This Sydney gourmet food tour of the Eastern Suburbs takes guests to several specialty food stores, all of which offer a cornucopia of tasty treats. Sample their wares and see a different side of the Harbour City along the way. Duration: 4 hours (approx.)
Please note: Ultimately Sydney has recently discontinued this tour. You may like to visit the gourmet providores listed yourself, or browse all our available Sydney tours here.
In the alchemy of a Sydney summer morning, the sun has turned the sea into an expanse of glittering crushed diamonds.
I am looking down on the Pacific Ocean from the heights of MacPherson Street in Bronte — a perfectly brewed takeaway coffee in my hand. This popular beachside suburb is the first stop on Ultimately Sydney’s gourmet food tour of the Eastern Suburbs. From the tour meeting point at bustling Central Station, we’ve made our way here via Surry Hills and the Centennial Parklands.
Everywhere along the route, we pass people jogging, cycling or simply strolling in the sunshine. Their key accessories are yoga or cycle wear, a cute dog or two, and of course, newspapers and coffees. It could be Vancouver, except the weather is better. It could be Manhattan, except it’s more relaxed. It simply is what it is — Sydney at its very best.
Arriving a little early in Bronte, there’s time for some guests on the tour to buy beautiful artisan bread at Iggy’s Boston-inspired breadshop, while others (like me) pick up a full-flavoured coffee from Three Blue Ducks. How I wish my English and American acquaintances could taste this — coffee as it should be enjoyed, and as only Australian baristas seem to be able to make it.
Our first official appointment of the day is at the Orchard Street naturopathic juice and tea dispensary. Named for the bohemian street in New York where its owner first developed her raw/vegan/organic ethos, Orchard Street is a pleasure for the eyes as well as the taste buds. We admire the jewel-like colours and savour the intense, complex flavours of four different (and surprisingly delicious juices), while also enjoying the shop’s vintage styling with its gleaming wood and brass fittings reminiscent of an old-school chemist’s dispensary.
A very scenic drive past Bronte, Tamarama and Bondi Beaches takes us to our second stop — Hudson Meats in Rose Bay. While we survey the beautifully set-out displays, owner Jeff talks us through the company’s philosophy. Animals must be raised humanely and grazed ethically, with grass rather than grain. Knowing where every product comes from is key to the way the business operates. As Jeff says, ‘We want to know the name of the farmer and the name of the farmer’s dog’. Our tastings here are of fine salamis and superb smoked ham, and many of the group members depart with shopping bags loaded with both cooked and raw meats (our minibus has refrigerated compartments, so any fresh produce that is purchased can be kept safely through the tour).
Heading around the coast and back towards the inner city, I reflect on how nice it is to be chauffeured around Sydney. Any attempt to self-drive this route would be met with severe traffic and parking problems, but we enjoy the luxury of being whisked smoothly from place to place without having to worry about logistics.
Our next stop, the Gourmet Life delicatessen at Darling Point, is for me the undoubted highlight of the tour. Phrases like ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ and ‘treasure trove’ come to mind as we wander through the huge space crammed with diverse culinary delights. And the tastings are sublime. Acorn-fed wild pig jamon is served with Lombardy rice-flour grissini. Pistachios grown on the slopes of Mount Etna are followed by crispy capers from the Island of Pantelleria, located between Sicily and Africa. There are unusual cheeses to try, as well as potato chips flavoured with black summer truffles from Spain.
You can see a pattern here: most of the foodstuffs at Gourmet Life are imported from France, Spain or Italy. Fresh products are flown in and sold on a strictly seasonal basis. Caviar, one of the shop’s main specialties, is sourced globally, with different kinds coming from as far afield as Israel, Iran, Uruguay and Poland. While the caviar is, sadly, out of my price range, I’m happy to leave with purchases of grissini, tapenade and truffle chips, ready for my next drinks party.
There are two more stops on this Sydney gourmet food tour. During a well-designed wine-tasting at the Five Way Cellars in Paddington, we’re able to compare an interesting range of German and Australian Rieslings, and there’s plenty of time also to take in the village atmosphere of this iconic Sydney location. Lastly, a visit to Pasta Emilia in Surry Hills gives us the chance to sample some delicious pasta dishes right next to the workshop where the organic pasta is handmade. The restaurant’s Accademia provides opportunities to learn these rustic skills.
Deposited back at Central Station a little after 1pm, I head for home, resisting the temptation to open one of my bags of truffle chips right there on the train. Of course, I could always compensate for any gourmet sins by investing in a naturopathically crafted juice cleanse. Perhaps what I really want is to try more of those hearty pasta flavours? Mulling over the possibilities I’m struck by the energy and passion infusing each of the businesses we visited in their mission to inspire people to appreciate the highest quality of food and drink. Combined with the sheer physical beauty of the city’s east, this Sydney gourmet food tour is a very enjoyable lesson in the art of good living.
Roslyn travelled as a guest of Ultimately Sydney.
Additional images: Bigstock
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian. In her former career as an English Literature academic, Roslyn studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed her to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.