The exorbitant Sydney
For many years, I have tried very hard to like Sydney. It is, after all, Australia’s most well known region, thanks to tourism, the harbour bridge, the Opera House and of course the sandy beaches but, (I do not say this about anywhere often or lightly) I really hate Sydney. The harbour is beautiful and the city centre is home to some amazing architecture BUT the food is bad, the coffee is worse, the traffic is unimaginable and the people, well (with the exception of some) are just plain rude.
The crowds are horrendous, and yes, Sydney has approximately 500,000 more people than Melbourne but having been to my fair share of extremely populace cities, it is not that hard to sort pedestrians out. For years, New Yorkers, Parisians and New Delhi citizens have walked shoulder to shoulder and successfully kept from bumping into one another. This ease and system of city walking appears to have missed Sydneyites completely and instead, they constantly bump into one another (with no word of an apology mind you), stop in the middle of footpaths to check their phones, dart and weave in and out of people walking in straight lines and most annoyingly, stand lay in large groups in the middle of stores which can only suggest they are so important, no other shopper is worthy of passing through. Note; Sydneyites drive this way too down their one way, diagonally designed streets.
In an attempt to escape this madness, I sort refuge in a Melbourne style café (really getting out of my comfort zone here) and headed to a little spot on York Street by the name of Palomino Espresso. This little window box is a real gem for the Sydney CBD and is often full with suits and the like joining the takeaway line that for the better part of an hour, stretched out the door. The food at Palomino is a real highlight and is baked and prepared daily by Palomino owner, Liesel Schmidt. With an assortment of sweet cupcakes, muffins and cookies, savoury is well represented with large panini style sandwiches, pies, quinces and salads.
The coffee is Morgan’s handcrafted blend, a relatively small roastery in Emu Plains NSW. Morgan’s pride themselves off the individuality of each roast which is evident in the slightly confused flavours of my espresso that was unfortunately over extracted and tasted more like a ristretto than an espresso.
Credit however must go to the milk coffee; a full-bodied latte and flat white that presented themselves with the exact measurements of foam and precision latte art. I was not surprised to find this, as most blends tend to take the partnership with milk much more liberally than a single or specialty roast. The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful and more importantly, know their products and I would certainly return if I ever have to go back to Sydney.
For those that are prepared to brave the gym junky, sun-loving Sydneyites, there is an endless list of things to do, don’t get me wrong. The Art Gallery of New South Wales is home to some beautiful works and if you are prepared to get there early to prevent long lines, Francis Bacon is currently exhibiting some of his more mundane, “Five Decades” series works for a $20 entry fee. For the brave shoppers, Sydney does have some lovely shopping areas and boutique stores but it is imperative to stay far clear from the likes of Pitt Street as possible. Surry Hills and Paddington have some of the most fascinating unique and eclectic stores that may even rival Melbourne hotspots.
If heading down to Circular Quay avoid the tourist prices of a harbour view lunch by paying a visit to Settlement on Phillip and Alfred Streets. Settlement overlooks the Circular Quay train station and has isolated views of the harbour. It is a lovely Melbourne inspired, long lunch style cafe/restaurant with an extensive wine list, commendable coffee and a daily changing modern Australian, Asian infused menu. Owned by three brothers, the trio are somewhat confused as to the exact theme and style of their project but it certainly the best in the area and reminds me of the Botanical in South Yarra (the price tag is similar).
Don’t get me wrong; Sydney is a lovely place to visit. The sun is warm, the people appear so relaxed – nothing seems to faze them and if you are prepared to pay the price, there are some wonderful dining experiences. For me, that is part of Sydney’s problem; everything has a price tag, and a very large one at that. I don’t like to compare cities, but despite Australia’s increasing cost of living, Sydney appears to be above and beyond anyone’s threshold. The exorbitant standard of living in Sydney is painful and it is impossible to escape. I have always compared Sydney to Los Angeles but that too is incorrect, there is no obvious poverty in Sydney nor are there many ethic diasporas or the cultures that accompany them. Sydney is an upper class, white city with the flashy cars and harbour view houses to prove it.