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Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Asian restaurants dominate the cheap eats scene in multi-cultural Sydney. Here’s our pick of the best, plus a couple of Middle Eastern gems and a great new burger joint. Here’s Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney.

Lao City Thai, Haymarket | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

The large number of students from Asia has revitalised the Sydney CBD (central business district) and created a market for affordable, authentic Asian food. Lao City Thai, on the western end of Chinatown, is packed with young Thais but is still relatively undiscovered by everyone else. Skip the bain marie and ask for the menu; beef salad (A$10.90) is tart and zesty with fresh mint, garlic chunks and thin slices of green apple, balanced perfectly with liberal squirts of fish sauce. Chilli chicken basil (A$10.90) packs a raging, spicy punch with bamboo strips adding an interesting woody after taste – make sure you sip the addictive sauce, the richness will leave your head spinning. Grilled chicken (A$10.90) will cool things down – simple, well-cooked chook that comes with a mild chilli sauce.
Shop 10, 37 Ultimo Road, +61 2 9212 1080, Facebook page

Pho Tau Bay, Cabramatta | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Thi Nhu Pham, whose pho (Vietnamese noodle broth) is regarded by critics and foodies as the best in Sydney, originally opened her restaurant in 1980 as Sunday pop-up in the garage of her family home, and relocated to the current location two years later. Beef bones and a dozen Asian spices are cooked for six hours to extract a profoundly complex broth, which sets Pho Tau Bay’s Vietnamese dishes apart. There’s chicken, fish or seafood options, but the beef pho (A$10, around £5) is by far the most popular. Order pho tai if you like your beef tender; thin slices of red beef arrive on top of your bowl ready to be dunked into boiling broth, or pick pho nam if you prefer your meat well cooked. Wash down with an intensely rich glass of Vietnamese ice coffee, made with condensed milk (A$3.50).
12/117 John Street, +61 2 9726 4583

El Jannah, Granville | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

From Granville train station, west Sydney, follow the aroma of charcoal-grilled chicken. Barbecue chicken is usually oily, with shiny, slippery skin but an El Jannah bird is dry, from the high heat that slightly burns the skin for a bitter smoky taste. Half chicken (A$5.90) will keep couples contented and whole chicken (A$10.90) will satisfy the whole clan. Flat bread and fluoro-coloured pickles come as sides, as well as toum – the famous Lebanese garlic white sauce with a moreish, nose-clearing intensity. The irregularly sized, super-crunchy falafels (A$5.50) are another crowd favourite and are particularly good with lashings of spicy tahini sauce.
6 South Street, +61 2 9637 0977, eljannah.com.au

Island Dreams Cafe, Lakemba | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Mention Christmas Island and most Sydneysiders think of the asylum-seeker detention facility, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. Few know of Alimah Bilda’s Island Dreams Cafe in south-west Sydney, the only restaurant in Australia that serves up food from Christmas and the Cocos Islands, which is influenced by Malaysian, Indonesian and Chinese cuisines. Satay sticks (six skewers A$10.50) are popular; the meat is marinated overnight in garlic, chilli, turmeric and lemongrass paste and cooked over charcoal. Everyone loves Alimah’s lemon chilli chicken curry (A$9.50), the mildly spicy chicken falls off the bone and the curry is a perfect dip for their homemade roti. There’s a decent selection of veggie fare, including moreish fried tofu in peanut sauce (A$8) and lightly spiced dhal curry (A$8). Alimah’s lurid-coloured fish crackers (A$2) are sent over by relatives in Western Australia – grab some if they’re on the counter, they sell out fast.
47-49 Haldon Street, +61 420 335 548, Facebook page

Chur Burger, Surry Hills | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

“Chur” is New Zealand slang for awesome and Kiwi chef Warren Turnbull’s Chur Burger, barely a year old, has been an instant, runaway hit. All brioche-bun burgers are $10, which is a steal, according to the happy punters. The beefburger is tall and pretty; grilled beef, cheese, rich red tomato jam, a light mustard mayo and pickle, cut thinly length-wise. Pulled pork burger is so tall you’ll need a knife and fork to cut through the mountain of tender pork, crunchy “red slaw”, fennel mayo and runny barbecue sauce. Thick-cut, chilli-salt chips ($5) make the perfect side.
48 Albion Street, +61 2 9212 3602, churburger.com.au

Gumshara, Haymarket | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Ramen so good and full of collagen that it keeps you looking youthful? Gumshara ramen is cooked in the Tonkotsu method, where huge quantities of pork bones are cooked for up to 12 hours until marrow and cartilage break down to yield Sydney’s thickest, collagen-rich broth. On a busy day chef Mori Higashida goes through 200kg of bones. Sydney must be vain, because the queues for these Japanese noodles are legendary. Standard Tonkotsu ramen ($10.50) comes with tender pork slices and pickled bamboo; for extra protein add boiled egg with gooey yolk ($1.50) or spice it up with a fiery chilli bomb ball (A$2). Hakata ramen (A$10.50), with a lighter broth, is a tasty option, too.
Shop 211, Habour Plaza, 25-29 Dixon St,+61 4 1025 3180

