Buffalo Dining Club in Darlinghurst, Sydney, has cacio e pepe amazingness

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Have you ever had your pasta twirled in a giant wheel of cheese before it hits your plate? It’s called cacio e pepe, it’s at Buffalo Dining Club in Darlinghurst in Sydney, Australia, and it’s heavenly.

Buffalo Dining Club Sydney Australia

I was first alerted to this momentous dining experience by an American friend who sent me a video of the action.

I went to try it on a Saturday night. The spot doesn’t take reservations, except for parties of seven or more and on the last Sunday of every month, and it was already packed with a two-hour wait by the time I walked up. With timely obligations, I had to leave but vowed to come back again.

It turns out, Buffalo Dining Club is a perfect place to visit for lunch on a Wednesday, around 12:30 p.m. There were plenty of seats, though be warned much of it is communal in this hip restaurant that seats around 50 people altogether.

Buffalo Dining Club Sydney Australia

If you’re a twosome on the patio, chances are good you’ll be rubbing elbows with your neighbor, and a substantial long table takes up much of the space in the dining room.

Cheese lovers will adore Buffalo Dining Club, which imports mozzarella from Italy and has an amazing burrata appetizer ($22 AUD). The giant hunk is melt-in-your-mouth goodness with every bite.

Buffalo Dining Club Sydney Australia

The cacio e pepe ($20), or spaghetti with salt, pepper, olive oil and parsley twirled in a massive wheel of pecorino cheese, is gooey and flavour-packed. The show is even better, as a server flashily spins the pasta for amazed eyes.

The gnocchi ($20) is also top-notch, delightful pillows of buffalo ricotta dough with napolitana sauce. Getting the items mentioned and sharing makes for a perfect meal for two.

Buffalo Dining Club Sydney Australia

The restaurant has an extensive selection of wine to pair with your Italian meal, plus strong and tasty handcrafted cocktails made with fresh ingredients.

Buffalo Dining Club Sydney Australia Buffalo Dining Club Sydney Australia

The staff is friendly, the atmosphere is bustling, and the food is delicious. As raved about online and having garnered attention worldwide, Buffalo Dining Club is a worthy dining destination. Learn more here.

El Karim Restaurant in Sydney serves delicious Lebanese food

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The first thing you’ll notice about El Karim restaurant in Roseville, Sydney, Australia, is the tantalizing scents. Lebanese aromas of hommos, falafel and grilled eggplant waft through the air, beckoning visitors in to the restaurant that is wall-to-wall packed with people on weekend nights. The cozy eatery has a convivial vibe, with lots of happy chatter amid the delicious smells.

El Karim Restaurant Sydney

There’s also some sparse patio seating, as well as a little bar area near the entrance. Make a reservation on weekend nights to get a seat right away. When I went there a couple weeks ago, it was only about a 10-minute wait, but I watched as parties continuously walked in all night to get their fix of the tasty offerings this restaurant features.

It was easy to see why this restaurant, which underwent renovations this year, has been going strong since 1976. I was greeted immediately by owner/chef Fadi Constantine, from Beirut, who had a giant smile and mingled with tables throughout the space. The BYO menu (you can bring wine only) is full of dozens of shared plate entrées and larger mains, and I’d recommend ordering a bunch of smaller plates to try for the whole table. I could get a whole new order next time I go — everything I had was delicious, and there were so many more mouthwatering dishes I can’t wait to try next time.

I started with the hommos ($7 AUD), which came with a thick stack of pita bread and was the perfect thick and creamy consistency. The bread was soft, not soggy, and the starter was really filling.

El Karim Restaurant Sydney Hommos

The falafel ($12) was another classic and stellar choice, drizzled with tahini and served with pickles. The patties were thick and moist. I loved the generous topping, and everything went well together.

El Karim Restaurant Sydney falafel

Haloumi is always a must-have in Australia, so I was delighted there was a haloumi dish that came with another one of my faves, kalamata olives ($14). Wrap the haloumi in pita, and it’s heavenly, or eat it on your own, which I loved.

