Tucked within the bustling area between Sydney’s Town Hall and Central stations lie the buzzing, culturally diverse neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Haymarket. Centring on Dixon and Sussex streets, these multicultural precincts boast some of the city’s best shopping. Think Paddy’s Market, Market City, World Square and Sussex Centre. Locals and tourists alike will find a lively atmosphere, international festivals and restaurants cooking up exciting and exotic cuisine from across Asia.
With a focus on food, we’ve asked Sydney locals and businesses to share what they love about these neighbourhoods. We recently asked on Facebook and checked out the #SydneyLocal hashtag on Instagram in search of fan favourites. From paifang to paifang (the Chinese gateway arches that mark the entrances), here’s what Chinatown and Haymarket’s enthusiasts had to say.
Chinatown and Haymarket by day
“The Dorayaki Roll from @pintosydneycafe has more bite and chew than your regular sponge, and with azuki and cream – super delightful and reminiscent of a real Dorayaki.” – recommended by @damn.thats.tasty via the #SydneyLocal hashtag
Start your day – or sweeten it – by popping in to Pinto. This patisserie serves a simple traditional Japanese breakfast that includes steamed rice, grilled salmon, miso soup and a soft-boiled egg.ou’ll feel like you’ve awoken in a ryokan! To sugarcoat your day, try one of Pinto’s pastries, cakes or other desserts. Savour the ever-popular strawberry shortcake or the creamy and oh-so-purple Mont Blanc.
“Must try!!! Big Boon Breakfast – chicken congee, skewered pork, baked eggs, organic pasture-raised bacon, avocado, mushroom and sourdough.” – recommended by @ginnyms via the #SydneyLocal hashtag
Indeed a boon to the area, the Boon Cafe, inside the Jarern Chai Asian Grocer, dishes up locally sourced ingredients with a Thai twist. For lunch, go for one of the brown rice bowls or sandwiches, such as the chicken, squid and holy basil sammie. To turn up the heat a bit, come back at night, when the menu switches to isaan (northeastern) Thai cuisine, renowned for its bold (and often spicy!) flavours.
“Good value for $$ and the tastebuds!” – recommended by @memaomau via the #SydneyLocal hashtag
Love a dumpling? Need a noodle fix? Get them both – handmade, traditional and reasonably priced – at this tight but tasty neighbourhood institution. Take your cue from the queues – this place is the real deal. The dumplings come steamed, boiled or pan-fried. Try the lamb and onion or the eggplant varieties for something a bit different.
“Huge selection of Asian groceries.” – recommended by Lina via our online form.
Though Chinatown is undoubtedly a heavenly hub of Asian restaurants, it’s also a must-visit if you want to cook up a storm. Thai Kee IGA is the largest supermarket in the precinct, boasting a massive range of specialty Asian products. Stock up on ingredients to prepare your far east faves. Goods come from Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea. In addition to Asian groceries, you’ll find your essential utensils, from bamboo steamers and bento boxes to teapots and tableware. The usual Western supermarket staples are on hand as well.
Chinatown & Haymarket by night
These 2 colourful areas also really buzz by night. Catch a show at the historic Capitol Theatre or be the star of the show at one of the area’s late-night karaoke joints.ick on for more late-night food and fun.
“A great option for Japanese when you’re in the Haymarket area.” – recommended by @sydneyfoodprn via the #SydneyLocal hashtag.
Sample, savour and sip are words to live by at this izakaya-style Japanese restaurant where Dixon Street meets Little Hay. The plates here are smaller, so you can taste test that much more. And you’ll want to, as the food menu features more than 200 dishes, from sashimi and sushi to chargrilled skewers, salads, dumplings, hot pots, and noodle dishes. Yebisu certainly doesn’t neglect your thirst, either. Choose from more than 100 sakes, shochus, beers, mocktails and more.
“Chicken in chilli and Sichuan pepper sauce. Very delicious!” – recommended by @jelak.not via the #SydneyLocal hashtag.
Just a little way down Dixon Street, above Chinatown’s Eating World food court, is Spicy Joint. The neighbourhood hotspot has an emphasis on hot. Focusing on Sichuan flavours, the popular Chinese chain now on Aussie shores goes big – big spices, big space, big menu. For those of you who’d rather not set your mouths aflame, the mammoth menu has plenty to tempt you, too.
“The food is phenomenal, and so are the prices. Massive portions, so make sure you’re hungry when you go!” – recommended by Emily via our online form.
For delicious food that will transport you to Penang, bring your appetite to this multilevel Malaysian restaurant. Lively and comfortable, Ho Jiak focuses on fresh ingredients and specialises in home-style nyonya cuisine. Favourites include char koay teow and kiam ah nuiquid. The menu helpfully offers beverage suggestions to complement your meal.
“Whenever I go get a bao, it doesn’t matter what’s available – I’m always going to want that thick pork belly bao, and the one at Cloud Thief does not disappoint!” – recommended by @lilyoukeatfood via the #SydneyLocal hashtag.
For the puffiest, fluffiest street food around, sink your teeth into the bao at Cloud Thief. These Taiwanese pillows of freshness and deliciousness include the classic bao, such as crackling roast pork, beer-battered barramundi and crispy tofu. The premium bao includes Peking duck, Mongolian lamb and Singapore soft-shell crab. After one bite, you’ll be on cloud nine.
“Handmade wide flat noodles with minced pork and vinegar … just the right texture and taste.” – recommended by @jelak.not via the #SydneyLocal hashtag
Casual and colourful Biang Biang has a fun fast-food vibe with slow-food flavours. The fare is inspired by the cuisine of Xi’an, in central China. It’s a region known for cold noodle dishes, rougamo, a traditional, burger-like street food and pao mo, a kind of meat and bread stew.
“Liquid-nitrogen ice-cream!” – recommended by eggandham via the #SydneyLocal hashtag
Science meets gelato at this little laboratory-like shop, where it’s almost as much fun to watch your dessert being made as it is to eat it. At N2, unlike traditional ice-creameries, your made-to-order gelato is frozen right before your hungry eyes using liquid nitrogen. The result is a smooth, creamy and cold cup or cone that’s the perfect end to a night of spicy Asian food. Plus, N2 changes its flavours every couple of weeks, so there’s always an excuse to come back!