Let all Australians rejoice for we have some of the world’s prettiest landmarks in our own backyard. A case in point is Sydney’s historic The Rocks area. The traditional lands of the Gadigal (Cadigal) people of the Eora nation, 2016 embraces this precinct as home to history, art, culture and food, with over 50 cafes, restaurants and bars. We invite you on a journey of discovery to sample a little of what The Rocks has to offer.
This part of Sydney is home to lots of historic buildings and Sydney’s very first road. It was originally named Main Street and later renamed George Street after King George III in 1810. This area has been subject to various regeneration efforts to the shops and buildings, with the work set to continue into the future. It’s a place that has seen its fair share of progress: in the 1970s it was earmarked for redevelopment but was saved thanks to activists and conservationists like Jack Mundey. Today it boasts a vibrant culture and beautiful architecture, in addition to being a food lover’s dream.
Fine Food is the perfect place to have a casual breakfast or brunch. Inspired by Brooklyn-style cafes, it has proudly been serving local craft beer, wine and coffee since 2004. The coffees are a particular drawcard, with drip coffee, cold brews and single origin espressos on offer. This cosy place is situated next to The Rocks Discovery Museum and offers fragrant brews that any discerning coffee drinker can appreciate.
Another amazing find at The Rocks is a restaurant called Pony, situated in a former bond warehouse. Head chef, Neil Nolan has been a mainstay at this eatery for ten years, and is instrumental in producing an eclectic menu that is cooked in a large open kitchen and over an Argentinean wood fire oven. Their roasted heirloom beets include yellow and traditional beetroot presented in a variety of different ways, including as a crisp as well as pureed and roasted. The perfect complement to the creamy burrata cheese and the sweet, candied hazelnuts.
Pony also has a large communal table on the outdoor deck. Such an environment was the appropriate time to sample some seared kangaroo. What a surprise to discover the gaminess of the lean kangaroo meat was toned down thanks to the addition of crunchy, native pepper berries and tart berries such as raspberry.
This restaurant also offered an exquisite JR signature sirloin with an Argentinian chimichurri sauce. This meat was cooked to perfection and has a nice little char from the wood fire oven. The sauce meanwhile, is based on parsley, onion, garlic and chilli and just made everything pop!
Scarlett Restaurant wins the prize for being the most chameleon-like space in the area. The restaurant is located in the Harbour Rocks Hotel and the building served as Sydney’s first hospital. They have a beautiful garden terrace offering serenity and calm with a view overlooking the historic nurses walk. It’s a great place to sip a Scarlett’s Dirty Mojito, a sparkling concoction of muddled lime and sugar with Stolen spiced rum and topped with soda.
The Rocks is host to a number of different public art pieces including one dedicated to Mundey, and a view of Brown Bear Lane (later Little Essex Street in 1901.) There is also a cute little dog sculpture dedicated to Biggles, a deceased schnauzer dog and former friend of The Rocks. It is these those iconic treasures along with a sandstone rich environment still boasting a supply of old post and telephone boxes, which gives this place its unique, old-world charm.
On Fridays The Rocks also plays host to a Foodie market from 9am – 3pm. The stalls include chocolates and other artisan products as well as street food-style offerings. Danieli BBQ Skewers sell a number of delicious skewers including Moroccan lamb, haloumi, prawns and peri-peri chicken, to name a few.
Pei Modern is a contemporary restaurant located in the five-star Four Seasons Hotel and is headed up by leading Australian chef Mark Best. The team have also welcomed a recent addition to their troupes in award-winning pastry chef, Lauren Eldridge. She has revamped their dessert menu while also keeping true to Pei Modern’s overall vision of exploring unconventional food pairings. Eldridge is not a sweet tooth herself, opting to craft desserts that she and others like her can enjoy, including desserts that are not too rich or sugary.
Eldridge creates her own wildflower honeycomb, served with a sweet, cultured cream… like the world’s most exquisite crunchy bar! The salted liquorice cake and molasses ice-cream, in an ice-cream hinting of coffee notes. The Rocks is no stranger to chocoholics with their yearly Smooth Chocolate Festival. Pei Modern caters beautifully here with their bitter chocolate tart and cumquat jam.
The Rocks is a place blessed in terms of its rich history and plentiful supply of places to eat, drink and relax. It is certainly fun to don the tourist cap and step back in time, while sampling some of Sydney’s finest and freshest contemporary Australian cuisine. The Rocks is ultimately a place where you can enjoy and celebrate the past, present and future, as you walk away with a full belly and a warm heart.
Originally published in October at the following website: http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/magazine/gourmet/issue/410/#41
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