Sydney: Glorious Beaches, Sunshine and Coffee
When somebody that you just met tells you that he or she lives in Sydney, you instantly feel an immense pang of jealousy. I am right, aren’t I? The reason is perhaps as follows: imagine London, but London surrounded by white sandy beaches, London that is constantly basking in warm sunshine. Sydney is like its younger, more playfully mischievous and more boisterous sibling. Some areas even share the same name: Hyde Park, King’s Cross, Paddington, Greenwich. Sydney is Australia’s largest, most diverse and perhaps it’s coolest city, and the place where most people, who have never actually been to Sydney, want to live. I admit I was one of them.
Your first port of call in Sydney should be Circular Quay, a harbor that is the epicenter of this city’s life. Here you will find two of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as countless restaurants, shops, walkways and ferry terminals. Both of them have a commanding presence in the harbor, albeit in different ways. The Sydney Opera House, whose unconventional shape is supposed to refer to the billowing white sails of a yacht, was first opened in 1972, and since then has been Australia’s hub of performing arts. It is not a place to go to see operas exclusively, as the name might misleadingly suggest; you can also catch a ballet or theatre performance, or listen to a live performance of classical music.
Opposite the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge is an arresting sight due to its enormous size. This bridge, opened in 1932 and fondly referred to as the ‘coat hanger’ by the locals, is the world’s largest and widest steel arch bridge, measuring 134m high, 502m long and 49m wide.
Going to Bondi Beach to soak up the sun and take a scenic cliff top walk to Coogee, while watching the local surfers ride the waves and drinking an occasional fresh coconut, was for me the highlight of the Sydney visit. This was closely followed by a ferry trip to Manly, a picturesque suburb across the harbour, where you can also either relax on one of the beaches or take a long scenic walk or two. A day trip to Manly on the weekend is a favourite with Sydney-siders, and therefore somewhere you ought to go in order to immerse yourself in the local life. I walked all the way to North Head, a rather arduous hike due to the unrelenting sun and heat on that particular day, but certainly worthwhile as the end point allowed incredible panoramic views of downtown Sydney.
Sydney is the capital of quintessential coffee, and all the flat whites, long blacks, machiattos and nude espressos that I sampled were absolutely divine: exceptionally easy to drink with spot-on acidity, milk foam always perfectly prepared. Allegedly Sydney is the birthplace of the legendary flat white in the mid-1980s. It was later exported to London in 2005 by coffee-loving both Australian and New Zealand expats. I have a slight obsession with flat whites and the velvety texture of the milk that enhances the flavour of the underlying espresso shots rather than drowning them. Apparently, a flat white is the most difficult coffee beverage to make right due to the very specific milk texture, and only the most capable baristas can prepare a flat white as it should be. The best coffee shop I tried was Workshop Espresso, a charming little place on George Street.
Apart from coffee, Sydney is also the place to eat perfect oysters, Sydney rock oysters, and the most gorgeous steak made from Australian grass-fed cows, its meat so tender it melts in your mouth. Try Rockpool Bar and Grill or Gowings Bar & Grill for both. The former has the most comprehensive wine list I have ever seen and a suitably knowledgeable team of sommeliers; the list is actually more like a wine bible with prices ranging from $50 up to $85,000 (for those of us who have won the lottery).