El Karim Restaurant Sydney Haloumi

An order of batata kezbarah ($12), diced potatoes with spices, lemon and garlic, perfectly rounded out the meal. The dish was filling, and I loved the Lebanese spices that covered the potatoes.

Batata Kezbarah El Karim Restaurant Sydney

Pair your meal with a speciality cocktail, beer, cider or glass of wine — again, there are dozens to choose from. Besides the menu that was a knockout with everything that was ordered, the service was swift, attentive and friendly. You really feel valued and at home in the restaurant, which made for such a fantastic experience.

Learn more about El Karim in Roseville, Sydney, Australia here.

Urban Bites in Newtown, Sydney, is a patio destination

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One of my favourite parts of town I’ve explored in Sydney is Newtown, a colourful area decorated by street art and proliferated by dozens of drool-inducing restaurants with lots of patio space for enjoying amazing Sydney weather. I recently stumbled upon Urban Bites, a friendly restaurant with a neighbourhood feel that has attentive staff and a menu serving tasty eats in generous portions.

Urban Bites Newtown Sydney patio

The spot serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and coffee, with a full alcohol bar. The dessert case is absolutely amazing, featuring everything from cakes and tarts, to pastries. Definitely save room for a tasty treat.

Urban Bites Newtown Sydney dessert case

I was there for dinner and opted for a delicious grilled haloumi burger with rocket and olive tapenade on Turkish toast ($17.90 AUD). It was served with thickly cut chips and was so huge, I had to take half of it home. The bread was perfectly crispy, there was a ton of haloumi, and the veggies were plentiful.

Urban Bites Newtown Sydney grilled haloumi

Here’s a look at the equally massive fish and chips burger with sweet potato fries:

Urban Bites Newtown Sydney Fish and Chips

Though all the cheesecake and tiramisu made my mouth water, I gave something I’ve never tried a taste, pavlova. I had no idea the dessert was born in the Australia/New Zealand region, which is awesome, but it just looked so gosh darned pretty, I felt it would be a dream to eat. It’s a meringue-based cake that was topped with cream. I’m not the hugest meringue fan, but it was sweet and light, and the cream was amazing. I’m sure it was a great version of the dessert, and its elegance evokes the beauty of the Russian ballerina the dessert was named after.

Urban Bites Newtown Sydney pavlova

From start to finish, the meal at Urban Bites was fantastic. I loved that my meal was enough to take half of it home, the servers were courteous, and the whole atmosphere is fun and laid-back. For more information on Urban Bites, head here.


Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia, lives up to its name

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I recently headed to the absolutely gorgeous Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast, Queensland. About an hour-and-a-half plane flight north of Sydney, Surfers Paradise is, not surprisingly, known for its vast abundance of beaches that are so clean and pristine.

Surfers Paradise Gold Coast

On a Monday, they’re relatively empty, too, in this place popular with tourists who come for weekend trips.

Surfers Paradise Gold Coast Queensland Australia

I was only there a couple days but was thrilled to dine at Glass, a stunning waterfront restaurant with a classily cool interior.

Glass Surfers Paradise Gold Coast

The meal was magnificent, one of my favorite pasta dishes I’ve had. The sun-dried tomato arancini starter ($13.9 AUD) with mozzarella and gremolata was tasty — perfectly fried little balls of risotto heaven ideal to share for two.

Glass Surfers Paradise Gold Coast

All the tapas sounded fantastic, from the wild mushroom and truffle croquettes and tempura zucchini flowers, to the panko crumbed eggplant wedges. If I were to go again, I would probably split several tapas dishes.

For my main, I got a veggie rigatoni ($28.9) drenched in a tasty tomato sauce, with zucchini, onions, cherry tomatoes and heaping hunks of feta cheese. Every bite was amazing, and the portion was impressively huge for a fine dining restaurant.

Glass Surfers Paradise Gold Coast

The squid ink seafood risotto ($31.9) was another generous portion and came with calamari, shrimp, fish, lobster and scallop. It was a seafood lover’s heaven and smelled marvelous.