Duy Linh, Cabramatta | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

This Asian vegan establishment opened the same month as the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the menu, with almost 200 dishes, is a gold-medal performance, unmatched by any other vegetarian eatery in town. The value is jaw-dropping given most dishes are under A$13. For lunch, try their yum cha ($3.80) and mock-pork rice rolls ($4.30). Dinner favourites include Vietnamese fresh rolls (A$6.50 for four) and vegetarian canh chua (A$9.50), a flavoursome sweet soup that also has a sour kick thanks to tamarind and fresh pineapple. This is veggie nirvana.
10/117 John Street, +61 2 9727 9800

Chinese Noodle Restaurant, Haymarket | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

The recent influx of migrants from China has transformed the cheap-and-cheerful Chinese restaurants in Sydney – sweet-and-sour pork has been superseded by handmade noodles, dumplings and steamed buns. This tiny Chinatown eatery is a squeeze to get into but worth it for the zany decor: red-and-green plastic grapes suspend from the ceiling, while giant tapestries of European landscapes adorn the walls. The restaurant specialises in northern Chinese; lamb soup (A$8.90) overflows with thick handmade noodles, and a stir fry beef noodle dish (A$9.80) is slippery, spicy and satisfying. A dozen juicy steamed pork and chives dumplings are just A$8.90, or choose from seven different types of fried dumplings for A$8.90. Free bottomless Chinese tea nails the deal.
Prince Centre, Thomas Street, +61 2 9281 9051

Al Dhiaffah Al Iraqi, Fairfield | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

The walls of Sydney’s first and most popular Iraqi restaurant are almost entirely covered with faded posters of old Bagdad and the fridge is packed full of exotic soft drinks, the packaging in Arabic script. This place is a meat lover’s heaven. The popular bread curry stew (A$15) is a belly-busting bowl, almost overflowing with hearty, tomato-based casserole, thick with chickpeas, torn pieces of flat bread and huge chunks of lamb on the bone. The mixed shish/skewers plate (A$15) includes tender barbecued beef, lamb and chicken pieces, marinated in Middle Eastern spices. They come with bright green and pink pickles, raw onion, still juicy grilled tomatoes and hot fluffy flat bread fresh from the kitchen.
13 The Crescent, +61 2 9755 0870

Marrickville Pork Roll | Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

Top 10 budget restaurants in Sydney

The French showed Vietnam how to bake bread rolls (banh mi). Then the Vietnamese raised the stakes by shoving in all manner of different fillings, including three types of meat (thit), pâté, mayo, pickles and sauce. 2013 was the year of the banh mi thit, or Vietnamese pork roll, as Sydney fell in love with this addictive east-meets-west delight and there’s no signs of abatement. Marrickville Pork Roll is often considered the best in town. Their banh mi thit (A$4) strikes a unique, mouth-watering balance, with crusty bread that’s fluffy soft inside and thick chunks of barbecued pork, home-made chicken liver pâté, zesty pickled radish and carrots, and an exquisitely flavoursome soy sauce. Day and night, Sydneysiders queue outside this hole-in-the-wall to get their favourite fast-food fix.
236A Illawarra Road, Marrickville, +61 (0) 4 1116 7169

Category Archives: Rest of the World

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Sydney is not an easy place to find a cheap stay, but we’ve found some of the most interesting budget hotels and B&Bs, not to mention an island campsite and a hostel with harbour views. Here’s Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney.

Sydney Harbour YHA, The Rocks | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in SydneyTop 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

A hostel with harbour views? Sydney Harbour YHA raised the bar for budget accommodation when it opened in the historic Rocks district in 2009. Located on top of an archaeological site (check out the remnants of the convict-era houses in the foyer), it’s within walking distance of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay. It’s pricey (by YHA standards), but it’s clean, modern and close to public transport. Splash out on a room with a harbour view or enjoy it for free from the rooftop terrace.
110 Cumberland Street, +61 2 8272 0900, yha.com.au. Dorms from A$45 (£24), doubles from A$175(£95), 10% off for YHA members

1888 Hotel, Pyrmont | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

1888 Hotel is refreshingly honest about the dimensions of its smallest room category. The Shoebox is just 15 square metres (no cat swinging, please), but is still equipped with a decadent queen bed, smart TV, in-room iPad and a walk-in rain shower. A short stroll from Darling Harbour, the hotel opened in August in the shell of a former wool shed and is an attractive mix of exposed brick walls, soaring ceilings and mismatched furniture. If you’re tempted to take a photo, do. Instagrammers with more than 10,000 followers get one night free.
139 Murray Street, +61 2 8586 1888, 1888hotel.com.au. Shoebox doubles from A$159 (£86) B&B

Tara Guest House, Enmore | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Owners Julian and Brom have put their design backgrounds to good effect at Tara Guest House. Each of the property’s four spacious suites has been individually styled, with features including marble fireplaces, double French doors, four-poster beds and even a piano. Brom also worked as a commercial cook so you can expect a lavish breakfast spread, and both of them are fountains of knowledge on Sydney and its surrounds. While a bus will whisk you into the city in 25 minutes, be sure to explore the neighbouring suburb of Newtown, famed for its ethnically diverse restaurants, quirky boutiques and live entertainment venues, such as the Enmore Theatre.
13 Edgeware Road, +61 2 9519 4809, taraguesthouse.com.au. Doubles from A$175 (£95), including breakfast and airport transfer (for stays of two nights or more)

