"I wasn't always a get-there-early flyer," writes Gourmet Traveller Managing Editor Pat Nourse. "Frantic taxi rides, sprints for the gate, glares from my fellow travellers as the plane door closed behind me – all too familiar. But what was the point in arriving sooner? The offer at even the busiest airports in the world was, in a word, grim. Average booze, terrible coffee and food that didn't warrant a second glance. The shops were dull, the spaces grimy.
"But then things changed. And very much for the better. At the airport of today, you'll get a taste of the country you're in. At the airport of today, that could come from a local wine, a craft brew from the city you're in or food from some of that city's top chefs. At the airport of today, if you want a real souvenir of a great trip or a true taste of home that you're proud to share, you can shop for something that carries a real sense of place.
"At the airport of today, you'll find good food at every price point, whether it's a meal worth lingering over, a casual bite, or something for the plane. Make it light and fresh, or make it a treat; with talent on the tools it's going to be good either way."
Kitchen by Mike
The ubiquitous, the bland, the mass-produced, the unloved. Mike McEnearney doesn't want to trade in any of these things. McEnearney is a chef who has carved himself an enviable reputation in Sydney with honest, gutsy flavours and a real commitment to working with quality ingredients, first at Kitchen by Mike at Rosebery and then at his flagship No 1 Bent Street.
At Kitchen By Mike at T1 International, you'll find a connection to the land that's unmatched airside just about anywhere in the world. Kitchen by Mike at Sydney Airport, says McEnearney, "has the same core values and ethos" as any of his other restaurants – right down to the wood-fired oven. Kick off with papaya, coconut yoghurt and lime or a bacon butty on sourdough with Mike's ketchup at breakfast, dive into the smart, soul-warming likes of wood-fired Brussels sprouts with a spicy 'nduja dressing for lunch, and savour the finger-licking signature beer-can jerk chicken any time of the day.
Better yet, it's all complemented by great drinks, day and night, from Five Senses coffee blended for the restaurant through to juices and a beer and wine offer that proudly showcases the best of New South Wales. In a rush? Grab a "Fly By Mike" pack and take it on the plane with you.
Located at T1 International, near check-in H and towards Gate 24 before and after Security.
The Sydney Airport dining experience isn't just about the chefs of Sydney, of course. It's only fitting that in a setting all about travel that the food offer takes an international outlook. For one thing, it's home to the only place in Australia you'll get the chance to taste the food of one of California's most celebrated restaurateurs. Wolfgang Puck made his name serving the Hollywood A-list at Spago, the Los Angeles landmark he opened in 1982.
At The Bistro by Wolfgang Puck, the dishes that made the Austrian-born chef a celebrity in his own right in Beverly Hills are yours for the taking, the signature smoked-salmon pizza with dill cream and salmon roe and the chopped salad woven into a menu that also celebrates Australia with prawn, chilli and white-wine pasta, and avocado toast with poached eggs. Go full comfort with Puck's chicken schnitzel with Austrian potato salad, and savour produce from such respected producers as Rangers Valley, Tamworth Farm and Brasserie Bread along the way.
Located at T1 International, towards Gate 10 after Security.
Coast Café and Bar
A taste of the beach before you board? What a great idea. At Coast Café and Bar, celebrity chef Luke Mangan takes the experience he's won commanding 21 restaurants in five countries and turns it to capturing a culinary snapshot of the city he's proud to call home. Sydney is a city that loves to breakfast, and Coast Café channels that enthusiasm with soft-boiled organic eggs with kale and truffle salt and coffee by acclaimed local roaster, Double Roasters.
Chef Mangan's eclectic, border-blitzing approach keeps the dial turned firmly to maximum impact. The all-day menu is laden with bold flavours and global inspiration. Tender, gooey pork belly is plated in steamy buns for an unforgettable bao hit, an Asian-accented slaw brings vibrancy to confit chicken, North African spice lifts cauliflower salad, while an epic chicken-parma toastie has avocado salsa, provolone and bacon thrown in for good measure. Raise a glass of Southern Highlands chardonnay or a frosty Kosciuszko pale ale to toast this smooth and civilized approach to take-off.
Located at T1 International, towards TRS after Security.
They call Machiavelli "the restaurant that means business". And with a clientele that over the decades has included just about every titan of Australian industry and policy, the tagline is apt. Mach2 is its diffusion line, the Emporio to its Armani, the Miu Miu to its Prada, as suited to a quick bite on the run as it is to working the levels of power and sealing the deal.
Italy is, as ever, the guiding star for the kitchen. That could translate on the plate to something as simple (and elegant) as a plate of prosciutto, mortadella, bresaola, olives and bread, a classic Caprese salad of buffalo mozzarella and tomato, or something a bit more rib-sticking – pork and veal meatballs on a bed of polenta, perhaps, or grilled fish served with broccolini and a splash of olive oil.
