Kellie is a film and travel addict that is always looking for new things to experience.
Published October 12th 2013
Take a two hour European vacation every week
The Best European Restaurants in Sydney
Australia is renowned for its multiculturalism and its love of food, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that you can experience some of the most authentic European cuisine and ambience outside of Europe itself within a few kilometres of the Sydney city centre. Here is a list of the some of the more unique and less heralded European dining experiences in Sydney.
Flags of the European restaurant
For an authentic taste of Switzerland, there is none other than Eiger Swiss Restaurant in Petersham. They serve authentic Swiss cheese fondue exactly as it would be served in any small restaurant in Alpine Switzerland. Their cheese fondue is designed to be shared between two or more people, (they don't do single serves), and it comes with basket of bread cubes for dipping. If you are not watching your weight or cholesterol you could even order a side of spätzle (soft noodle-like dumplings) or rosti to further dip away with.
The service is uniquely European as well; the husband and wife team that own the restaurant, do all the cooking and wait the tables are both from Europe. Ruth is Swiss born and a self-taught cook, and Alain is a Frenchman that spent many years in Switzerland. Eiger of course also serves other Swiss fare such as schnitzels and bratwurst, but their fondue is really among the most authentic outside of Europe. There is even chocolate fondue available for dessert - if you can manage to fit in anymore warm visceral liquids.
Eiger is BYO which means it is the perfect venue to take a few friends and a few bottles of wine, and catch up over a pot of warm gooey cheese. But watch out- in Swiss culture it is considered bad etiquette to drop your bread in the cheese - if you do so you need to kiss the closest female.
Spanish Delights For a true taste of Spanish cuisine and ambiance try Casa Asturiana in Liverpool Street, Sydney. Though there are many Spanish eateries along this strip, and a multitude of trendy tapas places in Sydney, Casa Asturiana has a much more authentic look and smell that is uniquely Spanish. Looking at the interior alone you could easily convince yourself you were in a small cafe in Northern Spain. The smell is uniquely Spanish, it is a combination of garlic, smoke and a sense that cooking pots have used for many years, with many flavours cooked into the surface.
Casa Asturiana on the Spanish strip in Liverpool Street
The food ticks every box of what you would expect from a Spanish restaurant patatas bravas, chorizo, jambon, paella and sangria. They only thing they could improve the menu with would be the addition of tinto de verano and a Crème Catalan dessert. On Saturday night you may even stumble across some authentic flamenco dancing and Spanish guitars to further add to the atmosphere.
If you haven't experienced Spanish cuisine before, you could not go wrong with a menu of patatas bravas, tortilla espanola and chorizo a la sidra followed by one if their paella variations. The paella comes in servings for two people, so with a jug of sangria it is as authentically Spanish as you can find in the middle of Sydney.
For an ample filling of hearty German food head to Essen Restaurant on Broadway at Ultimo. To be fair Essen claims to be a fusion of all Northern European favourites from Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, but as Essen is the name of a town in Germany it is predominately German influenced and much less commercialised than their German counterpart the Bavarian Bier Café. The only Dutch influence on the menu is two entrée dishes of pickled herring and croquette, which is a good thing as the Dutch are not too renowned for their cuisine.
As you would expect from a good German restaurant, Essen's menu is filled with a lot of meat including traditional schnitzels, pork knuckles, pork belly, bratwurst and spätzle. The food is beautifully cooked and staying with German culture it comes in large portions. Their Jaeger schnitzel - schnitzel with mushroom sauce, is a stand-out option on their schnitzel menu; while for pork lovers you cannot go past the pork knuckle. Essen even sells beer in huge one litre mass or steins, so with a stein of Dortmunder Brau Pilsener or a smaller Steigle beer it becomes an authentic German experience. An added bonus for Essen over their rival the Bavarian bier cafe is that their beers are around $5.00 cheaper a stein.
Chances are if you can stomach more than one one-litre stein, Essen's massive eating challenge "Jurassic Pork" might be for you. This goliath weighs a huge 1.6 kilograms and looks like a small loaf of bread stuffed with barbecue pork, skewered with a few rashers of bacon and served with a side of chips. To succeed in this challenge and win a commemorative "Jurassic Pork" t-shirt, contestants need to finish the entire bowling- ball sized meal within 40 minutes without leaving the table. Those that cannot finish will be eternalised along with many, many others on Essen's Wall of Shame.
