Since its inception in 1788, Sydney has accumulated a rich history that’s reflected in the diversity of its food scene. For those who enjoy a side of history with their meal, there are plenty of establishments around the city that have stood the test of time.
Whether you’re a curious visitor or a born-and-bred local, take a glimpse into the past with these famous feeds.
Afternoon indulgence at Parliament House
Sydney’s Parliament House holds the distinction of being Australia’s first parliament building, as well as the city’s oldest public building. With sections dating back to the early colonial days of 1811, the edifice is a beloved part of Sydney’s heritage.
However, even seasoned Sydneysiders aren’t aware of the prestigious dining venue hidden behind the fence. The Strangers’ Restaurant, once reserved to politicians and dignitaries, has now opened its doors to the public.
Enjoy a fine dining experience in the genteel atmosphere as you watch state power brokers flitting in and out. You’ll be enchanted by the elegant dining room and sweeping views over the Domain as you mingle with the city’s elite.
On weekdays when parliament isn’t sitting, the restaurant is open for lunch. The menu showcases the best of New South Wales, with dishes and wines crafted from local and sustainably-sourced ingredients.
On Fridays, partake in a luxurious high tea served on delicate Parliamentary Crested Wedgwood plates. Eat your fill of gourmet delicacies while sipping on free-flowing tea and coffee. You can also opt for a glass of sparkling wine or rosé for an afternoon pick-me-up.
You’ll nibble on savoury delights like baked black truffle and goat’s cheese tart topped with an artichoke salsa, alongside sweet treats like caramelised banana topped with whipped cream and caramel popcorn.
Classic eats at Sydney’s oldest pub
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Sydney neighbourhood brimming with more history than The Rocks. Not surprisingly, its cobblestone streets are home to Fortune of War, Sydney’s oldest pub still open for business.
The heritage-listed establishment has been slinging drinks since 1828 and still celebrates its colonial heritage. Built by former convict Samuel Terry, it was a popular watering hole amongst sailors and soldiers in its heyday. The brown brick facade, constructed in the Californian Bungalow style, gives way to quaint, wood-trimmed interiors.
These days, the kitchen boasts a more contemporary menu, serving up standard pub fare with an unmistakably Australian twist. Diners can sample the bar snacks or enjoy a casual dinner at the family-friendly First Fleet Bistro. Dig into a kangaroo sirloin or try hearty pub favourites like chicken parmigiana and beef and Guinness stew.
Of course, patrons can indulge in the most patriotic pastime of all: drinking. The time-honoured tradition is best enjoyed with one of their cold Australian beers on tap.
Yum cha in the Chinese garden
Established in 1988, the Chinese Garden of Friendship pays homage to Sydney’s sister city, Guangzhou.
While the garden is relatively new, neighbouring Chinatown has existed since the 1920s. The district is a celebration of Sydney’s long-standing Chinese community, with a history spanning back to the gold rush.
You’ll feel like you’ve entered a different world as you step from the CBD’s hustle and bustle into this tranquil garden. It’s bursting with life, from the lizards basking in the sun to the brightly-coloured koi inhabiting the pond. The Gardens by Lotus offers the perfect vantage point to admire the greenery.
By day, this newly-revamped restaurant by the prolific Lotus Dining Group dishes up tea, dumplings and alcohol inside the beautiful Tea House. Experience the customary Chinese high tea with delectable morsels like violet argyle beef dumplings.
At night, the eatery transforms into a traditional Sichuan restaurant. The spice-laden offerings include Singapore style chilli crab with steamed bao and Australian king prawn with soy bean chilli.
By Jennifer Luu