The Hayberry in Crows Nest, Sydney, great for American food lovers

The first time I’ve ever tried a veggie burger that reminded me of a fish taco happened while I dined at The Hayberry in Crows Nest, Sydney, and boy, was I thrilled. The Vego ($15AUD) patty is made with mixed bean, corn and coriander, and topped with citrus rocket, tomato and jalapeño mayo, and this monster of a sandwich had me reminiscing being on the Rocky Point beach.

The Hayberry_Crows Nest_ Sydney_Vego Burger

The burger wasn’t the only stellar reason why this bar and restaurant made me happy. Head through the dimly lit pub area to the back of the restaurant to discover a fresh air patio filled with lots of natural light and quirky decorations. It’s relaxed and will make you feel right at home.

The Hayberry_Crows Nest_ Sydney_2 The Hayberry_Crows Nest_ Sydney

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Back to the food. I was so excited to try the waffle fries that usually come with the burgers and sandwiches, but unfortunately, the fryer was down — or “f*cked,” as a humorous sign pointed out. The restaurant compensated for the lack of fried potatoes by giving us complimentary chips and guacamole, normally $10. The portion was plentiful and would be a great appetizer option, and the guac was creamy and sprinkled with some heat.

The Hayberry_Crows Nest_ Sydney_Guacamole with Corn Chips

For those in Australia hankering for Mexican or American food, The Hayberry is a great choice because of its wide selection of tacos, fajitas, buffalo wings and burgers. Service was super-friendly, and the casual atmosphere makes it a top-notch place to stop for after-work drinks and bites, as I did, or to meet big groups, since there are lots of spacious tables to spread out on.

The cocktail menu is also fun, as it offers margaritas and fruity drinks with fresh juice. It quickly became one of my favorite places I’ve checked out since I’ve been in Sydney, and you can learn more about it here.

Gourmet Pizza Kitchen in Chatswood, Sydney, satiates pizza cravings

When you’re jonesing for some quality pizza in Sydney, Gourmet Pizza Kitchen in Chatswood is a solid choice. The family-friendly restaurant, accommodating for big groups with a lively atmosphere, features wood-fired pies, stellar salads, salivating desserts and more.

Gourmet Pizza Kitchen in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia Gourmet Pizza Kitchen in Chatswood, Sydney, AustraliaI had a filling dinner there recently (I arrived as soon as the restaurant opened), the restaurant’s three-course meal for two ($29.50 AUD each), which was really four courses since the “twist” portion isn’t counted but is very filling. Each meal comes with drinks (you can get beer or wine, too) and choice of twists, a salad, a pizza and a dessert. It was a huge meal, and an affinity for pizza dough is a plus, since many of the offerings feature it.

For starters, there was the Sweet Chilli Twists (normally $7.90), dough brushed with a sweet chili glaze and served with sour cream. I loved the sweet and spicy combo, with cooling cream that made every bite delectable.

Gourmet Pizza Kitchen Sweet Chilli TwistsThe next course was a Rocket and Parmesan Salad (normally $12.90), with a heaping pile of parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, roasted pine nuts and balsamic dressing. The portion was plentiful, and I loved the restaurant didn’t skimp on all the goodies covering the greens.

Gourmet Pizza Kitchen Rocket and Parmesan SaladThe Martinique Pizza (normally $21.50, 26 centimeters, about 10 inches) was a fantastic vegetarian choice. It came with sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, basil pesto, arugula and roasted pine nuts. I loved the consistency of the dough — it was soft and chewy and not at all burnt. The toppings and cheese were again very generous, and with eight pieces for two to share, there will be plenty to take home if you order the same multi-course meal.

Gourmet Pizza Kitchen MARTINIQUE pizzaLast was one of my favorite parts, the dessert. If you aren’t sick of carbs by now, the Apple and Cinnamon Sticks (normally $12.90) are really tasty. Like a rolled-up apple pie, the dough was filled with apple and cream and topped with cinnamon and sugar, accompanied by melt-in-your-mouth vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream. I loved every bite and would come back to Gourmet Pizza Kitchen for this dessert alone.

Gourmet Pizza Kitchen Apple and Cinnamon SticksFor the abundance of food you get, the deal is a steal for only a little over $20 USD per person — and that includes alcohol! I’d recommend Gourmet Pizza Kitchen whenever you want a filling meal with fresh ingredients and flavors that will leave your taste buds happy.

To learn more about Gourmet Pizza Kitchen, head here.


National Basketball League in Australia cultivates basketball fandom

I’ve been a basketball fan all my life but really got hardcore into the NBA in the U.S. around four years ago. I started religiously attending Phoenix Suns games and have been a season ticket holder for the past three seasons. Moving to Sydney, Australia, this year, one of the things I knew I’d miss the most is Suns games, but thankfully, the National Basketball League (NBL) ignites energy in basketball fans around the country.

Sydney Kings Thanks to Derek Rucker — former player for Davidson College in the U.S., a pro baller in Australia for 15 seasons, and current analyst for FOX Sports Australia — and Tim Hudson, head of basketball operations for the Sydney Kings, I attended my first NBL game in Australia when I saw the Kings play their rivals, the Ilawarra Hawks, this past weekend. The game was the second-to-last home game for the Kings, who play at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre. With a capacity of around 4,000, the venue was packed with fervent fans cheering on their team.

Sydney KingsThere are some subtle differences between the NBA and NBL. Quarters in the NBL are 10 minutes each, and time-outs are taken far less frequently. Halftime and breaks between quarters are also much shorter than the NBA, cutting game time by about 30 minutes. The shorter quarters ensure game play is engaging and fast-paced.

I was so excited to see the Sydney Kings, since they have Josh Childress, who used to play for my beloved Suns.

Josh Childress Nicki EscuderoChildress is one of the biggest stars of the team — and the league, from what I’ve garnered from watching other NBL teams, as well — and it was neat to see him play in the NBL style Rucker calls “somewhat NBA, a little Euro and slightly NCAA.” One of my favorite aspects I’ve noticed with the NBL is the camaraderie among players, who often huddle on court mid-game — there aren’t many times I’ve seen that in the NBA.

I also love the positive spirit permeating the league. The team members high-five their opponents at the end of the game and meet in the middle for one last cheer at the end. Though the game action was highly competitive — I loved the passion of Kings head coach Joe Connelly, whose brother Pat Connelly is the Suns assistant general manager — the overall atmosphere on the court emitted vibes of hard work and support.

I was really delighted by the crowd’s energy during the game. The entire venue stood up until the Kings scored their first basket, and during every cheer and in-game promotion, fans really got into the action. While things are definitely on a smaller scale here, I loved the intimacy and togetherness you experience while at an NBL game.

NBL teams play through February — the schedule started in October, and includes playoffs and a finals competition. For more information on this league I’m so excited to embrace in my new Sydney home, head here.