Royal Hotel, Randwick | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Torn between the city and the beach? Randwick is a good compromise, with regular buses to the city centre and Coogee Beach a 15-minute saunter down the hill. The recently renovated Royal is an upscale take on staying in a classic Aussie pub, with a tasteful makeover swathing its 40 rooms in a palette of creams, browns and greys, while preserving the building’s heritage-listed charm. Free Wi-Fi, free parking and a great value A$10 lunch menu from local chef Danny Russo (try the wagyu cheese burger) make this a compelling proposition.
2 Perouse Road, + 61 2 9399 3006, royalhotel-sydney.com. Doubles A$150 (£80)

Camping, Cockatoo Island | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Surely the cheapest waterfront accommodation in Sydney, a campsite on Cockatoo Island will set you back a wallet-warming A$45. A delightful 10-minute ferry journey from Circular Quay, Cockatoo is the largest of Sydney’s nine harbour islands and still bears the scars from its previous incarnations as a penal settlement and shipyard. Since being spruced up by the Harbour Trust and opened to the public, it’s become a popular day-trip destination and concert venue. For self-caterers, there’s a well-equipped camp kitchen; for everyone else, there are three cafes and bars. Not got a tent? Try the glamping packages, which includes a pre-erected tent, camp beds, bedding and sun loungers from A$125 a night.
+61 2 8898 9774, cockatooisland.gov.au. Pitches from A$45 (£24)

Admiral Collingwood Lodge, Drummoyne | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Built in 1888, this former millionaire’s Italianate mansion is now a 15-room lodge offering clean, spacious twin, double and family rooms. While the decor is light and modern, many heritage features remain, including kauri timber floors and an original marble fireplace. Guests are free to use the communal kitchen, garden and barbecue, or there are restaurants and cafes galore in the nearby picturesque village of Drummoyne. Although the city is only a 15-minute bus ride away, most people prefer the ferry so they can bask in the mesmerising views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House en route.
5 Collingwood Street,+61 2 9181 3881, admiralcollingwoodlodge.com.au.Doubles from A$115 (£62)

Bounce Sydney, Surry Hills | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Hostel or boutique hotel? The purpose-built Bounce Sydney manages to be both, offering spacious queen rooms with flatscreen TVs and private bathrooms, alongside the more traditional backpacker fare of dorm rooms and communal areas. Conveniently located next to Central Station, it’s a trilby toss from the bars, restaurants and vintage shops of hipster-infused Surry Hills. Although the interior decor of the rooms is on the bland side, a funky rooftop and colourful dining room spice things up. All of which have helped it win Hostelworld’s Best Hostel in Australia award for the last two years.
28 Chalmers Street, +61 2 9281 2222, bouncehostel.com.au. Doubles from A$149 (£81)

ADGE Apartment Hotel, Surry Hills | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

If you’re travelling with friends, check out ADGE’s two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments conveniently located in Surry Hills. ADGE has bravely eschewed the traditional I-could-be-anywhere hotel colour scheme and installed bold murals and bright carpets. The apartments are modern, spacious and scrupulously clean with balconies, well-equipped kitchens and LED TVs. Free Wi-Fi, a welcome drink and a nightly turn-down service all elevate this well above the normal serviced apartment experience. The most difficult decision will be deciding who gets the bedroom with the en suite.
222 Riley Street, +61 2 8093 9888, adgehotel.com.au. Two-bedroom apartments from A$274 (£150)

Macleay Hotel, Potts Point | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Potts Point is one of Sydney’s most attractive inner-city suburbs with wide, tree-lined streets and an abundance of excellent cafes and restaurants. Macleay Hotel is at the posh end, far enough away from the nightlife in Kings Cross, yet still close to public transport and only a 15-minute walk to the city. Don’t expect cutting-edge design, but all rooms have a small kitchenette and those on the higher floors offer commanding views of the city or the harbour. A guest laundry on each floor and free Wi-Fi in the lobby help save the pennies.
28 Macleay Street, + 61 2 9357 7755, themacleay.com. Doubles from A$165 (£90)

Sydney Harbour Bed and Breakfast, The Rocks | Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Top 10 hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Sydney

Traditional B&Bs are rare in Sydney. To find one in the heart of The Rocks with clean rooms, good service and reasonable prices is like finding a four-leaf clover. Young owners James and Linda do a fine job of running this intimate, heritage-listed property. Rooms come in a variety of configurations (some with shared bathrooms), have tea-and-coffee making facilities and feature hand-crafted furnishings and polished floors. Location-wise, it’s hard to beat – walking distance from the big-ticket trio of Circular Quay, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
140-142 Cumberland Street, +61 2 9247 1130, bbsydneyharbour.com.au. Doubles from A$165 (£90), including breakfast

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