Sydney – what to do in 48 hours?

June 9, 2023

Sydney – what to do in 48 hours?

Tagging along on a business trip is the perfect break for me, as I get the days to myself, do what I want, then see Tim in the evenings. It’s very indulgent, but I do love it. So, how did I spend my 48 hours in Sydney. Easy, my favs… food and art.

Steve McCurry, Sydney exhibition

Having landed in Sydney late, because of mechanical plane issues, I left our city hotel on foot to find the Steve McCurry exhibition at Walsh Bay. It’s almost directly under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney’s Walsh Bay

Walsh Bay is a series of wharves. Some have been converted into swanky apartments and others are renovated spaces used by business. It’s very picturesque. The name, Steve McCurry may not resonate, but as soon as you see the image of this Afghan refugee, you will know who I am talking about. The woman with the deep green eyes has become an icon of Steve McCurry. There were over 100 portraits in the exhibition, each with a short narrative, from McCurry. The images were incredible, and everyone’s story was sad, but captivating.

McCurry’s photo of an Afghan refugee
McCurry’s portrait of a refugee family


A little peckish, it didn’t take me long to find a restaurant, on the water front. The reflection of the boats was soothing on the soul, on this quiet Wednesday morning. Ventuno, is an Italian restaurant and it appealed because of their appetisers. A yellow fin tuna tartare, followed by a handmade burrata, served with soft beets, cherries and crostini.

Ventuno restaurant at Walsh Bay
By delicious burrata

I thought the tartare was outstanding, but the burrata was just as good. As I savoured every mouthful, with a glass of Cape Mentelle Chardonnay, I counted my blessings.

Tuna tartare


Back into the city I had booked dinner at Porteno, a South-American style restaurant with its signature flame-grill. As you would expect it’s a meat lovers paradise, not a good choice for vegetarians, with aged beef on display.

I read about this restaurant in the Sydney Broadsheet, a great reference. We started with a crudo of yellowtail kingfish. I asked how it was prepared, but when they told me it had been marinated in the fermented juice of pineapple skins, I stopped listening. I love to cook, but it was clearly out of my depth! 

Next we shared the best octopus I’ve ever eaten. The chargrilled Freemantle octopus was served in Ajo Blanco, a Spanish cold almond cream soup, with chorizo and beetroot jam.

Simply the best flame-grilled octopus

The piece de resistance was grain fed beef, dried for 100 days, with charred brussels sprouts. Quite sensational. I’d go back in a heartbeat, but it was expensive.

NSW Art Gallery

The next day, I headed to the NSW Art Gallery. There’s so much great stuff going on here, especially with the recent opening of the new ‘Sydney Modern’ building, next door to the original gallery. It’s the most significant cultural development in the city since the opening of the Sydney Opera House, nearly half a century ago. The old and new, sit side by side complementing each other. 

NSW Art Gallery
The ‘Sydney Modern’ is the latest addition to the NSW Art Gallery

I came to the gallery because I wanted to see the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman 2023 exhibition.

I was most interested in the portraits. The standard was high and I have no idea what the judges were looking for, but the 2023 Archibald winner painted by Julia Gutam was a stand out. Aspects of the work were painted, but the face of the woman was embroidered, quite how I will never know. The detail and expression were hauntingly lifelike.

The 2023 winner of the Archibald exhbition was this stunning works by Julia Gutam
The detail in the face was exceptional

After leaving this exhibition I walked to the ‘Sydney Modern’ building, heading underground to the ‘Tank.’ During WWII, two large oil tanks were built into the side of the domain in Woolloomooloo. Unused for decades, they have remained Sydney’s hidden treasure until now.

As part of the extension of the art gallery, one of the decommissioned tanks has been transformed into a spectacular art space. The inaugural Tank exhibition was called ‘The end of Imagination’ by artist Villar Rojas.

The inaugural exhibition in the ‘Tank’ is called ‘The end of Imagination,’by artist, Villar Rojas.

The ‘Tank’ had a distinct smell of gasoline. The surreal installation was like nothing I had seen before. Lights on high beams, glided periodically over the sculptures, allowing you to get a glimpse of the artists work.

Before leaving the gallery, I visited one more exhibition, ‘Dreamhome, Stories of Art and Shelter.’

The exhibition has exhibits from 29 artists who had created their idea of ‘home.’ Well worth seeing.

‘Dreamhome, Stories of Art and Shelter, in the ‘Sydney Modern,’ NSW Art Gallery

Fire Door

After my art filled day, we were excited for dinner. at the Fire Door. It’s a well renowned restaurant and hard to get into. We arrived at 6 pm, and the place was already rocking. On offer was a five-course set menu, period. We are not fans of Australian fish, so having discussed this with our waitress we swapped out the Murray River Cod for lamb, so far so good.

And so came the amuse buse, custard with eel…not good.

The next course was bonito (an oily fish) served with sliced fruit…the fish was warm, grey and inedible.

The bonito fish dish, was not a great hit

Next came the bundarra pork, thinly sliced and lacking in flavour with fake crackle…OK

The lamb…great.

Not surprisingly, Tim was still hungry having not eaten several of the courses, so we decided to add a dish to our menu. The cheapest steak options was $90, for 250 gm… delicious, but ridiculously over-priced.

Desert came and went…not memorable.

I won’t be going back. For the money we paid the meal should have been outstanding, but it wasn’t.

I love Sydney. The art and food scene in this vibrant city is excellent, however, sometimes a well rehearsed restaurant just doesn’t get it right.

2023-06-09T14:22:38+12:00June 9th, 2023|AUSTRALIA, Uncategorized|

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