Pasta is, of course, a specialty. Spaghetti Machiavelli, a favourite from the Clarence Street headquarters, contrasts prawns with mushrooms and basil, while the house signature version, the Mach2, fittingly lightens things up, teaming the spaghetti and prawns with the freshness of zucchini and mint. And to drink? Prosecco and Chianti by the glass and Peroni on tap is an excellent place to start.
Located at T1 International, near check-in H before Security.
CHUR BURGER Warren Turnbull
After earning his stripes in London working with the likes of Marco Pierre White, chef Warren Turnbull cut a streak through Sydney dining, working his way from the rock-star team at Banc to opening Assiette to unanimously glowing reviews in Surry Hills in 2005. When a fire gutted the restaurant, he opened Chur Burger as a pop-up on the site. What was supposed to be a temporary fix became a raging success. Whether it's the crumbed fish with pickled cucumber and jalapeño mayo or the classic beef and cheese, Turnbull's red-hot skills and eye for produce makes for a chur result every time.
Located at T2 Domestic Food Court after Security.
CHICKEN CONFIDENTIAL Luke Mangan
At Chicken Confidential, chef Luke Mangan has partnered with Inglewood Organic to source birds that are free of chemicals and antibiotics. Mangan then brings inspiration from around the world to keep things punchy. His Gangnam Style burger complements Korean-style fried chicken with kimchi mayo, Curry Up combines raita, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and buffalo mozzarella, while Mr Schnitz leans classically European, the crumbed breast accessorised with lettuce and mayo. Beef and vegetarian options, meanwhile, make Chicken Confidential a burger destination for everyone.
Located at T1 International Food Court before Security.
Light and fresh
Everybody travels differently. Some flyers like to prepare for take-off with pure comfort food. Others prefer to keep things light and fresh. But why does one have to exclude the other? With the scope of dining options at Sydney Airport, it doesn't have to be an either-or question. Thanks to local and global brands, if your routine before take-off leans towards the plant-based, the green or the raw, there's no shortage of options.
If you're a fan of Lorna Jane's style of active living, you're going to love the Lorna Jane Nourish Café at T2 Domestic, a place where bowls brim with banana, dates and berries, the granola is unrefined, the chia fragrant with coconut water, and the smoothies supercharged with matcha, cacao and açai. At international favourite YO! Sushi, classic rolls, nigiri, sashimi and raw treats are complemented by flavour-forward takes on Japanese street eats, while SumoSalad has all your leafy needs catered for, whether you're feeling protein-rich, grain-friendly or all about those greens. Best of all? It's all good to go.
YO! Sushi is located at T1 International and T2 Domestic; Lorna Jane Nourish Café is located at T2 Domestic; SumoSalad Green on Green is located at T1 International and SumoSalad Green Label is located at T2 Domestic.
If there's ever a right moment for a cocktail, it's in that breathing space between customs and your final boarding call. Especially if there's a holiday ahead of you. From Coast Café to Bridge Bar, Heineken House to Peroni Bar, Australian wine, sparkling, craft beers and Australian-inspired cocktails are centre stage on the drinks menu at Sydney Airport. And rightly so.
For three generations of winemakers from Taylors Wines in the picturesque Clare Valley in South Australia, being on the menu at Australia's biggest airport is an accolade they value just as much as their swags of international wine awards. An intrepid traveller himself, Company Director and third-generation Taylor, Justin Taylor enjoys seeing his and other Australian-made wines taking priority next to the tarmac – the perfect place to showcase great wine to a local and international audience.
"After taking Taylors Wines to the United States in 2008 and continuing to export our wines internationally, I have no doubt that Australian wines are absolutely among the best in the world," says Taylor.
At Bridge Bar, the drinks list features many much-loved suspects, but with a nod to its Australian location it also offers a selection of contemporary snacks such as the moreish pork and fennel sausage rolls that can be paired with an ever-changing selection of New South Wales wines sourced from Orange, Cowra and Mudgee or a crisp Hillbilly apple cider, from the Blue Mountains.
Taylor Made wines by Taylors Wines are available at HEINEMANN Tax & Duty Free, T1 International after Security.
Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial Rosé
The first and only rosé Champagne made to be enjoyed on ice, this Champagne is a new tasting experience perfect for celebrating that next great trip.
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Sangiovese
Matured in seasoned French-oak barriques before being bottled, this 2015 sangiovese was first released in the 1990s with grapes sourced exclusively from the Barossa Valley.
Manuka Doctor Manuka Honey
With a 30+ rating, this 100 per cent New Zealand honey has all the flavour and health benefits of manuka honey, ethically and responsibly sourced from New Zealand hives.
Copper Dog, Speyside Blended Malt Whiskey
Rich in history and flavour, Copper Dog hails from Speyside – one of the most remote areas of Scotland and famous for its historic distilleries. Enjoy crisp apple, zesty citrus, dried fruit, vanilla and aromatic spice notes in this hand-crafted blend of eight single malts.
This article is sponsored by Sydney Airport