Sydney does many things well. The weather. Water views. Yum cha.
Sitting bang smack on top of the Sydney Fish Markets should mean that a restaurant has superlatively fresh seafood, and the Fisherman's Wharf Chinese Restaurant doesn't disappoint. Also offering an a la carte menu for lunch and dinner, we were there for yum cha, and after a slow start we had an enjoyable meal.
That moment of anticipation before the lids are lifted
We arrived around 10.30am on a Sunday morning, and there was no issue getting a table at this time. However the payoff for getting a seat immediately tends to be that the more interesting dishes don't usually come out until closer to 11.30am or midday, just about the time you are undoing the top button on your jeans and your eyes are beginning to glaze over.
The rather uninspiring entrance to the Sydney Fish Markets
We were a group of three adults and three kids. One kid just wanted a bowl of steamed rice, which should be a relatively easy request to accommodate. After a bit of pointing and hand waving the steamed rice arrived and was declared 'yummy'. If only everyone was so easy to please.
We felt quite invisible as a group, despite the fact the restaurant was only two thirds full. The first cart sailed past us without even a glance in our direction. The second cart which came some time later was parked by our table then the server disappeared for a few minutes. We weren't sure if we were meant to help ourselves.
After this slow start, service began to pick up. We had all the usual yum cha favourites.
The steamed dumplings were all hot and fresh with big flavours, some bigger than others (warning: avoid the prawn and garlic dumplings if you have a hot date or important work meeting in the next 24 hours). The crunchy snow pea and prawn dumplings were delicious and the prawn rice rolls with sesame seeds were spot on.
Early on there weren't too many fried dishes coming out, but the spring rolls were tasty, and the crunchy prawn wonton were good although we missed the mayonnaise they are usually served with.
For me the biggest disappointment was the BBQ pork, usually my favourite. While big in flavour and generous in serving size, the larger pieces were chewy and a tad dry, rather than soft and melty the way I like it. I should say that my two dining companions did not share my compunctions.
The room is large and overlooks Anzac Bridge and the harbour surrounding the fish markets. It seats 500 and there are also five private dining rooms. With its gold tablecloths and fabric chair covers, it has the feel of a wedding venue, and if you had 499 friends, then I imagine it would actually make a fantastic reception.
It has the cleanest fish tanks I have ever seen. Normally I try and prevent my kids 'looking at the fish' because the murky water and upside down crabs with their claws tied are a bit depressing, but these tanks are tall and clean and the fish (and crabs and abalone) look very happy, considering their fate.
The same can't be said for the trip to the toilets, with its mangled carpets, dirty walls and grubby cleaning cupboards. It's a pity because the rest of the restaurant is clean and polished.
The prices are similar to other yum cha venues in Sydney and if you ask them to validate your parking tickets, you can save yourself a hefty $13 parking fee.