Anthony Bourdain doesn’t think much of Sydney but loves Melbourne. The New York Times restaurant critic Patricia Wells seems to agree that Melbourne’s Flower Drum is the best Chinese restaurant in the world (for its Peking duck at least).Now the LA Times food critic S. Irene Virbila, is wading in to the debate rating Sydney as one of the best places in the world to eat.The divides between the hometowns of the protagonists of this debate perhaps illustrates the cultural differences between Melbourne and Sydney. What Melbourne does best is intimate little underground joints. Melbourne is establishment with dark, smoke filled rooms. Typically you turn up a laneway, down another and up into an attic/down into basement. Coming from London I love this kind of stuff. As does Bourdain coming from NY. And I presume Wells likes this as she took a similar route down an alley and up some stairs to the Flower Drum. Or at least she really likes duck.In contrast, the LA Times lauds Sydney for being able to do what many restaurants in the world have failed to do: create great restaurants with even better views. Traditionally we’ve been suckered into enjoying the view and playing with the food rather than eating it.So here we have it in Sydney. Icebergs overlooking Bondi Beach together with Sean’s Panorama. Sailors Thai, Bill’s, the Book Kitchen, Longrain, Marque Restaurant, Billy Kwong, Pier, Fish Face, The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Tetsuya’s.Neil Perry’s Rockpool failed to meet the list!Sure Sydney has good eating and we’ve enjoyed most of those joints. But Sydney is expensive. And Melbourne in affordable at most joints. When we rate restaurants there has to be a relationship between the quality of food and the affordability for the average (f—die) punter.For any American visiting Australia or Brit our food at the top end is very cheap despite the fact that the local dollar is overvalued. And that is why for them it is perhaps so good.But I live in Melbourne and when I have to spend my hard earned cash I know I’ll be looking for value or money. Well, most of the time anyway.
Ed Charles is a Melbourne-based writer and digital consultant. He trained with IPC in London and has written for major international and national business and lifestyle titles. Establishing this blog in 2005, he was one of the first of a handful of food bloggers in Australia. He's spoken at the Melbourne Writers Festival and Emerging Writers Festival and has broadcasted regularly on food and digital media issues.