Food and WineFood and WineFood and WineFood and Wine

The Parramatta and Harris Park food scene is certainly not a stepchild to the Sydney scene – the dining here is less significant only in its geographic space. To put it bluntly, why drive into Sydney when you can find fantastic restaurants and cafés closer?

Less kilometres and less stress!

Yes, a foodie reputation has been built on Church Street, but look beyond. From the Parramatta or Harris Park train stations, you can walk north or south for 10 minutes or less and find first rate cuisine priced for any budget or unique taste. Of course, a short walk will counterbalance the guilt you are mentally carrying after you indulged excessively in a marvellous meal.

As you read our comments keep in mind we are not a food critic – we are a 'foodie' and we love the sociable interactions that go with a good meal.

The comments here are strictly our opinion and influenced by our western upbringing. Culinary palates are uniquely personal but attention to preparation and presentation is always a winner. However, regardless of our tastes and our cultural influences, rude service is guaranteed to ruin a good meal. Fortunately in Parramatta and Harris Park, this is a rare occurrence.

Parramatta dining

Lachlan's at Old Government House

Address: Parramatta Park, enter from Pitt Street
Phone: 02 9687 2662
Hours: Open daily from 10am for lunch; dinner on Friday and Saturday; other evenings for 10 or more guests

We've come to love Lachlan's at any time – the staff are friendly and playful – not too formal, even in this beautiful setting. Corporate groups have found Lachlan's perfect for group activities and we've watched as participants emerge from intense workshops out to the vine covered verandah for teas and luscious- looking treats.

A fabulous high tea in a cosy garrison room was our choice for a recent birthday celebration. The linens and cutlery were set, candles and fireplace lit when we arrived. It was the perfect setting on a chilly June morning with 10 best friends who insisted on a few humorous and naughty toasts. Champagne is available for such occasions. All savoury and sweet delicacies are home-baked or prepared on site by a terrific staff. Talk about scrumptious and yummy.

Note: Celiac, halal and vegetarian High Tea can be arranged. Phone to let the staff know a week before the event and your request will be accommodated.
Government HouseLachlan's 

Twenty One Fifty at Holiday Inn

Address: 18-40 Anderson Street, Parramatta
Phone: 02 9891 1277

Luckily, we arrived at Twenty One Fifty a bit late – after the usual lunch hour. Seventy energised participants were exiting the restaurant returning to their motivational workshop down the hall. The maitre d' revealed that a group of 100 were due the following day – as Holiday Inn is especially suitable for business conferences.

A light lunch seemed in order, so we chose an entrée of Quinoa Prawn – delicate seafood and served over a bed of chopped mango and onion. Facing down our guilt, we threw away the calorie counter ordering the yummy mango boulee. It is well worth the next week of starvation!

Later, we were able to chat with Chef Simon – a new menu for summer is in plan. Lighter for the summer heat and of course making use of the seasonal veggies and fruits. Calamari, fish & chips and steaks (with a choice of sauces) are the favourites of restaurant regulars.

Simon, with a bit of 'name dropping' revealed that during the Western Sydney Wanderers FC season, the Holiday Inn houses the away team – in town to face off with 'our team.' These out of town teams are serious about the intake of their players – menus are specially designed and portions are weighed!

Twenty One Fifty is light and open – tables are set apart, leaving space for relaxed conversations. From the Parramatta Station, the walk is seven minutes to Holiday Inn – this includes a traffic light crossing. The walk back relieves some of the guilt when indulging in a fantastic dessert!

Did you know? Between Anderson and Cowper Streets, you'll find a lovely city park with benches, shade and a big green – great for kicking a soccer ball.

Recently an impressive renovation of the Holiday Inn provided Parramatta with an outstanding accommodation in the neighbourhood of south Church Street. (See Stay)

PJ's Parramatta

Address: 74 Church Street, Parramatta (corner of Parkes Street)
Phone: 02 9635 8811

Back in early 2012 – seems like ancient history – we walked into PJ's in the middle of a major renovation. Tradies were at work in every nook and cranny; stairs were blocked and tools of the trade were everywhere. Now the PJ's facelift is complete and a fantastic transformation has occurred.