Glass Surfers Paradise Gold Coast

Service was impeccable, from host to server to food runner. I loved the Alkoomi reisling ($9.5), which was a sweetly wonderful pairing for the pasta and arancini. I went to Glass because of a recommendation from my cab driver, and now I’m recommending it to you.

I’d love to come back to Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast for more water activities and fine dining. It’s got an upscale San Diego vibe, which I enjoyed. Learn more here.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant in Surry Hills, Sydney, gives amazing Middle Eastern dining experience

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I love restaurants that really transport you to another place with their style and décor, which is why I was thrilled to have a Lebanese feast recently at Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant in Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney

The Middle Eastern spot has two pillow-filled party rooms perfect for large gatherings, while the main dining room offers a cozy dining experience decorated with rugs from the area, pillows and comfy cushioned seating, artwork, decorated plates and hanging adornments.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney

The spot is BYO, a feature I’m always excited about in Australia because it helps you save money and sip on exactly what you want.

The vegetarian meal consisting of nearly a dozen tapas courses kicked off with hoummos ($9 AUD) and baba ganouj ($11) and a massive mound of khobz, or Lebanese bread, whose pockets allowed you to create sandwiches to your heart’s content.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney khobz

I’ve never been a huge fan of baba ganouj because of the runny versions I’ve encountered, but this one was thick, creamy, garlic-packed and delicious.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney Baba Ganouj

The hoummos was top-notch, too, with a great thick consistency. Next up was tabouli ($13), in a heaping bowl, again, not overly-watery and chopped so that it was easy to scoop up and combine with the other elements. It was vibrantly green and a great khobz addition.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney hoummos and tabouli

Falafel ($7) came next, generous donut-shaped bites of the fried chickpeas. They were fried well, not overly hard or soft, and I enjoyed the sauce drizzled over the falafel.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney Falafel

Sliced eggplant ($12) came out next. Again, I’m not the biggest eggplant fan, but these were heaven. Their charred skins gave off a crunchy texture and welcome smoky flavor, while the eggplant was covered in an ideal amount of oil that enhanced their taste without making them soggy.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney Fried Eggplant

One of the best parts of the spread, all which came out in about 15 minutes total for a massive meal that lent itself to mixing flavors, was the spinach pie ($12). The fried feta cheese- and spinach-filled slice was pure bliss in every bite. It was a decadent vegetarian course that added new flavors to the meal.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney Spinach Pie

The fried cauliflower ($12) was another filling portion, topped with tahini dressing. The meaty cruciferous vegetable quickly makes bellies full.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney Fried Cauliflower

Vine leaves are one of my favorite Mediterranean dishes, and Hannibal’s ($13) didn’t disappoint. The large leaves stuffed with rice, tomato and parsley were again meaty and filling and packed a ton of flavors.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney Vine Leaves

For dessert, there was baklava ($2.50), probably the best I’ve ever had. The portion offered a few bites and had the perfect ratio of dough-to-pistachio filling, baked in Middle Eastern honey syrup so that it melted in your mouth.

Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant Surry Hills Sydney Baklava

As a fan of tapas-style serving where you can try lots of small plates in one sitting, Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant is one I’d return to over and over. The spot features belly dancing for parties and on Saturday’s (call ahead to confirm times), and the beautiful atmosphere enhances the elegance of every plate.

Find more information on Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant in Surry Hills, which has another location in Glebe, here.

La Pesa Trattoria a cozy Italian spot in Darlinghurst, Sydney

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La Pesa Trattoria is a lovely Italian restaurant in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia, with a diverse menu of tapas and mains, perfect for lingering over while sipping a bottle of wine.

La Pesa Trattoria Sydney Darlinghurst

The space is simple and relaxed, with a small main bar anchoring the front room and a larger dining room on the other side. Great for romantic dates for couples or for larger party celebrations, the restaurant offers a cozy, neighborhood feel with stellar attentive service.

