Parramatta is changing. Business is moving in and so are people – which means so is the food. While, in some pockets, the culinary landscape is shifting toward tourist-trap franchises, there’s a hidden scattering of local eats that represent the area’s real community.
One of the best but least-known Malaysian-Singaporean restaurants in Sydney, Temasek is well known to locals: it’s almost always a full house and there’s often a wait just to get inside during peak time. During the lunch hour, most tables are covered in fat bowls of old-fashioned laksa; rich, coconutty, spicy but not aggressively so, and textural without being sinewy. Evenings resemble typical Singaporean family meals, albeit a little more lux – banquets of chilli crabs, tender beef rendang, satay skewers and maybe a cold poached chicken with ginger, soy and chilli.
71 George Street, Parramatta; (02) 9633 9926
Since opening in 2010, Circa Espresso has become a Parramatta institution. It looks and feels like a café you’d find in Newtown or Surry Hills – tightly packed into an alley-wide space, mismatched furniture and even more mismatched decorations, a speciality tea menu, a coffee offering with all the options all done well and a food menu that actually changes with seasons.
21 Wentworth Street, Parramatta
Every Indian city has its own special recipes and regional inflections and in Hyderabad the most loved is the biryani. This mixed rice dish is made by slow cooking rice with meat, yoghurt and various spices until it’s glistening, fluffy, rich and aromatic. Hyderabad House does its version dum style by layering the ingredients and steaming them in a pressure cooker. If you’re looking to try more regional specials ask for the haleem (a thick, almost dhal-like stew of slow-cooked lamb, lentils and wheat) and the intriguingly named spicy fried chicken dish, Chicken 65.
39/17/19 Hassall Street, Parramatta; (02) 9635 9577
Alex and Co.
Along with V By Crown’s rooftop extravaganza Nick and Nora’s, Alex and Co. is the biggest and most ambitious venue among Parramatta’s new guard. The 350-seat all day venue cost a whopping $2.5 million to complete but despite the price tag, it’s more mid-range sunny bistro than fine-dining. On the plate it’s the typical Modern Australian mix of cuisines and textures; from the bar the best comes from the cocktail menu, designed by award-winning barman Max Greco. Try the Riverside Raki, a blend of Turkish liqueur, vodka, mango and rose syrup infused with chillies for subtle heat.
330 Church Street, Parramatta; (02) 9194 4499
Nang isn’t your typical neighbourhood Vietnamese restaurant. Owner Trung Ly is the founder and former owner of Pho 24, a massive noodle soup franchise in Vietnam. The restaurant itself evokes a dining room in a French Colonial villa while the menu is strictly homey, peppered with recipes from Ly’s grandma. Pho is a popular order but the best of the Ly family recipes are found in the slow-cooked section, the variety of clay pot dishes (try chicken rice, caramelised salmon or the equally sticky-sweet caramelised pork) and the regional-style goat curry with taro.
41 Phillip Street, Parramatta; (02) 9687 3442
SEE ALSO: Where to Find Great Food in Marrickville
Hong Fu Northern East Chinese Restaurant
Sydney has a long history with Chinese cuisine but almost all of it has been from the south, around Hong Kong. Hong Fu instead focuses on the cuisine of north-east China. It’s hearty, distinct in its use of preserved vegetables and braising techniques and influenced by dishes from Eastern Europe. The deep-fried crisp pork smothered in sweet and sour sauce is an order staple but there’s more interesting things to try, such as the handmade noodles, the spring onion pancake stuffed with shredded potato and dumplings filled with sauerkraut and pork.
22 Charles Street, Parramatta; (02) 9891 1225
Fried chicken. Champagne. Sneakers. There’s nothing in Sydney like Butter (besides its sister venue of the same name in Surry Hills). The flashy shoe store/restaurant/bar’s second site takes all the good things from the original: expect to find a similar range of collector sneakers and the same unashamedly rich iterations of fried chicken, ramen and donuts.
Shop 3/140 Marsden Street, Parramatta; (02) 8849 0389
Manaeesh Bakery and Pizza
Look at the first page of the menu at Manaeesh Bakery and Pizza – this is where you’ll find the Lebanese baked goods, some of the best deals in town. Order a veritable: a za’atar pizza ($2); a za’atar, labneh and vegetable wrap ($6) and a pide-like folded pastry with mushroom, chicken and cheese ($7) and you’ll still have change from $20.
95 Macquarie Street, Parramatta; (02) 9891 5219