The best places to eat in Parramatta
The arrival of a higher-end dining option such as Husk & Vine Kitchen & Bar in Parramatta is big news: it’s the sort of swank restaurant the area was waiting for, confirming the suburb’s status as being ‘on the move’ and adding to the rejuvenation of the city’s west. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of Skye Hotel Suites, the suburb’s first five-star hotel offering luxury boutique apartments, and the dining demographic ranges from locals looking for something fancier than Neil Perry's Burger Project next door to international visitors doing business in Sydney's second CBD.
The enormously popular Malaysian eatery tucked into a little pedestrian laneway in central Parramatta doesn’t go in for frippery or frills – they would only distract you from the flavours in your bowl, and they deserve your whole-hearted attention. The beef rendang will quiet all those tiresome people who come back from a Malaysian holiday only to moan about how nothing here compares. Love laksa? These guys are famous for their creamy noodle soups that come densely packed with two types of noodles (egg and rice), fresh bean sprouts, fat prawns and deep-fried tofu wedges.
PappaRich is designed as a modern version of the traditional Malaysian kopitiam (coffee shop). But it's not just the sugary coffee that diners at the Parramatta outlet are queuing for: this is where to get your nasi lemak and laksa fix in what is now Sydney’s second CBD. The eatery, located outside the bus concourse, is crowded with commuters, local business people, and a significant number of Malaysian Australians, which is always a good sign. Given there are now seven PappaRich outlets in Sydney, it seems they’ve hit on a formula for success – affordable, no-frills hawker-style food and drinks.
New Chinese eatery Chefs Gallery has opened up in Parramatta on the ground floor of Westfield. Watching the chefs acrobatically swivel, twist and throw around noodle dough behind the glass-walled kitchen is reason enough to go. And those handmade noodles are set to be pretty damn amazing. But it’s not all about noodles, there are also some pretty ace sounding dishes like crystal pastry dumplings, double cooked corn fed chicken soup, oxtail slow-cooked with galangal, kaffir lime and basil, and Macanese mini burgers stuffed with pork fillet, pork floss, lettuce and sweet chilli mayo.
A good beef noodle soup can bring you back from the dead. The combination of full flavoured beef broth, thin slices of beef, flat rice noodles and green onion cut with a squeeze of lemon and brightened with torn basil leaves and crunchy bean shoots is enough to revive the sick, the depraved and the downright hung over. But before the beef soup we plump for Pho Pasteur’s super-sized spring rolls. Served with half a head of iceberg lettuce and pile of mint, the idea is to wrap the spring roll in the greens then dip in a mix of palm sugar and fi sh sauce and chilli.
It almost feels wrong to label the Emporium a mere restaurant. Because it’ really so much more: a two-floor, 150-seat eatery with indoor/outdoor seating, a wine bar, a bakery and an onsite coffee roastery with a 25-kilo monster of a German bean machine are all right here. The space boasts three separate dining areas, two being alfresco. It's the fanciest digs for a business lunch in Parramatta right now, and if you're iron levels are feeling low you'd be making a good decision by ordering the London broil, a confusingly named steak preparation from Canada.
Hold onto your hats, burger fiends, because Burger Project has brought their Tasmanian beef patties and free-range chicken burgers to Western Sydney, and it's their biggest venue yet so you don't have to give people vicious side-eye just to get a table – there are 90 seats available. There're 14 burgers on the menu, plus soft serve, shakes and iced teas. If you've been stinging for a new lunch option in Parramatta, the burgers have finally arrived.
You must start with the Arak, a pungent licorice alcohol that puts Italy's grappa to shame. Only have one though, or you may not remember what the rest of your meal was like. It's very strong in both alcohol content (45 per cent) and flavour (aniseed). Wait-staff enthusiastically push the banquet, describing it as "a tantalising array of Lebanese cuisine in one degustation" and we're happy to oblige. Tray after tray of homous, labne, tabouli, grilled meats, shish kebabs and batata filled our table. The star is the baba gannoush, with big smoky flavours.
Sydney bars don’t come more spectacular than this fully restored century-old church now hosting hop-lovers and hearty-food fans. Pork knuckles and mega-schnitzels abound, all sent to their maker on torrents of excellent Bavarian amber. Beyond its dining room of long tables and stained glass is the beer garden, a cool space perfect for sinking steins of Hefe-Weissbier or Stiegl Goldbrau on a summery day.
Free bread? Free jugs of house-made lemonade? Any moment you expect Nonna Maria to come over to your table, squeeze your cheeks and implore you to “Eat! Eat! You’re too skinny." They’ve got every trattoria stereotype covered, from the creeping ivy over the front entrance to the giant Italian flag hanging by the door and red-and-white checked tablecloths inside.