Sydney – Woolloomooloo, Finger Wharf, dinner at Otto
From our perch on top of the hill at Potts Point we venture down into different areas of the city mostly on foot and sometimes by train, easily clocking 10-14 km of walking a day. From our neighbourhood we can make our way down via a set of colonial steps knowns as the MacLeay step, creating a shortcut that takes us down to sea level in no time. Another set of stairs known as the Hill Stairs also lead down the hill and we have been alternating between these two routes to get down to the harbour and various areas of the city. Sydney is quite a walkable metropole, depending of course where you stay.
One of our favourite areas to walk to is Woolloomoolloo (emphasis is on the “mooloo”), a beautiful inner city suburb located on the harbour in the former docklands area at Woolloomooloo Bay. Historically this is where naval ships first moored in 1856. A wealthy landowner ran a cattle farm in the area and is said to have given the place it name, based on aboriginal language meaning land of plenty (other interpretations also exist).
The distinct feature of Woolloomooloo is Finger Wharf, the longest timber wharf in the world, stretching 400 metres into the bay, supported by 3,600 wood piles.
Recent gentrification created a high end residential construction along the wharf with some 500 residential units, a row of high end restaurants, a hotel and popular bars. The apartment building at the outer end of the wharf is home to Russel Crow who apparently lives on the top floor in an $18 million penthouse (see image above). We haven’t had any Russel spotting yet but perhaps we will.
From Woolloomooloo it’s an easy walk through the Botanical Garden to the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay and The Rocks.
We had dinner there recently at Otto, an Italian restaurant from the restaurant group that includes Bennelong and Quay, two of the top restaurants in Sydney if not the entire country. The handmade saffron pasta was perfect, the stuffed zucchini flowers packed with flavour and the rocket, radicchio, nectarine, pine nuts, parmesan, white balsamic salad perfectly offset the rich flavours. Dessert was refreshing if untraditional, strawberry granita alongside a creamy panna cotta.
Here is how the menu describes what we had:
Zucchini flowers stuffed with pecorino and ricotta, smoked tomato
Spanner crab & mascarpone filled cappellacci, lobster bisque
Saffron linguine, Moreton Bay bugs , cherry tomatoes, basil, lemon oil
Buttermilk panna cotta, strawberries, macadamia, strawberry granita & sorbet
If you are not inclined to spend a small fortune on food at one of the restaurants lining the wharf you can venture a few feet away to the iconic Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. Located between the gate to the wharf and the navy dockyard this roadside take out diner has been serving various meat pies and pasties since the depression years of 1930s. All the pies are hand made from apparently lean meats and some organic products. The most famous item is the Harry’s Tiger Meat Pie, no, not made with tiger meat but named after the founder Harry ‘Tiger’ Edwards. It consists of chunky lean beef pie served with mushy peas, mash & gravy. You can choose b between pies, pasties, sausage rolls, hot dogs and even sweet pies. I noticed a vegetarian one as well, filled with vegetables and smothered with cheese sauce.
Just up the hill from the wharf is one of my favourite bakeries, Flour and Stone. A small hole in the wall but serving the best pastries and breads. The lemon ricotta filled doughnuts that came out of the kitchen while we were there kept me at the table for far too long. I keep going there for the sourdough bread, crusty and chewy and perfect, as well as the rose pavlova, to die for, crispy outside, soft meringue inside. I have their recipe, will post when I get home.
I plan to try a few more of the restaurants at Woolloomooloo before we wrap up our stay in Sydney in early January.