure would be flooded with people if it was better known. The kitchen is run by my friend Nick Hill, who used to be the sous chef at Michelin-starred The Ledbury in London. They still serve classic pub food, but now Nick has put all his knowledge and techniques into reworking the menu, while still making people like my grandparents feel at home. Plus, where else can you eat a pub meal from one of the best chefs in Sydney?
When it gets dark
After a late service, or if we want to celebrate someone’s last day, we all go to Golden Century in Haymarket, which is a Cantonese restaurant that specialises in seafood. They’re open until 4am and they serve iconic Cantonese-style Chinese food, like pipis on fried noodles with XO, or wok-fried snow crab. It’s an institution – no trip to Sydney is complete without a visit to Golden Century.
Advice for a first-timer
Butter Sydney is a really unique, cool restaurant that’s famous for only serving butter-fried chicken, Champagne and sundaes. The front of their shop is just a glass wall full of sneakers for sale, and the rapper Post Malone has even worn one of their T-shirts on stage.
Chaco Ramen is another fab spot that many tourists might miss, which is a tiny place in Darlinghurst that serves just ramen. They’ve recently opened up another spot in Potts Point serving yakitori skewers.
Or for something different, try the popular Lankan Filling Station, one of the city’s few Sri Lankan restaurants. Everything is made beautifully by owner O Tama (try the hoppers), the prices are really good and it’s in a relaxed part of town with plenty of pubs and bars you can go on to afterwards.
Where to shop
Carriageworks Farmers’ Market is the perfect place to spend a Saturday morning. It’s basically a giant, covered football field filled with amazing suppliers, from oysters to organic veg, to someone who just brings figs. And there are plenty of coffee vendors to keep you going. My stand, the Fish Butchery, is there every weekend.
Around the corner from Saint Peter in Woollhara is an amazing butchery called Victor Churchill, which is pure sensory overload. It feels like a car showroom, and is the most impressive meat salon you’ll ever see – don’t miss the Himalayan salt-brick dry-ageing room.
If you end up near Rushcutters Bay, there’s a little shop called Gourmet Life that stocks some of the finest produce in the city. The owner has access to world-class caviar, not to mention foie gras, girolles, and fresh truffles…
My perfect day in Sydney…
I’d start the day in Chippendale, which is a really colourful area of Sydney with quite a young, fun crowd. If I was up early, I’d go to Brickfields Bakery where I’d have a coffee with a really good piece of bread or croissant. After a short walk around the neighbourhood, I might head to A1 Canteen to meet friends for a more substantial breakfast.
There are plenty of galleries like the White Rabbit if you fancy some culture. From there, Spice Alley on Kensington Street would be a good place to look for some lunch, especially if you like good noodles, and finish up the day soaking up the views at the rooftop bar on top of The Old Clare Hotel.