It seems the food scene around the Opera House has entered the 21st century. A few of our current favourite eateries have been gathered and alligned, offering a swath of food on the lower concourse just metres away from the rippling harbour. Gone is that drab cafe with ordinary coffee, finally, and in its place is this sparkling line-up of food talent. Allow me to name-drop – Kenji Japanese, Misschu, Charlie & Co, Cloudy Bay Fish Co and Becasse Bakery.
Thanks to the Oprah circus that recently took over the city the Opera Kitchen had a delayed opening and visiting it today gave me the impression that it has been running for ages. It’s teeming with locals and camera-weilding tourists (and a certain blogger) and the staff I experienced are beyond efficient and speedy in the delivery of your food.
Bringing our appetites, we started at Misschu with Vietnamese rice paper rolls. There are a few varieties on offer but the one we settled on was the satay chicken & young coconut (12). Now listen up. The pricing at Harbour Kitchen reflects the location ie- it ain’t cheap. When you’re sitting between two of the country’s biggest icons, you’re going to pay for it.
The rice paper rolls come in a glamorous plastic countainer held closed with a rubber band and the sauce is in a cute little screw-top bottle. The usual fillers of rice noodle and mint are used and I’m loving the freshly grated young coconut and shredded satay chicken.
The delicious duck pancakes (3.5 each) disappear in half a second and the prawn har gau (12) are made to perfection. $12 for three dumplings is like a smack to the face but somehow it’s worth it. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, right? Think of the money I’m saving not having a car … and children. Let’s focus.
The ordering procedure is quite simple at Opera Kitchen. You basically wander up and down the venues and order and pay (they take credit), take a number and take a seat. Love the tables that are made from strips of bamboo. I reckon one of these would go nicely at home.
Next stop – Charlie & Co. I haven’t quite made it to the one at Centrepoint Westfield Sydney and seeing the queue is just 5 minutes here at the Opera House, it may be worth the walk down from Frank Lowies’ latest uninspiring cookie-cutter shopping centre. I go for the hand-crafted chilli crab burger (21.5) and when I’m half-way through it I decide the fries on the side are better than the actual burger. The flavours are good, no chilli though, and the texture of the crab cake is much like a Thai fishcake. Asian greens give it some crunch, the lime in the dressing gives it minimal zing and overall I’m eating it because I paid $21.50 for it, not because it’s fantastic. Again, where’s the chilli? Lovin’ the fries, though.
Onto Cloudy Bay Fish Co. and its classic prawn cocktail (17.5). I used to love these when I was a young teen. You know – shredded iceberg lettuce topped with cooked prawns and doused with 1000-island dressing. A squeeze of lemon and I’m smiling. The one at Opera Kitchen is a little grown up. Not by much, though. There’s a mixed leaf salad (watercress, snow pea leaves, shaved fennel and red onion) a healthy bunch of king prawns and a light spiced mayo. A lemon wedge and piece of baguette complete the picture. Very nice. Aside from a few pieces of shell and sandy grit it was all good.
Sadly, my stomach was whispering “I’ve had enough” so I didn’t make it to Kenji for some sushi. I did, however, pacify my stomach with a good chunk of pear, honey and frangipane tart (8) from Becasse Bakery. With a little help. Vittoria isn’t usually my first choice but the coffee was well-made and nice and strong.
Looks like I’ll have to get back down here for some Kenji sushi and also some of that plank roasted salmon from Cloudy Bay Fish Co. There’s just one thing that needs to be addressed. The ladies toilets next to Becasse emit the most repulsive stench over part of the eating area. Opera House management – the smell of stale urine tends to mess with glorious food aromas. Sort. It. Out.
Inflated prices aside, lounging back while nibbling on good food in the “fresh” air with a spectacular back-drop will make you fall in love with this city again.