La Pesa Trattoria Sydney Darlinghurst

La Pesa Trattoria Sydney Darlinghurst La Pesa Trattoria Sydney Darlinghurst

I had a tapas feast there recently, noshing on mostly cheese-filled plates that made me happy. La Pesa Trattoria’s tapas selections include Italian Salumi ($13 AUD), Hot Speck and Mozzarella Bites ($12) and Pork Hock Terrine ($15), with items like Focaccia Barese ($10) and Olives with homemade Grissini ($11) to satisfy vegetarian palates. Mains include pastas, veal and salads, all traditional Milanese recipes with an updated twist.

My meal started with the Gnocco Fritto Bowl ($8), fried bits of Italian bread paired with a cheese fondue. The cheese was flavorful and had a perfectly melty consistency, and the bread reminded me of a sopapilla-turned-savory. I loved the dish.

La Pesa Trattoria Gnocco Fritto

The Burrata Mousse ($15), a creamy mozzarella mousse with basil, croutons, confit cherry tomato and grated bottarga, was unlike anything I’d ever had. A creation of the restaurant’s chef, it was ultra-creamy and a tasty take on traditional burrata caprese.

La Pesa Trattoria Burrata mousse

Taking a break from the tasty cheeses, next up was the Rustic Wedges ($9), hand-cut potatoes with burned parmesan and truffle essence. The potatoes were ultra-filing, and I could definitely taste the truffle, which elevated their flavor.

La Pesa Trattoria Rustic WedgesThe Tomino Cheese and Figs ($15), which came with walnuts, balsamic glaze and crostini, was another gooey cheese creation that I loved for its sweet and savory melding. The walnuts were a great touch that added crunch and another flavor layer, and every element in the dish worked perfectly.

La Pesa Trattoria Tomino cheese and figs

The Cheese Board ($14) to finish the meal was a perfect ending because it had more sweet components. The gorgonzola, pecorino and taleggio cheeses were all high-quality, and paired with a spicy plum jam, crostini, olive oil and more walnuts, it would be both a great appetizer option or dessert.

La Pesa Trattoria Cheese board

If you head to La Pesa Trattoria, I’d definitely recommend going the tapas route and trying lots of the delectable bites the restaurant has to offer. You won’t go wrong with any of the cheese dishes, and the Burrata Mousse was an enjoyably innovative stand-out.

For more informationon La Pesa Trattoria, head here.

Old Growler in Kings Cross, Sydney, a tasty underground dive

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The punkiest burger bar I’ve encountered in Sydney so far is the Old Growler in Kings Cross.

Old Growler exterior

The underground bar (literally, you take steps to go down), instantly makes you feel cool in the dark and divey exclusive atmosphere.

Old Growler Sydney stairs

The bar has a large selection of draft beer, and I really enjoyed the refreshing and perfectly sweet Young Henrys Cloudy Cider, made here in Australia, $10 AUD for a pint. Order and pay for food at the bar, and a server will bring out your eats.

Old Growler Sydney bar

The Veggie Burger ($15) was a fried patty topped with field mushroom, chèvre and seeded mustard mayonnaise on a brioche bun, with a side of beer battered chips.

Old Growler Sydney veggie burger and chips

Every bite of the burger was enjoyable, and I quickly gobbled it up. The portion of thick-cut fries was a little smaller than I’m used to, but the meal left me satisfied and not stuffed, perfect for a bar night out. Other meal options include Australian classics like chicken schnitzel, plus poutine, fish, steak and cheese boards.

The crowd was super-friendly, and there was lots of comfortable seating.

Old Growler Sydney

I loved the fun touch of the bear designs on the food placeholders.

Old Growner Sydney interiorPlus, there was a delightfully smutty gender-neutral bathroom, decorated with sexy pictures, which added to the dive atmosphere.

Yelp Sydney recently named the Old Growler one of the city’s top burger destinations, and I can see why. The lively atmosphere, quick food service and large libation selection that includes wine, champagne and mixed cocktails makes it a Kings Cross hot spot.

Learn more about the Old Growler here.

Casa Asturiana offers flamenco and Spanish food in Sydney

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Put two of my favorite countries together, Australia and Spain, and you’ve got me hooked. Thanks, Casa Asturiana, in central Sydney, for offering this Spanish gal a vast variety of Spanish tapas and dishes to keep stomachs muy alegre.

