As Head of Content for Mecca Brands and formerly at Vogue Australia; Zara Wong has travelled extensively in the name of work, navigating her way through the best dining, fashion and cultural experiences around the globe. With a passion for great food, this globetrotting Sydneysider’s ‘little black book’ is one to file away for future reference. Bon appétit!
What do you love about living in Sydney?
Whenever I return to Sydney from overseas I’m always quietly amazed at the lifestyle on offer here. The sea is so close to the CBD, or you can drive just an 90 minutes out to head to the Southern Highlands or to Windsor.
Your favourite restaurants, café’s and bars?
A Tavola: Eat pasta on their communal marble table, and you’ll feel like you’re in Italy.
Buffalo Dining Club: The cacio e pepe is as good as everyone says it is, but the ricotta gnocchi, when available, is a quiet achiever.
Chaco Bar: authentic, delicious yakitori in a bustling space. It makes you feel like you’re in Tokyo. They also do special ramens for lunchtime and I LOVE ramen.
Ester: Really interesting and inventive food – best to go in a group so you can share!
Il Baretto: Sorry, this is another pasta place. I only ever order the duck ragu (a permanent special) and their pannacotta. And to be honest I don’t even really like pannacotta – theirs is the best I’ve ever had.
Kepos Street Kitchen: Great breakfast, and you can’t say no to churros with dulce de leche.
Malay-Chinese Takeaway: Low-key, this is hands-down the best laksa in I’ve ever had (including those in Singapore!). This really shows off the variety of food available in Sydney.
Mark and Vinny’s: fun Italian that experiments with vegan/vegetarian/non-dairy options (straight cheese and carnivore-friendly variations are still on the menu though).
Poly: wine bar by the team at Ester. My new favourite, I’m trying to go there as much as possible now.
Turpan in Kensington: Very basic, the owner and chef is from is from North-Western China so it’s very different from most other Chinese cuisine available in Sydney. I dream about their hand-cut noodles.
Via Alta: Clearly I really like pasta. This is in Willoughby, so it’s great for those living in the north.
Your ultimate Sydney shopping destinations?
In no specific order:
Parlour X: A given of course – it’s always interesting to see Eva’s buy and newer labels she’s picked up, although I do find that styles sell out quickly so you have to pop in regularly!
Potts Point Bookshop: This is right near some of my favourite restaurants (Apollo, Yellow, Cho Cho San, Fratelli Paradiso), they have a really good selection of art and fashion books.
Lesley McKay’s Bookshop: I grew up going to the one in Double Bay (which is no longer around). Again, well curated and it’s just really pleasant to browse and shop.
Scanlan & Theodore: on Glenmore Road: Useful for basics – their skinny-leg tuxedo pants are the best.
Zimmermann: Zimmermann to me are the epitome of Sydney. I really love their swim collection the best, especially the playsuits and summer dresses. I can’t say no to a little white dress.
The first thing a new visitor should do when touching down in Sydney?
Have a meal at a seaside restaurant (Icebergs or Bathers Pavilion) and then go for a walk along the shore. I really don’t think there’s anything that’s more typically Sydney than the Bondi to Bronte walk (or run, if that’s more your thing).
Describe Sydney nightlife:
I might have to skip this question. I would much rather have a dinner and wine with friends!
What is it about this city that inspires and you?
Although I’ve talked a lot about the water, what’s happening in inner-city Sydney is really exciting. There’s great restaurants and cafés popping up, markets and more.
What are your favourite cultural hubs in this city?
White Rabbit Gallery: It’s a private gallery so it has a really interesting collection of art work the owners choose out of passion. Definitely unmissable.
Art Gallery of New South Wales: I think the AGNSW is pretty underrated. I love John Olsen’s Five Bells here.
Brett Whiteley Studio: Again, underrated. It’s never too crowded too, which is a plus.
The best time of year to visit?
May or October for a greater variety of things to do – not too hot, and not too cold.
What are your favourite Sydney festivals or events?
Sydney Writer’s Festival, even though most of the talks I want to go to are during work hours!
Must-see cultural landmarks?
A performance at the Opera House. I’ve been so many times and each and every time I’m still in awe of the building and the lights in the Harbour.
Best places to stay when in Sydney?
Paramount Hotel: amazing location and right near Paramount Coffee Project (great coffee, even better breakfasts) and Poly (Surry Hill’s latest wine bar).
Park Hyatt: Can’t beat that location and the view.
QT: If you want to be in the middle of the CBD. The dinner available there is really good – and I’ve heard the breakfast is awesome too.
The Langham: Still in the city but on the quieter side, it’s just such a beautiful old-school hotel.
You can keep up with Zara’s fashionable adventures via Instagram @zara_wong