Beautiful function rooms remind us of Irish traditions – timber floors, darkly stained walls and sandstone fireplaces. The Hearth Room, with its masculine furnishings, is stunning. That outdoor feeling is retained in the first floor Beer Garden. Now undercover, you can still be outdoors, but not exposed to the elements. Amidst all the surrounding green, a striking palm tree is the innocent conversation ice breaker...

There is entertainment every night, but if you are looking for some 'grown- up' excitement, PJ's is the place to be on Friday and Saturday evenings. It's boisterous and exuberant with popular bands playing as Gen-Y-ers and Baby Boomers rub shoulders in friendly competition at the beautiful bars.

Getting there on foot from the corporate tower housing Sydney Water, through the train station and down Wentworth Street, we 'clocked' seven minutes, door to door, including a traffic light change at Parkes Street. This is a perfect short walk to counterbalance any guilt you may be hauling around after indulging excessively in PJ's Irish fare.

Lunch menus are priced for the budget conscious and the steak and chips were well worth our walk. Once cooler weather is upon us, we're up for a sampler of truly Irish cuisine – traditional Irish stew or lamb shanks simmered in rosemary and served with mash. Stay tuned to our blog.

ChefBread

Ribs and Rumps

Address: 353 Church Street, Parramatta
Phone: 02 9630 2434
Hours: Monday–Friday, 12pm–3pm/5pm–10pm Saturday–Sunday, 12pm–10pm

Cross Lennox Bridge on Church Street and you will find the Ribs and Rumps and Riverside Theatres complex. Look for the chain of umbrellas lined in a row overlooking Prince Albert Park. Al fresco dining is protected from the elements and most of the street clamour.

On a very hot Saturday, we opted for an inside table – the muted and cool interior was perfect and filled with young families ready for a performance at Riverside Theatres. (Let the staff know if you are attending a performance at Riverside and you will receive extra-quick service.)

The menu is standard across this chain but the quality of the cuisine is nothing less than great. Craving protein, we ordered a steak, cooked to 'rare' perfection with a side of huge delicious black mushrooms. Prawns served on a bed of rice was our partner's choice and our teenagers were served up huge burgers and crispy chips. Servings are quite ample so these ravenous boys were satisfied.

We discovered that Ribs and Rumps is a favourite for our area soccer fans.

The restaurant quickly fills after the Wanderers' (WSWFC) game. Excited and happy supporters jockey for a position at long bar and yes, the decibel level rises considerably but the crowd is friendly and ready to devour most everything on the menu. (The walk from the Pirtek Stadium takes only a few minutes – less time than searching for street parking!)

Did You Know? PJs Parramatta (the great Irish pub in south Church Street) pulls in some headline acts every night of the week.

Harris Park dining

A few old-timers remember when the Marion and Wigram Streets were primarily small cottage homes. Harris Park is undergoing its own modest evolution as many petite turn-of-the- century cottages are in a constant state of renovation. Now embracing a commercial future, primarily as eateries, these early cottages add to the vibrancy of the Asian community within greater Parramatta.

About 10 years ago, the Olive Greek Restaurant was the only game in the neighbourhood. A year later, Taj Indian Restaurant & Sweets opened. Now you will find Greek, Lebanese, Pakistani, Italian and many Indian restaurants, as well as cafés. This is an international food-fest neighbourhood!

Did you know? As in cosmopolitan international traditions, diners often arrive around 8pm and linger late into the night. In the Indian restaurants and cafés, it's customary to go to the counter rather than wait at your table for the bill.