To be honest there is not that much difference between German and Austrian cuisine, however it felt wrong not to mention the Austrian Schnitzelhaus when talking about European restaurants in Sydney. Again the menu is very similar to Essen, with schnitzels in nine variations and other favourites such as pork knuckle and pork belly. They do have a few different authentic Austrian dishes such as rissoles, their own style of goulash, and "black forest" pork fillets - that is pork wrapped in bacon. The poor pigs never stood a chance in northern mainland Europe.
The Schnitzelhauz also has their own food challenge, called the schnitzel challenge. In this challenge you have an hour to finish a one kilogram combination of schnitzel, chips and sauces, a one litre stein of beer and schnapps. The challenge needs to be pre-booked ahead, presumably schnitzels don't usually come that big, and it costs $59.00. Though if you manage to beat the current record and finish in less than 12 minutes your schnitzel will be free. Obviously not everyone can finish this as decisively, as they also advertise in their restaurant that there is bathroom cleaning fee if you cannot hold your challenge down. If you do manage to finish but don't beat the record, you will still win yourself a free dessert and t-shirt for the effort.
The Austrian Schnitzelhauz has three locations in Sydney at Neutral Bay, Erina and Gladesville.
To experience genuine Polish ambience and food in Sydney head to Na Zdrowie Polish Restaurant on Glebe Point Road in Glebe. Though there are not many Polish restaurants in Sydney it may seem like this is a given on the list, however the food is amazingly good and the setting has an extremely authentic. You could easily be fooled into thinking you were dining in a popular restaurant in Krakow.
Traditional morsels on their menu include barszcz (a thin beetroot soup with dumplings), pierogi (traditional Polish dumplings), placekick (potato pancakes) and various traditional sausage and stew recipes. For those experiencing Polish food for the first time you could not go wrong with pierogi, these come in entree and main size servings. There are four flavour variations so there should be something for every palette. The dumplings can be steamed or fried and are very similar in look and texture to gzoya that you might find at a Japanese restaurant. Na Zdrowie also has a quite large variety of Polish beers and vodkas available so the Polish eating experience is not lacking for any authenticity.
Na Zdrowie is open seven days a week and also has BYO for a corkage fee meaning it is another great place to catch up with old friends to na zdrowie over old times (na zdrowie is Polish for cheers).
To feel like you have just stepped into a traditional bistro in Brussels you can't go past the Heritage Belgian Bar and Restaurant in The Rocks. All pieces of the interior of this bar have been designed and imported by a Belgian design company so the feel is an authentic Belgian bistro from the early 1900s. Even the old exterior design of the building adds to this feel, the same feeling could not have been achieved in a modern part of Sydney.
Interior of the Heritage Belgian Bar and Restaurant - image from their Facebook page
Heritage's food menu includes many traditional Belgian favourites and of course you cannot have a Belgian inspired menu without having mussels dominate the menu. The mussels come in eight different flavours and with a side dish of the other obligatory Belgian favourite - chips with mayonnaise. Other uniquely Belgian dishes on the menu include Belgian sausages, croquette and white rabbit pie. This refers to the colour of the meat not the breed of rabbit, though it is probably not their most popular dish around Easter.
The true Belgian influence on their menu though is their long list of fine Belgian beers. Hoegarden and Leffe are available on tap and there are over 35 other Belgian varieties available by the bottle; including Duval, Chimay, fruit varieties and the famous Delirium Tremens signature brew. Delirium Tremens is imported from the world renowned Delirium café in Brussels that is famous for having over 1200 beer varieties. Watch out though, Belgian beers are stronger than local beers with most alcohol content sitting around 9-12%. The beers come served as they would anywhere in Belgium in long stemmed beer glasses. Beers are served this way instead of in pots like in Australia so as the beer is not warmed up by your hand and stays cold longer. Expect to pay upward of $10.00 for a bottled beer but considering the uniqueness and authenticity of the experience, it is to be expected.