A hearty half-day trip that unearths local delicacies and prized culture
On the outskirts of a throbbing Sydney city, pockets of gourmet finds pepper the Inner West. Your key to navigating the melting pot of boutique finds is the team at Ultimately Sydney who have been guiding groups of up to 14 people to its most delicious spots for six years. On its half-day tour you’ll visit unique small businesses that have contributed to the area’s local flavour – some for the last few years and others for the last 30 years – savouring their unique blends and exclusive imports along the way.
Pick up is early outside Sydney’s Entertainment Centre with the first port of call being The Coffee Roaster in Alexandria. Over the skittle of fresh beans and whirring grinder you’re treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the roasting process from green bean to cup. It’s here, among the custom technology and steamy roasters, you can sample and shop for award-winning blends using fair-trade beans sourced from around the world.
What makes this tour so unique are the insider crumbs you scoop up along the way. As you cross the suburbs, Redfern is highlighted for its hipster-esque makeover, and don’t forget to jot down the address of Café Guilia in Chippendale, it has an impressive history of Best Breakfast awards under its belt. And then there’s the fashion outlet district – a must-revisit, as is the next stop on the tour, the Australian Meat Emporium.
You may have heard about this industrial chiller around the traps, but there’s no better way to experience it than with the knowledge of its butchers by your side, and a sampling of its AAA-grade Angus Beef sizzling fresh off the barbecue. It’s home to 100% Australian beef from John and Leigh Belbeck’s farm in Inverell two hours north of Sydney, as well as a selection of pork, lamb, poultry and small goods.
From a huge industrial chiller to Herbies Spices in Rozelle, this next stop is set to whet your appetite. Its vivid exterior houses the entire spice range of Ian and Liz Hemphill – the biggest distributors of fresh herbs and spices in Australia. As Ian shares a brief history of the family business, you’ll enjoy a ‘see and sniff’ presentation of their most memorable fusions. Think hypnotising sweet spice with rose petals and poppy seeds, and a 10-year anniversary mix with an astounding 30 spices perfectly balanced in one tiny jar. Forget crossing the Silk Road for your flavour hit, do as the top chefs, hotels and restaurants do and pick a winning combination here.
Another highlight of the tour is P.R Raineri – a family-run Italian Deli in Five Dock. This is where the Italians come to shop, so when in Rome… although it’s more Sicilian here than Roman, which you learn from a brief history of the family accompanied by vintage black and white photos. Each person in the snaps from 37 years ago can be found behind the counter working today, as well as a few new additions, including son Joseph who prepares your next tasting.
While the locals order Romano for the week (switching their Aussie accents to melodic Italian in the process) you sample salty prosciutto cured on the bone, milky soft cheeses from Veneto, Sicilian extra virgin olive oil drizzled on crusty continental bread, pickled artichokes, and a potent black skin truffle-infused pecorino – a rare find in Australia. And like most Italians, Joseph won’t let you leave without boiling up a pot of fusilli all the way from Calabria for the group to experience his prized cheeses in a new light.
It seems only fitting to finish off a beautiful serving of pasta with a smooth wine at the last stop of the tour, Annandale Cellars. Despite major supermarket chains monopolising the market, rebel cellars like this one are cropping up with a new generation of owners that distinguish themselves with boutique products. Be it the aromatic apple-infused Riesling you try that warms your palate or the pale, glazed cherry-like pinot, there’s a bevy of options to intrigue for many visits to come.
And at the end of the day that’s what this tour is all about: unlocking the heart of the Inner West’s gourmet gems and the characters behind them. Whether the carefully curated stops on the tour become a brief taste on your smorgasbord of life experiences or part of your weekly shopping routine, you’ll leave the day satisfied, inspired and educated about local businesses and produce right under your nose.
By Lauren Circosta
Lauren Circosta experienced the Ultimately Sydney Inner West Gourmet Tour, which costs $128 per adult and runs on specific Saturday’s across the year.
t: +61 407 903 162