It's an unofficial scientific fact that shopping makes you hungry, so it makes sense that Chatswood's cluster of shopping centres (Westfield, Chatswood Chase, Mandarin Centre and Lemon Grove) are surrounded by places to graze.
Located about 10 kilometres north of Sydney's CBD, Chatswood is busy and only getting busier with new apartment developments underway, the shops, the station, and The Concourse – a public space incorporating a library, arts centre and restaurants that opened in 2011 – creating a buzzing community vibe.
Asian eateries dominate the food scene, reflecting the area's large Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese population, and Victoria Avenue offers a fine smorgasbord of the spoils on offer (though there's plenty more in the streets that surround it).
Start the food crawl with a shot of coffee at the train station-side Steam Engine cafe. Run by self-confessed coffee geeks, it opened on the first day of September and is serving up serious Toby's Estate coffee, a custom blend and various single origins, and – outside of rush hours – a "geek menu" with siphon, cold drip, Aeropress and pourover. The short food menu features quick options for $10 or less. Just past the Victoria Avenue pedestrian mall is an even newer coffee spot, the second branch of the fledgling cafe franchise Lid & Jar. Taking up a front-and-centre position at The Concourse, the bright space is all exposed brick, timber and pipes, and coffee comes care of locals Coffee Brothers and Melbourne's Proud Mary. There are also cold pressed juices, and a menu of sandwiches and cafe classic hits. And if you're way down the quieter end of Victoria Avenue – past the shopping hub – an older favourite is InSeason, which also functions as a gourmet food and homewares store.
The Steam Engine, The Interchange, Chatswood Station, Victoria Avenue no phone
Lid & Jar Shop 1 The Concourse, 407-411 Victoria Avenue, 02 9807 4177
InSeason, 168 Victoria Avenue, 02 9413 1150
For a fast-and-filling meal, there's plenty to choose from at Lemon Grove Shopping Centre's food court. Try kim chi and slippery, saucy cold noodles at Jang Soo Korean, chewy handmade ones at the legendary Grape Garden, or classic Vietnamese noodle soup at De Pho. Or get a dumpling fix at the more modest of New Shanghai's two Chatswood branches. At The Concourse is Two Two Korean Chicken with eight fried chicken flavours – a small cup of 'original' twice-fried bite-sized pieces is $5 – plus ddukboki (chewy rice-cake) and other Korean street food. Two Two shares a home with Bassim Korean barbecue restaurant, if you're after a more elaborate meal. Further down the strip is the 9-month-old Marukame Udon. It's a no-nonsense set-up: choose the soup-base for your springy, freshly-made udon noodles, slide your tray along the service counter adding various tempura and toppings, and pay at the end before finding a table. It couldn't be quicker or easier.
Lemon Grove Shopping Centre, Food Court, 427-441 Victoria Avenue
Two Two Korean Chicken, Shop 11 The Concourse, 407-411 Victoria Avenue 0427 222 277 (Same site as Bassim, 02 9411 5772)
Marukame Udon, 332 Victoria Avenue, 02 9413 9434
Khao Pla has been the hottest meal ticket in Chatswood since opening in July last year. Highlights from the Thai menu include sticky tamarind pork ribs and chilli-hot sashimi scallops. Sweet, milky Thai iced-tea is the key to taming the authentic chilli-levels. New Shanghai is another ever-popular option – both the aforementioned Lemon Grove branch, and the more upmarket Chatswood Chase site. The most sought after dish on the extensive menu is excellent pan-fried crab and pork buns. A new, sprawling branch of Din Tai Fung, just a few doors down from Khao Pla, is also drawing in the crowds with the promise of terrific xiao long bao (soupy, pork dumplings) and more.
Khao Pla, Shop 7, 370 Victoria Avenue (enter via Anderson Street), 02 9412 4978
New Shanghai, B38 Chatswood Chase, 345 Victoria Avenue, 02 9412 3358
Din Tai Fung, Westfield Chatswood Shop 332-336, 1 Anderson Street, 02 9415 3155
All these newer spots don't mean the old favourites have been forgotten. Still packing them in are Makoto (the sushi train with style), Chatswood BBQ & Hotpot (luring punters in with the glistening barbecue ducks hanging in the front window), and the Lemon Grove food court favourite Grape Garden for handmade noodles and shallot pancakes. Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen also has a loyal following – not in the least for their addictive steamed buns with braised pork belly, pickled mustard, coriander and peanuts.
Makoto Chatswood, 336 Victoria Avenue, 02 9411 1838
Chatswood BBQ & Hotpot, 377 Victoria Avenue, 02 9884 9232
Grape Garden, Lemon Grove Shopping Centre, 427-441 Victoria Avenue, 02 9411 3933
Bao Dao Taiwanese Kitchen, Shop 8, 376 Victoria Avenue, 02 9419 6290
MARKET & FRESH FOOD
Bao Dao serves pork buns at the twice-weekly Chatswood Mall Markets, too. The Bao Dao stall stands back-to-back with Colo Tako, a popular Japanese food stall specialising in takoyaki – spheres of creamy batter and seafood (octopus is the original). Also in the market mix is South African biltong – for a meaty gnaw on the spot, or to stock up for home. If it's tea you're after, try stalwart Ten Ren Tea and newbie Ginseng Chinese Medicine (the latter serves herbal drinks alongside acupuncture and massage). Or head to Asian City Markets at Victoria Plaza, near Chatswood Chase, where you'll also find fresh fruit, veg, noodles, sauces, frozen dumplings, and quirky sweets. Good prices, too.
Chatswood Mall Market, Thurs & Fri 11am-9pm, Victoria Avenue, 02 9777 1000
Ten Ren Tea, 389 Victoria Avenue, 02 9884 7668
Ginseng Chinese Medicine, Shop 10 The Concourse, 407-411 Victoria Avenue, 02 9419 7131
Asian City Markets, Shop 2, 369 Victoria Avenue, 02 9419 8088
Chatswood's is one of eight Meet Fresh dessert houses across Sydney offering traditional Taiwanese desserts – refreshing, multi-textural mixes of shaved ice, taro balls, herbal jellies and more, plus bubble teas and waffles galore. They're open until at least 10pm each day for post dinner treats. Also worthwhile for sweet tooths is the previously mentioned Khao Pla for a sweet tea ice-cream dessert, or to Din Tai Fung for hot or cold sweets, including black sesame filled buns, or stock up on packaged confections at Asian City Markets.
Meet Fresh, 393 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood 02 8014 8561