Casa Asturiana Sydney menu

The bi-level restaurant is located in a Spanish quarter featuring several other dining establishments with comida de España, near the Town Hall train and down the street from the Metro Theatre. I had some delicious tapas at the fun outdoor Spanish-style street seating there recently, a spot I was delighted to learn features flamenco dancing Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m.

I loved seeing the juxtaposition of the Spanish and Australian flags both on the menu and inside — it just made my heart happy.

Casa Asturiana Sydney interior 2

Indoors is classy dining, with Spanish-style decorations and artwork surrounding dining tables and the bar.

Casa Asturiana Sydney interior

Outdoors is much more casual, but I always love taking advantage of gorgeous Sydney summer weather.

Casa Asturiana Sydney Nicki Escudero

The sangria is a must-have. I drank a half-litre (about four 4-ounce glasses) myself, and it was chock full of fresh fruit pieces and had the perfect balance of fruity flavors.

Casa Asturiana Sydney sangria

Casa Asturiana offers full paella and seafood entrees, but I’d go for tapas, perfectly-sized dishes to share for a party of two or more.

Here’s a look at the Pulpo al Ajo Arriero, or braised octopus in olive oil, garlic, paprika and vinegar, which was a hearty portion for two that I heard was delicious and not overly chewy like octopus can be.

Casa Asturiana Sydney octopus

I was hoping for some Spanish manchego cheese, but this eatery with northern Spanish cuisine didn’t have it on the menu. The server accommodatingly brought out a dish full of tasty feta bites,which I really enjoyed.

Casa Asturiana Sydney feta cheese

Definitely get the Champiñones a la Plancha, which are barbecued whole button mushrooms with white wine garlic and parsley. Spanish mushrooms are my favorite mushrooms because they’re juicy and perfect to pop in your mouth.

Casa Asturiana Sydney mushrooms

The Patatas Alioli, lightly fried potatoes covered in a warm garlicky mayonnaise sauce, were also plentiful and delicious. I know it might be a little weird to eat mayo with potatoes, but it’s big in Spain — and here in Sydney, mayo is also popular.

Casa Asturiana Sydney patatas alioli

The order of Spanish bread was a little different than the crusty pan con olive oil I was expecting. It came covered with tomato sauce and herbs, and the two giant pieces were, again, great to share.

Casa Asturiana Sydney Spanish breadFor all this food and sangria, plus a beer, it was only $75 AUD, what I’d consider a great value for such a feast. I loved that my server, who was from Colombia, greeted me in Spanish. It was refreshing to experience such a Spanish-friendly atmosphere in Sydney, where I haven’t seen many Spanish restaurants. I’d love to go back and check out the flamenco, one of the most beautiful dance art forms in the world, plus to get some of their delicious-sounding desserts, including tiramisu and churros.

For more information on Casa Asturiana Spanish restaurant, head here.

Grill’d in Chatswood has healthy burgers in Sydney

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Having walked past the tantalizing scents of Grill’d in Chatswood, Sydney, many times, I was excited to finally nosh at the joint touting healthy burgers.

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney interior

Grill’d serves a variety of burgers and sliders, made with chicken, beef, lamb and veggies, as well as offers steak sandwiches and salads. There are three — count ’em, three — vegetarian burger options! I definitely want to go back to try them all, but this time, i opted for the Field of Dreams ($11.50 AUD), a portobello mushroom burger that was one of the lowest-calorie options on the menu at about 470 calories for a huge sandwich. It was incredibly juicy and came with basil pesto, roasted peppers, cheddar cheese, lettuce and herbed mayo — and an Australian flag, for good measure.

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney Mushroom Burger

Be sure to pair your burger with some “chips” (French fries), too — I loved the thick-cut fries here because the seasoning was ample. The regular version ($4.80) is super-huge, and I wasn’t able to finish mine. Next time, I would get the snack version ($3.80).

