Often memorable restaurant experiences aren’t just about fine food. We had a lot of meals in Australia but 10 stood out like Swarovski crystals.
While in Sydney, Ruth and I decided to take the time and go the distance to a stunningly good restaurant, the original Doyle’s. Having been there by accident only once before, we took the ferry from Circular Quay to Watson’s Bay at the mouth of Sydney harbor, a great treat in and of itself. After a bit of a wait (reservations advised), we spent two delirious hours feasting on seafood while looking at Sydney’s magnificent skyline in the distance. Doyle’s on the Beach, 126 years in business, is, according to Lonely Planet, “a quintessential Sydney experience.” Yes, indeed.
Melbourne has a daunting number of outstanding restaurants but our 2 favorites had gone out of business, so we took the tram to St. Kilda’s Acland Street. It has several pastry and candy shops among its eclectic store mix. It was mid to late afternoon as we bought some chocolates for their, uh, antioxidant properties. As we paid, I asked the in-their-20s male and female running the store if they could recommend a place to eat and they said in unison, “Rococo.” Just down the street and across from Holy Sheet, Rococo was effortlessly gourmet, welcoming, and inexpensive–2nd best meal of trip.
On our last night in Melbourne before heading down the Great Ocean Road, we walked up Lygon Street with John and Trish and entered Tiamo as if that was planned. It wasn’t. The staff at their hotel had recommended Tiamo, and we had eaten there the last time we were in Melbourne and liked it. Some coincidence, huh? Lygon Street, within walking distance of central Melbourne, is locally popular but not exactly a tourist magnet. Many of Lygon’s restaurants aren’t very good. Many have outside tables with annoying hosts who try to get you to sit down as you stroll by. In my experience, this practice almost guarantees indifferent food and drives me crazy. Tiamo, not beautiful but serving great fare, is the orchid under the weeds.
We got very lucky in Adelaide. Normally, folks who work in tourist information facilities can’t recommend restaurants. I learned a long time ago never to go into one and ask for the best restaurant in town. They can’t, and shouldn’t, tell you. What works, however, is something like this, “We’re looking for an inexpensive bistro type cafe with great soups. Can you recommend a few?”
The staff in the info kiosk on the Rundle Square pedestrian mall included a well-seasoned man and a woman who looked grandmotherly. Both were friendly, informative, and mentoring a young woman who seemed to be in training. I asked if they might recommend a couple of places to eat within walking distance. I mentioned sandwiches, pastas, and pizza. When I said the last one, the girl’s face literally lit up. I turned to see if Justin Bieber had just walked in.
Good Life at 170 Hutt Street was a bit of a walk but well worth it. Apparently a notable success, it creates organic, gourmet pizzas with unusual toppings. Good Life has more business than it can handle so, unlike us, book ahead.