By the Sydney Opera House I sat down and wept

OK, a minor exaggeration there, but it was a close run thing. Pushed to extreme tetchiness by hunger, both The Man and I were getting close to tantrum territory on a recent trip in to the tourist centre of our new home, Sydney, because of the complete lack of any eating options that did not require a mortgage.

Tourist traps like Circular Quay, home of the Opera House and stunning views of Sydney Harbour Bridge, are always going to charge a premium. It was astonishing, though, that there was absolutely nothing cheap and cheerful to be had in the vicinity. What would a budget conscious backpacker or family out for a day trip do? Bring their own sarnies?

But it seems it’s not just touristic areas that are suffering massive inflation. Recently I was in Bondi Junction (the less glamorous twin of Bondi Beach) and found it impossible to get a quick sandwich’n’juice lunch for less than $10 – in the food court! In fact, I would go so far to say that there seems to be very little cheap and cheerful left in the food scene in Aus in general.

Coming home has been great in many ways. I am appreciating all over again the vibrant food and independent cafe culture that has really blossomed in Australia while I’ve been away. But – much as this might shock, food is cheaper in London, even allowing for the current strong dollar/ weak pound.

Since when has it been normal to charge over $20 for a burger?

How come a suburban Sunday breakfast for four costs a hundred bucks?

Why is beer so expensive when it’s part of our national psyche?

Where did the ordinary bakery go and how come I can’t get a simple chicken and salad sandwich?

How can the supermarkets get away with the prices they charge for basic foods? Where’s the competition?

The thing I find most curious is there is an untapped market for quick, interesting and not horrendously priced food, particularly lunch. I never thought I would be extolling the virtues of chains, but in the UK Marks & Spencers, Eat and Pret a Manger lead the way in providing interesting, good quality prepared sandwiches, salads and heat’n’serve dinners for relatively reasonable prices to people at train stations, in central cities and, yes, tourist traps. I can’t see an equivalent here in Australia.

M&S come quickly! Australia needs you!

 

 

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15 Responses to By the Sydney Opera House I sat down and wept

  1. Fitzroyalty says:

    Circular Quay and Bondi are truly horrendous for food, but methinks you chose the wrong large Australian city šŸ™‚

    • [rueful sigh]
      Fiztroyalty, a little piece of my heart agrees with you, but what can you do? Gotta follow the jobs and there’s outstanding yum cha to make up for it. And now Melbs can be a special eating treat šŸ™‚

  2. Gretchen says:

    These days, I consider a lunch of $10 wchich includes juice to be cheap.

    And I don’t even get views of the Opera House and harbour.

  3. miga says:

    You can still get a $10 bowl of the most delicious pho, or dine like a king at some great yum cha places for not much more, so all’s well on the value/quality axis as long as there’s a healthy east Asian immigrant population!

  4. A London-living friend of mine said she was charged $8 for a sausage roll and bottle of water on a trip home to Perth recently. A sausage roll! The least glamorous take away food ever!

    She said she won’t be coming back to Perth any time soon. Can’t afford it šŸ˜‰

  5. helcat says:

    I can only do my comparisons with Perth and Melbourne or Perth and London and now for a few days I am savouring the interesting cheap eating experiences in Los Angeles. There has to be way to make this better. Not Marks and Spencers and Pret a Manger I hope although I agree they are very palatable but surely there is a way to produce some interesting cheap options in Australia.

    • Did you get to eat mountains of great Mexican in LA? American friends living in London moan about lack of proper Mexican in the UK and I don’t even know where to look here in Syds. xx

      • mimi says:

        Just returned from a few years in the UK myself, and finding myself nodding along to your blog… too true….
        Though it has been a good decade since I last went, there are some good mexican restaurants in Randwick, Azteca’s and La Cocina Peruana. You could also try Fajita Sisters on Glebe Point Rd, Glebe. Haven’t been but friends recommended. And if all else fails Guzman y Gomez chain, where you can get a couple of soft tortilla’s and a drink for less than $10, but still not as cheap as a Pret no bread crayfish and avocado sandwich… Gosh I miss those šŸ˜‰

        and yep – agree that Melbourne is better value and better food choices – Sydney seems far too overpriced – food and houses… but I will keep hunting out those bargains…

  6. One of my (many) Melbourne friends said –

    The day M&S food comes to Aus will be the day I sit down and weep by the Yarra. You need to be here in Melb! Today for lunch I am going to the A1 Bakery in Sydney Rd where I shall dine on Lebanese Pizza topped with Halloumi and Dukka and it will cost us $4. Yesterday I had lunch at Naked For Satan in Brunswick St where deliscious tapas on tooth picks cost 50cents each. I could go on and on and on!!!

  7. Lynsey says:

    I am afraid I have to add to the Melbourne chorus! Inner City Sydney sucks on any number of basis for food and leisure… where as Melbourne is the oposite! Darn, now I miss Melbourne again!

  8. Rob says:

    +1 for Melbourne!
    You can get some really good sandwich or foccacia & drink combos in the CBD for less than $10 (it’s the drink that normally pushes it up – $3.50-$4 for a coke? no thanks!), or there’s a seemingly endless choice of East Asian foods to be found, quiet often of reasonable quality, for around $7 a meal. Or there’s Breadtop, where you can stuff yourself silly for next to nothing…

    • Rob you’re right about the drink component. Recently needing to stick to a tight budget I avoided drinks altogether when eating out. Why pay $4 for something that probably costs 4c to make?! I must say, Aus cafes and restaurants are very good at giving you normal tap water – and not making you feel like a cheapskate for doing so!

  9. Thanks for the Mexican recommendations Mimi, and welcome to Shared Table! I’ve heard good things about Glebe Point Rd, will have to give it a go.

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