Sticking to a budget in Sydney doesn’t mean having to forgo the finer things in life. Sure, our rent and living expenses are high, but so is the number of top-notch restaurants serving dishes where the price belies the quality.
If you’re counting your coins this lockdown, here’s a guide for where to treat yourself and take away something tasty.
Itacate and Mexican Deli, Redfern Tacos (al pastor, suadero, chorizo): three for $16
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Rosa Cienfuegos makes some of Sydney’s best Mexican food. Inspired by her childhood in Mexico City, her Itacate and Mexican Deli in Redfern serves homey, comforting food and sells hard-to-find Mexican ingredients like specialty chilli sauces and lollies.
Served Mexico City-style in double corn tortillas, her tacos are as authentic as it gets in Sydney. There are three flavours to choose from: al pastor (juicy slow-cooked pork), suadero (spiced beef brisket) and a spicy minced chorizo. All come topped with finely chopped onion, coriander, fresh lime and a spicy salsa.
Fish Butchery (Saint Peter), Paddington Buttermilk-fried pink ling sandwich: $18
The sidekick to acclaimed Sydney restaurant Saint Peter, chef Josh Niland’s Fish Butchery in Paddington is a new-age fish shop that sells a constantly rotating range of seafood most people have never heard of, along with a killer takeaway menu.
Coming in at $18, the buttermilk-fried pink ling sandwich is Fish Butchery’s version of a KFC Zinger Burger. A piece of pink ling (which has soft, sweet-tasting flesh) is marinated in a spice blend, battered in tangy buttermilk and deep-fried before being placed on a potato bun with mayo, a slice of cheddar cheese and iceberg lettuce.
Lonely Mouth, Newtown Sunflower and hempseed shoyu vegan ramen: $19.50
Lonely Mouth is a vegan ramen bar and sibling to RaRa Ramen (which specialises in unctuous pork tonkotsu). This small noodle shop in Newtown uses innovative ingredients to create creamy, umami-heavy broths entirely from plants.
The sunflower and hempseed shoyu ramen is some of its best work: a big bowl of Hakata-style noodles in a deep, earthy broth that somehow mimics RaRa’s tonkotsu. It’s topped with plant-based chashu pork, fermented bamboo shoots, seasonal vegetables and the eatery’s secret tare seasoning.
Shwarmama, Surry Hills Lamb kofte pita: $18
Mat Lindsay’s (Ester, Poly) ‘fancy kebabs’ are one of Sydney’s best value-for-money meals. At this hole-in-the-wall on Commonwealth Street in Surry Hills, all five of the pitas and wraps on the menu are under $20, and they’re stuffed so full with falafel, marinated chicken or lamb you’ll probably get two meals out of them.
The lamb kofte is a highlight – consisting of garlicky balls of spiced meat stuffed into a fluffy white pita pocket. It’s topped off with a trio of creamy sauces (tahini, hummus and cacik: a tzatziki-style Turkish yoghurt dip), harissa, cabbage, chilli and vivid pickles. Take extra napkins.
Five Points Burgers, North Sydney Burger and chips: $18
There are just five American-style burgers on the menu at Five Point Burgers in North Sydney. Chef Tomislav Martinovic, who has worked under Heston Blumenthal, obviously knows a good burger joint only needs to do a few things well to succeed.
All burgers are named after a New York borough and come served on a soft brioche bun with beer-battered chips for around $18. The Manhattan is your classic cheeseburger with a medium-rare patty and double cheese, while veggies can go for the Staten Island portobello mushroom burger with marinated peppers and tzatziki.
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