Quality: 1 Environment: 3 Service: 3 Price: 3 Squeezed in between Redfern and Broadway, Darlington is a rabbit warren of laneways and side streets. A Little On The Side is the kind of place the locals go to read the paper and drink their morning cappuccino. Breakfast is a specialty, with creative variations on the usual favourites.
Quality: 2 Environment: 3 Service: 3 Price: 2 Alhambra's owner/chef Azziz Bakala hails from Spanish Morocco and there are few restaurants that have traditional Moorish cooking methods as well learned and loved as his. Alhambra is a friendly, casual place to enjoy a Spanish/North African banquet or a spot of tapas grazing. While the venue doesn't exactly match the splendour of its namesake, the Arab-influenced Grenadian palace, it's warm and colourful with bright red walls, a mosaic tile floor, vivid paintings and traditional tapestries.
There's a horseshoe-shaped tapas bar where you can take your tapas with a healthy dose of sangria. The selection is excellent, featuring charmoula-spiced sardines, Andalusian baked eggs and b'stilla pastry rolls filled with chicken and almonds and cooked with ghee, saffron, cinnamon and orange-blossom water. Good paella isn't easy to find in Sydney and Alhambra does a most worthy version, cooked fresh to order with a generous helping of chicken and fresh seafood. The couscous is cooked the traditional way, steamed three times to ensure a fluffy texture, and the tajines come in the signature clay pot with tempting flavours such as lamb and date with honey, ginger, cinnamon and orange.
Quality: 3 Environment: 2 Service: 3 Price: 1 Specialising in the robust and distinctive flavours of southern Spain and Morocco, this is as gastronomically authentic as it gets. Flamenco dancers and guitarists bring the place alive on weekends.
Quality: 4 Environment: 3 Service: 1 Price: 1 The profusion of timber and bamboo and the menu full of sushi and teriyaki match preconceived ideas of Japanese dining. However, the demure service and interesting specials set it apart.
Quality: 1 Environment: 2 Service: 2 Price: 3 Home is where the heart is, and my heart has been firmly captured by this small corner cafe hidden at the end of Bourke Street. This homely Arthur Koutoulas designed cafe has an open kitchen - seriously open, with nothing separating you from the flash of the frying pan and the clutter of the kitchen. Rather than being overwhelming, the open design feels like dining in your friend's kitchen: active, cosy and very natural. The coffee machine sits at the front of the restaurant, a quick detour for passing workers, but the di Lorenzo coffee is so good you will want to order and linger.
Co-owners James Atkins and David Harris greet most customers by name, while chef Dominic Smith handles the pans, turning out exquisite meals with a minimum of fuss or mess. Breakfast (available all day) includes French toast with banana and vanilla syrup or the incredibly popular mashed avocado, roasted tomato and olive puree on a slice of divine Sonoma soy and linseed toast. The neat blackboard menu has a great selection of lunch options, including a delicious variety of sandwiches and salads. Try the chorizo sausage sandwich with caramelised onion, roasted tomato and aioli served on a sourdough cantina roll. And then there's always room for one more coffee ...