Some people divide Sydney along waterways or trainlines, but the most delicious way to make sense of this expansive city is by taste. You'll find incredible Chilean food in Fairfield, regional Chinese in Campsie, countless Indian options in Harris Park, and Turkish stills reigns supreme in Auburn. It's a big city, so one of the best ways to access the full melting pot of cuisines on offer is on a food tour. Some tours focus on introducing newcomers to the city’s dining scene, while others are more targeted at helping locals explore dynamic and diverse food districts. We indulged our inner tourist to see what a Sydney food tour involves.
Just want a quiet drink? One of these wine bars will be just the ticket.
Sydney food tours
Duration: 3.5 hours
Taste Tours is a not-for-profit social enterprise, providing training and employment for migrants, refugees and young people. Its tours have a definite edge on the local knowledge front, plus a feel-good factor – and there’s plenty to eat. One Sunday, a group of nine Sydneysiders and one Melbournian join vivacious guide Alaa Krayem for an excellent breakfast starring fresh falafels and fatteh at a gracious Syrian restaurant. Our next stop is an Afghani bakery for bread, hot from a tandor oven. At a Persian grocery we taste specialties such as zeytoon parvadeh, a mixture of green olives, ground walnuts and pomegranates. In a Turkish restaurant, a chef rolls out the dough to make fresh pides for us: one spinach and cheese, another with spiced lamb. Next stop is an Afghani doner kebab shop for spongy bread wrapped around turmeric-flavoured chicken, followed by lamb dumplings at an Afghani restaurant. Hopefully you make it to the traditional biscuits at the end.
Duration: 3 hours
Flavours of Auburn is another social enterprise, one which brings communities and cultures together through food in the suburb of Auburn. As well as tours, it also offers cooking lessons in cuisines ranging from Ethiopian to Sri Lankan. It’s the Turkish version of Auburn we explore one Sunday with nine Sydneysiders, led by two experienced guides. We receive shopping bags and a recipe book, and start our tour with a sugar hit, sampling pastries handmade from Turkish pistachios. A visit to the impressive Gallipoli mosque includes a tour and talk. Turkish embroideries feature at our next stop, a manchester emporium, followed by a tasting selection of deli items at Gima supermarket – string haloumi is a big hit – followed by cakes and bread at a bakery. At the intriguing Al Jazeera Mart the staff demonstrate plant-based perfumes and room fresheners. Warning: don’t snack too much, because the tour culminates in a lunch of pide, grilled meats and salad.
Duration: 5.5 hours
Maeve O’Mara, of SBS TV fame, started Gourmet Safaris nearly 20 years ago, and while Haberfield was not her first tour (Punchbowl was), it is very popular. One Saturday, 32 people (a mix of Sydneysiders and visitors from regional NSW) show up to the capacious Napoli in Bocca restaurant. Fortified by espresso, we listen to hospitality consultant Sam Cosentino, who channels his inner Italian grandmother in explaining the importance of food to Italian culture. The group splits into two and our guides steer us to specialist supermarkets, a fresh cheese deli, a bakery, a fresh pasta shop, and a garden of earthly delights, namely Franks Fruit Market. We head back to Napoli in Bocca to store our shopping in its fridge and then regain our strength over a very generous lunch of salad, pasta, pizzas, calzone and gelato, plus wine. Our final destination is Haberfield Cellars to sample Italian cocktails.
Location: Inner Sydney
Duration: 6 hours
Helen Fraser’s slick minibus tour is aimed at overseas visitors, picking them up from CBD hotels. We join two US tourists and a UK couple to explore foodie destinations in four former industrial sites on the fringes of the city. The tour cleverly dodges rush hours, so at 11.30am we are at the waterfront precinct of Barangaroo to sample classic Turkish snacks and sweets, and toast with raki, at restaurant Anason. We explore the new age, Inner West dining mall at Harold Park Tramsheds where we taste craft brews and scoff bar food. Gin tasting at a distillery in Rosebery's the Cannery lets the crowds vacate Three Blue Ducks café before our wholefoods spread is laid out. In exploring Kensington Street’s Spice Alley, close to Central Station you can expect Japanese snacks and wine tasting nearby.
Location: Surry Hills, Darlinghurst or Potts Point
Duration: 3-3.5 hours
Maree Sheehan offers walking tours that double as night-time dining (three or four courses) for up to ten guests in Sydney's Inner East. Ours was a small group: a retired US couple, Maree and us. Venues are pre-booked (in our case, one bar, two restaurants and one gelateria), but there is less dining variety in this part of the world and the tour is ore an introduction to Sydney's nightime hubs. The food subscribes to a Euro-centric offering of bread, pasta, tomato and cheese combinations, and green salads. We were offered a choice of drink at the bar, and a glass of white or red wine at each restaurant, and for dessert we chose our own gelato. Conversation is kept flowing with the history of the streets and buildings en route to each course. These are the kind of tours best suited to overseas visitors who want an easy dinner option and/or an introduction to the city.