The Sydney Scoop Guide to 48 Hours in Parramatta
Out west, something exciting is happening. First came the news that the beloved Powerhouse Museum was being re-located to Parramatta. Then we saw the incredible designs for the $2 billion redevelopment in Parramatta Square which would include the tallest residential building in NSW. Now restaurateurs are opening up shop in Sydney’s second city and the inner city foodies are following their noses to the wild, wild West.
Just as the first European settlers did in 1788, people are beginning to gravitate towards the West and the city is already well on it’s way to being a bustling hub for business and pleasure. In recent years, Parramatta has had a bit of a makeover as more and more eateries, bars and small businesses pop out of the woodwork. With a blossoming wining and dining scene, an interesting history and a wonderfully diverse and growing population, Parramatta should definitely be on your radar.
To help you plan your future mini-break, Jessica Rayner gives you the juice on how to get the most out of 48 hours in Parramatta.
Slightly off the main strip, Paper Plane Café is a popular little spot for breakfast (so popular in fact that they have a waiting list for tables sometimes!). However, the food is worth the wait! Their BIG Brekkie certainly lives up to it’s name with a generous serving of eggs, bacon, chorizo, hash browns, mushrooms and tomatoes all served up on sourdough. For something sweeter, you can’t go wrong with their strawberry and custard laden French Toast. The totally Instagram-worthy interior makes it a foodie haven and attracts both the young and mummy crowd.
If you want to start your day with a decent coffee and something sweet, then you should catch a ride from Platform 8. With exposed brick, worn timber and rail detailing, this little railway themed café is popular with commuters and shoppers alike. Their signature dishes are definitely their hybrid pastries, the piled high cronuts and salted caramel cruffins. I’d recommend the matcha cronut but as it comes with Oreos, Tim Tams and a sprinkling of matcha powder, it might be wise to share with a mate!
Serving authentic Singaporean and Malaysian fare, this family run restaurant is a must visit for the very hungry. Tucked away down a side street, the busy, word-of-mouth place draws in families, groups of friends and even the odd business meeting. The no frills interior and straightforward menu lets you know that it’s all about the food here and luckily, it’s delicious. Pick between classic dishes like beef rendang and laksa as well as a few specials (if you ask nicely!). The food is designed to share so come on an empty stomach or bring some tupperware with you!
A real gem on Parramatta’s Eat Street, El Phonecian offers authentic Lebanese dining with flair. Sleek and sophisticated, the restaurant is bustling on the weekends with music and belly dancers to entertain as you eat and drink the night away. The menu is extensive and inviting! If this is your first taste of Lebanese or if you simply can’t decide, go for one of their ‘banquet’ options and, as the name suggests, you will get a full on taste of what this fantastic restaurant has to offer.
New kid on the block, The Emporium has become THE place to go in Parramatta. Serving up modern Australian cuisine in a beautiful setting, the guys behind this new opening have recently perfected their menu to bring you the freshest seasonal ingredients in some classic and totally new dishes. From the visually stunning Albacore tuna tartare to the simply delicious pork belly, there really is something for everyone. Try and grab a seat in their garden area. At night, it’s magical!
Although you wont find cocktails here (unless you ask VERY nicely!), you will find some of the nest coffee in the West here. Run by the infectiously happy John, the Darcy Street Project is more than a coffee shop (as I discuss below) but if you’re looking for a great morning brew or mid-afternoon pick me up, this is the place to go. Choose between cold drip, aeropress and various blends of the day to get the coffee of your dreams and, if you’re feeling generous, Pay It Forward and buy a coffee for someone in need.
The ParkRoyal hotel bar is currently in a temporary home while the hotel has a makeover but it’s still as good as ever. On the weekends, you can enjoy live music from local artists and, in the early evenings, a range of $10 cocktails. With such a central location, it’s a great place to start your night
Licensed in 1796, The Woolpack Hotel is technically the oldest pub in Australia but if you stepped inside, you wouldn’t know it. Having recently been transformed into a contemporary drinking and dining space, the historical hotel is the perfect spot to grab a beer or two and get to know some of the locals (and other colourful characters!). If you’re feeling peckish, they also have a great selection of Thai food on offer – random but tasty!
The centrally located hotel is currently having a $25 million extension that will not only add an extra 90 premium rooms to the space but will also extend their business and dining areas, making them the largest hotel in the area. Although that work isn’t set to be finished until June 2016, the wonderful service and brilliant location of the hotel makes it a great place to rest your head for your weekend stay. As well as a lovely little bar and restaurant, the rooms have some fantastic views of the Parramatta skyline and park (especially at sunset!). The staff are also super knowledgeable about the area and gave us some great recommendations for places to go in the city.
High on the hill in Parramatta Park, this historical site is such a hidden gem that even some locals don’t know it’s there! The building was the home to many of the original governors of New South Wales and is an important part of the area’s history. A World Heritage Site, a visit to the building is a must for your weekend trip. They run tours of the site throughout the day and have held some unique and interesting exhibitions. Until November, they have, Love, Riches and Desire: The Fashion of Weddings, an exhibition of over 50 rare wedding dresses from history, films and modern day.
Every great city has a great arts and theatre venue and at Parramatta, it’s the Riverside Theatre. With 3 performances spaces inside, you can catch musical shows, comedy, dance as well as screenings of indie films and performances from the West End and Broadway. Tickets are reasonably priced and the theatre is just off of Eat Street meaning you could catch a show after your dinner.
As mentioned beforehand, the Darcy Street Project is all about coffee. In addition to serving up some fantastic brews, the project also does a great deal of good in the community. John and his team run a coffee school teaching many disadvantaged groups such as youths at risk, refugees and even ex-convicts, barista and roasting skills to help them gain employment. Plus, recognising that Sydney and, in particular, the West has the potential to become the coffee capital of the World, the Darcy Street Project also offers day courses to anyone wanting to learn more about the world of beans, roasting and brewing.