I ordered the tomato relish thinking it would be ketchup-y (or tomato sauce-y, as Australians would say), but it was a sweet dipping sauce that didn’t satisfy my palate — though, with other ingredients, like on my mushroom burger, it was fine. Instead, I’d recommend the very spicy hot chilli mayo dipping sauce, which had a huge kick and is mighty tasty. Here it is, appropriately labeled “hot,” paired with the Friends of Falafel burger ($11.50):

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney falafel burger new

That’s the burger I might get next time, or the other veggie burger option, the Garden Goodness ($11.50), a veggie patty made with beetroot.

Grill’d is super-casual and popping on weekend nights, with street seating that gives plenty of opportunities for people-watching.

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney patio

The order-at-the-counter spot is stocked with local bottled beers and beers on draft. I loved the fun attitude, from the Australian burger flags, to the sassy copy on the knife holders:

Grill'd Chatswood Sydney knife

Learn more about Grill’d here.

Lid and Jar in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia a relaxing and delicious brunch and lunch spot

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I absolutely love sitting outdoors while dining, and often the summer weather in Sydney is too beautiful not to. One of the best patios I’ve found in Chatswood is at Lid & Jar, a coffeehouse and restaurant serving delicious offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Lid and Jar Chatswood patio Lid and Jar Chatswood upstairs coffee bar

The first time I went, breakfast serving was barely over — it ends at noon. If you love breakfast, though, you’re in luck, since several breakfast items also appear on the lunch menu, including the wonderful Crispy French Toast ($18 AUD), with natural Greek yoghurt, fresh strawberries and dried fruit compote sprinkled with candied nuts.

Lid and Jar Chatswood French toast

The abundance of berries makes for an amazing flavor combination, while the toasted oats on top give some crunchy textural variety. The cream that accompanies the bread is a perfect complement, and while I didn’t order this, I happily stole multiple bites.

I opted for the Fresh Corn Fritters (also $18), something unlike anything I’d ever had before.

Lid and Jar Chatswood corn fritters

I adored the plentiful arugula, avocado and tomato topping that was like a mini-salad, and the fritters were fried to perfection and packed full of corn. I left off the bacon, and it was an ideal lunch portion, leaving me full and happy.

I had to head back for brunch. The patio is so peaceful because it overlooks a grassy area near The Concourse theater.

Lid and Jar Chatswood view

It’s also dog-friendly, and seeing cute pooches makes any meal better.

I had a fresh cold-pressed green detox juice ($9.30), made with apple, pear, spinach and coconut water. I instantly felt the healthy nutrients perking me up, and it had the perfect amount of sweetness. The fresh cold-pressed orange juice ($9.30) was also spectacular, and both were great choices if you love fresh juice.

Lid and Jar Chatswood green juice Lid and Jar Chatswood pure orange juice

I wanted a veggie benedict with no meat or eggs. My server suggested avocado toast with sides of roasted tomatoes and hollandaise sauce, which was a fantastic suggestion and shaved a few bucks off the regular benedict price of $17-$18. The hollandaise sauce was thick and creamy, just like I like it, and the tomatoes were juicy and perfectly cooked.

Lid and Jar Chatswood avocado toast

Here’s the Smoked Salmon Benedict ($18):

Lid and Jar Chatswood salmon benedictIt doesn’t come with any sides but is an ample meal, for sure.

Lid & Jar features two levels, including indoor restaurant seating up top:
Lid and Jar Chatswood upstairs inside restaurant

and a second lower-level coffeehouse on the bottom, where you can order and take away from the sidewalk.

Lid and Jar Chatswood downstairs coffee bar

Lid and Jar Chatswood downstairs exterior

Lid and Jar Chatswood downstairs interior

Like many Sydney restaurants I’ve encountered, here a server takes your order, but you’ll pay at the counter. Everyone at Lid & Jar was extremely friendly, and the restaurant makes you feel instantly welcome. While I am striving to try new restaurants as often as possible, Lid & Jar is a place I can’t wait to return to for some dinner eats. Learn more about the Chatswood restaurant and coffeehouse here.