Petersham, the “little Portugal” of Sydney

Portuguese charcoal chicken at Silvas

Silvas' whole Portuguese charcoal chicken with chips and rice $24

Multicultural Australia today means different things to different people. The Australian Census of Population and Housing is a rich source of data and information about Australians and their cultural charateristics.

The latest census conducted this year revealed that about a third of Australia’s population of about 22 million people were born overseas and a further one fifth had at least one parent born overseas.

Bacalhau - Portuguese dried and salted cod fish $22.50 per kg

Bacalhau - Portuguese dried and salted cod fish $22.50 per kg

For food lovers in Australia, multiculturalism means that we are enjoying one of the most vibrant and continuously evolving food and wine culture.

International cuisines from Mediterranean Europe such as Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are well represented by the huge number of cafes, restaurants and pizzerias all around Sydney and its suburban areas.

Being geographically so close to South East Asia, we have also embraced the irresistable flavours of fiery Thai curries, Vietnamese stir-fries, Indonesian sambals, Malaysian laksa and Singapore’s iconic chilli crabs just to mention a few popular dishes.

Japanese, Korean and Chinese restaurants in Sydney have truly become some of the best that I have experienced with the abundance of fresh seafood in Sydney.

Today, I am taking you on a tour of Petersham, an inner city suburb approximately 5km from the CBD, otherwise fondly known as the “little Portugal” of Sydney.

High on the list of restaurants in this suburb is the ever so popular Portuguese style charcoal grilled chicken. To cater for the locals hungry for the smoky aromas or grilled chicken, these restaurants prepare and grill these flattened birds by the dozen each day on open grills.

Frango, Petersham 

Frango Portuguese charcoal chicken, Petersham

Frango Portuguese charcoal chicken, Petersham

Frango is an iconic Sydney charcoal chicken restaurant, having started in Rosebay back in the late 1980s.

It now has restaurants in three locations around Sydney – the original Rose Bay location, Bella Vista and Petersham.

Greek salad

Greek salad

If you are new to Frango, the best value meal is to order a set that includes a whole chargrilled chicken, bowl of salad and chips for $25 – $30 which is enough to feed 2 – 3 people.

Potato chips

Potato chips

The chips here are in the style of shoe string French fries, crispy outside and fluffy inside.

Whole charcoal chicken $18

Whole charcoal chicken

On this visit to Frango, we are a little disappointed with the star of the meal because the chicken that smells so good on the grill is bone dry. Chunks of breast meat may have some smoky aromas but sadly, this chicken is stringy, juiceless and the texture is like cardboard.

Nevertheless, I am hungry for charcoal chicken and needed a fix, so some hot and spicy peri-peri did help somewhat to counter the dry, stringy meat of the chicken.

Silvas, Petersham

Silvas charcoal chicken, Petersham

Silvas charcoal chicken, Petersham

Silvas is another local charcoal chicken restaurant that has been in Petersham for many years.

Charcoal chicken with potato chips and rice

Charcoal chicken with potato chips and rice

On our visit to Silvas, we found the chicken to be very tender, juicy and moist with a serve of Portuguese style rice that is gently aromatic.

The tastiest part of the chicken is obviously the skin, slightly crispy and charred from the heat but tasty and smoky aromas.

Diners at Silvas

Diners at Silvas

Portuguese Spanish Butchery 

Portuguese Spanish Butchery, Petersham

Portuguese Spanish Butchery, Petersham

Petersham is also home to many fresh meat butcheries, cafes, pattiseries and green grocers.

You can tell the Portuguese Spanish Butchery on 83 New Caterbury road has been here for more than 30 years because the phone number on its signage at the front of the shop still consists of only 7 digits.

Chuck steak and beef ribs

Chuck steak and beef ribs

What is the difference between a Portuguese Spanish butchery with the butcheries in supermarkets and the Asian butchers in Chinatown?

I think the main difference is the usual cuts of meats that are prepared and cut in different ways according to the food culture of a particular cuisine.

Some cuts of meats such as beef ribs or lamb cutlets are prepared to cater for a BBQ or grill while some others are better for soups and stews.

Roasting pork

Roasting pork

Pieces of roasting pork shoulders with the bone on would be perfect for some pulled-pork sliders or slow roast in winter.

