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Impress Your Date ($30-$45)

Lupino

I had been promising my sister a pasta and gelato date for the next time I’m in Melbourne for months, only to realise a few days before coming back that the only day we can go out is on a Sunday… the day which Grossi Cellar Bar, my sister’s favourite place for pasta, happens to be closed. After a bit of frantic searching on my part, I found Lupino – a well-established and well-reviewed Italian restaurant that I’ve oddly never come across in all my years exploring Melbourne.

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Surly’s

Seriously, is there anything better than a feast of American BBQ? I honestly can’t think of many things more enjoyable than a platter of smoky meats, served with heaping bowls of mac and cheese, collard greens, and cornbread. Coupled with the fact that decent BBQ isn’t all that common in Australia, and how I won’t let myself indulge in it very often, it is a real treat when I do get to have it. Despite having been in Sydney for over a year now, I’ve only had BBQ once, at Bovine and Swine. This travesty was finally remedied with a long overdue trip to Surly’s – a heavily American-themed sports bar in Surry Hills.

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Belleville

I have a bad and occasionally self-destructive habit of not being able to put things down once I start them, whether it be a new book, hobby, or TV series. Once I start something, I feel obligated to continue with it regardless of whether I still enjoy it, or feel crushingly guilty when I finally let myself stop. So even though I’ve left Melbourne for the time being, I just can’t bring myself to stop following the food scene, even though on some days it feels like way too much work to keep up with what’s happening on the culinary front in both Melbourne and Sydney.

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Bar Tapa

As someone who usually identifies as a glass-half-empty sort of person, I can be remarkably optimistic when it comes to food. Despite an appalling experience at the well-rated Encasa, as well as the general consensus that Spanish food in Sydney just isn’t that great, I was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I heard about Bar Tapa, which promises to be unapologetically Spanish. On a Saturday night, Bar Tapa has a convivial, buzzing vibe, and if it feels a little everyman, it’s made up for by the energy of the diners. The wall-to-wall Spanish memorabilia makes for some good conversation starters, and definitely adds to the authentic feel.

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Bacco

One of the suckiest things about being in Sydney is not having my sister around at all times. I’ve gotten rather used to her in the last 15-odd years, and I’ll admit it was rather jarring to not have her constantly in my hair all of a sudden. On the bright side however, during the times we do see each other (when one of us is on holiday), we manage to get some excellent quality time in – in this case, in pasta form. My sister loves good pasta more than any other food, and given that the only times she gets fancy restaurant pasta is when she’s with me, I spent weeks leading up to her visit agonising over…

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Encasa

It’s no secret that Spanish cuisine is one of my all-time favourites. With Melbourne’s small but high-quality selection of Spanish restaurants (my favourites are here, here, here, and here), I’ve really developed a taste for the tapas-and-vermouth life. So far from being satisfied that Sydney has blessed me with an Asian food scene that’s just as good as Melbourne’s – better, if we’re talking Thai and Korean – I’m keen to find my new favourite hidey-hole for drinks and nibbles.

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