The Parramatta precinct has been growing fast in recent years – the CBD here is now one of the second biggest commercial hubs outside the Sydney CBD – and so the restaurant scene is on the rise. Inner city slickers like Gelato Messina and Chefs Gallery have Parra outposts, and longstanding local favourites like Temasek and Nonna Maria's still pull the crowds.
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The best restaurants in Parramatta
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We take great joy in finding something in the last place you’d expect it to be. Appearing like a cheerful mirage in a wasteland of municipal buildings and parking stations, Circa is a sight for sore eyes, brightening up the dreary brickwork and abandoned lots of this utilitarian street with beautiful murals and the smell of strong coffee hanging in the air. Yes, it's a café, which means it's a lunchtime only affair, but it's also excellent so put it on your hit-list.
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.
Nearby and noteworthy
Although it’s possible that some history and disaster buffs know Granville best as the site of Australia’s most deadly train accident (83 people died in the 1977 derailment), these days you’re far more likely to associate this suburb of Western Sydney with Lebanese food or, depending on your hobbies, sprintcar racing at the Sydney Speedway track. Granville sits partially within Parramatta City and partially within the limits of the Cumberland Council, and if you live here you are more likely to be born overseas than locally, which is what gives Granville its international accent.
Want to explore more of Parramatta?
Today, Parramatta is home to many of the nation’s oldest buildings and also some of its newest. The city’s reputation as a commercial capital is well earned – it is truly Sydney’s second CBD, with the fourth-biggest Westfield in Australia and, in Church Street, a lively al fresco “eat street”. But Parramatta is more than that. The hum of industry has also made it a hotbed for artists, musos, chefs, retailers and visionaries. Parramatta’s streets have found themselves abuzz with pop-up shops, art studios and reactivated laneways. On the breeze you’ll smell artisan bread-making, coffee couture and the aromas of ancient and contemporary cuisines.