The Olive Greek Restaurant and Bar

Address: 44 Marion Street, Harris Park
Phone: 02 9635 7277
Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12pm – 3pm and 6pm-10pm Saturday, 6pm 'til late

The Olive is a jewel known to many Parramatta locals and is a favourite of corporate and government superstars. In the background, the phone rings frequently with requests for a table, so we recommend you book in advance for dinner – weekday or weekend.

For lunch, we can recommend the banquet platter which includes a number of delicious dips – tzatziki, eggplant, taramasalata and garlic potato – with pita bread, along with lamb and chicken souvlaki. This is a case where 'it looks good enough to eat' is truly appropriate.

At the Olive, Chef Sam Foustanis' food is uncomplicated, fresh and elegant. His slow-cooked lamb is truly a winner – just ask other Chefs. Sam is the Chef's Chef in Parramatta!

FlowerGeneral Photo

Taj Indian Sweets and Restaurant

Address: 91 Wigram Street, Harris Park
Phone: 02 9633 2118

The setting is down-to-earth, prices are reasonable and realistic and the food is unpretentious. This is a place where regular people stream in the door for good traditional Indian food and the turnover is constant and steady.

Our order, Taj's Paper Masala Dosa, was a golden brown and paper-thin lentil and rice pancake filled with onions, potato and spices. In petite dishes, three condiments – coconut, onion chutney and sambar – surrounded the very long pancake. Absolutely yummy!

Taj owner, Ramesh Sharma has exciting plans in place to grow the business in 2014. We'll follow his plans on our website. Stay tuned to the blog.

Did You Know? Taj was the first Indian restaurant to open on Wigram Street and before the days of 'social media food critics', Taj was reviewed by a sanctioned SMH food critic.

Radhe

Address: 8/10 Station Street East, Harris Park
Phone: 02 9687 0024
Hours: Daily 9.30am – 10.30pm Sunday 9.30am – 11pm

Our GenY entrepreneurs in Harris Park have recently expanded their full-service market into Blacktown (40 Third Ave, Shop 8). Demand for fresh produce has risen and for easily prepared curries. Radhe owners encourage eating out less and preparing healthy meals at home by listing interesting recipes on their website.

If you're in a rush – an indicator of our busy lives – Radhe specialises in ready- to-eat curries. Pick up a few fresh veggies, quickly steam and you have a healthy meal with so little effort. However, if you are really pushed for time, Radhe now offers home-delivery services – large or small items. Anything you need can be ordered online. Exotic spices and Indian seasonings are always stocked.

We observe that frequently Radhe serves young families and on weekends babies and toddlers are in-tow. And in the lead up to Diwali Festival, young women were lined up in a corner of the shop waiting their turn for beautiful Henna designs – ornate and delicate small floral drawings covering the entire hand or arm.

If you can't find your favourite item, ask the staff – they are happy to find it for you. Clean, bright, the Harris Park market is located just steps from the Harris Park train stop. (We have yet to visit the Blacktown Market but feel certain the same exemplary service is there.)

Did You Know? Harris Park Community Centre is located on 11 Albion Street in Harris Park – phone 02 9635 0157. The members plan activities throughout the year and 'Harris Park Neighbourhood Week' is a highlight. For dates, check out their website.

Haveli

Address: 67 Wigram Street, Harris Park
Phone: 02 9635 0110
Hours: Open daily noon 'til late

The conversion of this charming old Wigram Street house with its English- style exterior, thick walls and high ceilings into a large, light-filled restaurant with ornate furnishings imported from India is a winner.

Often locals escape the summer heat into the cool of Haveli's and order some of the spiciest food on the menu – we marvel at this human incongruity. As we have indicated elsewhere in the Parramatta Guide, our palate is sensitive to 'hot' or spicy – our Western upbringing we suspect.

So, with the help of proprietor Resham Singh, we choose Samosa for starters (not too brave with this choice) and a South Indian Fish Madras for the main. We couldn't pass up the Paper Masala Dosa and an order of Keema Naan. (We do love Indian breads.) The fish dish has a bit of heat, but with a cooling raita – yogurt, cumin, black pepper and salt – we persevere.

As in our past visits to Haveli, it is difficult to choose a sweet – delicate or dense. So we did not venture beyond what we knew: Gulab Jamun - a milk- based dough rolled into round balls and deep fried at a low temperature. With a soft exterior, we then dipped them into a sugar syrup flavoured with cardamon seeds and rosewater. An exquisite treat!

Haveli is fully licensed and has claimed its place among the many Indian restaurants on Wigram Street.

JelabiSpices

the cafe scene ...

Sweet Land Patisserie

Address: 55 Wigram Street, Harris Park
Phone: 9891 6048
Cash only

Regulars gather throughout the day – morning, afternoon or late evening. Street-side seating is in great demand as people laugh, tell stories and hang out with a coffee and Lebanese sweets in hand.

This is one popular patisserie – a Lebanese cake and sweet shop. Some say it's the best in Parramatta and many families wouldn't consider ordering a wedding cake from any other baker. Ornately decorated French cakes for any occasion – including birthdays or weddings – are a Sweet Land specialty. Disney-themed cakes are always popular with the young set.

From among the vast array we chose an unusual delicacy – a minute, baker's nest with pistachio nuts snuggled in like tiny green eggs. We unequivocally recommend these for a weekend brunch or a light evening dessert. Marvellous! Take home a dozen!

A Quick Glimpse

Courtney's Brasserie

Address: 70 Phillip Street, Parramatta
Phone: 02 9635 3288
Hours: Tuesday to Friday, noon–3pm Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm–11pm

Highly recommended for the fresh produce, cheeses and meats – all sourced locally.

Restaurant 317

Address: 317 Church Street, Parramatta
Phone: 1300 317 317
Hours: Daily, 11.30am 'til late

317's Oyster Lane is charming – so European for alfresco dining.

Sabu

Address: 321 Church Street, Parramatta
Phone: 02 9635 1088
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 12–3pm; 5–11pm

Sophisticated city setting – Japanese cuisine.

El-Phoenician

Address: 328 Church Street, Parramatta
Phone: 02 9633 1611
Hours: Monday–Friday 11.30–3pm Monday–Saturday 5.30 'til late

Upmarket Lebanese restaurant with two locations, Parramatta and Walsh Bay.

Thainabox Parramatta

Address: 318 Church Street, Parramatta
Phone: 02 9633 3681
Hours: Daily, 11am–10pm

Fresh. Food feels clean. Friendly staff.

Mars Hill Café

Address: 331 Church Street, Parramatta
Phone: 02 9893 9888
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 5 pm–11 pm Friday–Saturday, 9am–midnight Sunday, 8.30am–10pm

..."where thinkers drink"...is the copy line here. Mars Hill is your New York kinda café, a place to hang out, sip coffee and talk. It's a late night place, often with music. Check out their website.

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Circa

Address: 21 Wentworth Street, Parramatta (south of Parramatta Station)

Fresh and beautifully prepared food. This is a very popular Parramatta hangout with foodies.

Ginger

Address: 94 Wigram Street, Harris Park
Phone: 02 8062 7245
Hours: Lunch - Saturday & Sunday Dinner - Monday–Sunday

Charming setting serving Northern Indian Mughlai cuisine.

Billu's

Address: 62–64 Wigram Street, Harris Park
Phone: 02 9687 7785
Hours: Open daily, 10.30am–10.30pm

Large family restaurant serving vegetarian and non vegetarian cuisine. Front and back verandahs for alfresco dining.

Spice of Life Restaurant

Address: 116 Wigram Street, Harris Park
Phone: 02 9762 1033
Hours: Open daily, 11am–11pm (kitchen closes at 10.30pm)

A favourite of the Parramatta business crowd.

Al-Wadi

Address: 56 Marion Street, Harris Park
Phone: 02 9635 9333
Hours: Open daily, 10am–10pm

Family owned business, Middle Eastern cuisine, great for families – tender charcoal chicken with ample sides.