Charlie’s Deli

Charlie's Deli, Petersham

Charlie's Deli, Petersham

Charlie’s Deli along New Canterbury road is stocked with dry ingredients such as Mediterranean olives, extra virgin olive oil, dried herbs and spices, imported canned fish, cheeses and ham.

Bacalhau - Portuguese dried and salted cod fish $22.50 per kg

Bacalhau - Portuguese dried and salted cod fish $22.50 per kg

Where else in Sydney would you go look for bacalhau or Portuguese dried and salted cod fish?

In Charlie’s Deli, you will see crates of this Portuguese fish fillets, dried, salted and piled up in the open.

Imported sardines

Imported sardines

Sardines and canned fish is a big part of Spanish tapas cuisine and there are many brands to choose from, whether preserved in olive oil or tomato sauce.

Imported sardines from Portugal

Imported sardines from Portugal

You will be able to find all the ingredients that you would need for your next Spanish paella party or beautiful chorizos for that hearty pasta or stew.

Sweet Belem Cake Boutique

Sweet Belem Cake Boutique, Petersham

Sweet Belem Cake Boutique, Petersham

Portuguese tarts have been a long-time favourite among dessert lovers and Sweet Belem Cake Boutique along New Canterbury road has become a small local institution in Petersham.

Dining area, Sweet Belem

Dining area, Sweet Belem

I am told the Portuguese tarts at Sweet Belem are some of the best in Sydney. I am not quite sure if this claim is accurate although I am not a fan of dessert.

I would equate these tarts to being very similar to the egg custard tarts we get at Chinese restaurants during yum cha although the pastry is flakier whilst the ones in the Portuguese tarts are a little crispier.

For someone without a sweet tooth, I’d rather put my $4.50 on a beer in an RSL rather than on one of these tarts though.

The place itself is tiny where small tables inside would cater for small groups that would stop by for coffee and cakes.

Sweet and savoury  treats range from pastries to cakes, tiramisu, brownies and tarts.

Blondie - white chocolate brownie with praline mousse $4.50

Blondie - white chocolate brownie with praline mousse $4.50

Be prepared to fight the die-hard crowds during weekends where trays upon trays of sweets and desserts are brought out to the front counters straight from the hot ovens in the kitchen.

Triple chocolate terrine $4.50

Triple chocolate terrine $4.50

Fans of this patisserie will travel the length of Sydney, coming from the north, east and anywhere in between to sample their cakes.

Tiramisu $4.50

Tiramisu $4.50

Mud cake with white raspberry mousse $4.50

Mud cake with white raspberry mousse $4.50

Portuguese chocolate salami $4.00

Portuguese chocolate salami $4.00

Almond hazelnut tart $3.20

Almond hazelnut tart $3.20

Portuguese vanilla slice $4.50

Portuguese vanilla slice $4.50

It is little patisseries like Sweet Belem that gives Sydney that eclectic style and its reputation as an international city in the Asia Pacific.

The high influx of recent migrants from China has seen Chinese food become more than just fine Cantonese or northern style Peking cuisine. Hunan, Sichuan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Xinjiang and Yunnan are already jostling for attention in  Sydney now.

We can only look forward to an even bigger melting pot of cuisines and cross-cultures in metropolitan Sydney in the near future.

So dear readers, have you tried the charcoal chickens in Petersham and if so, how would you rate them over the host of fast food chicken franchises like Nando’s and Aporto?

Personally, I love the smoky flavours of Nando’s charcoal chicken Maryland because it is always juicy.

Frangos
98  New Canterbury road
Petersham
New South Wales 2049
Australia
Tel: +61 2  9560 2369

Trading hours: 7 days
Monday to Thursday 10am – 9pm
Friday & Saturday 10am till late
Sundays and public holidays 10am – 8.30pm

Frango (Petersham) on Urbanspoon

Silvas
Shop 1, 82 New Canterbury road
Petersham
New South Wales 2049
Australia
Tel: + 61 2 9572 9911

Trading hours: Tuesdays to Sundays
Restaurant hours 11.30am – 9.30pm, takeaway hours 10.30am – 9pm

Silvas on Urbanspoon

Portuguese Spanish Butchery
83 New Canterbury road
Petersham
New South Wales 2049
Australia
Tel: +61 2 9569 3573

Charlie’s Deli
37 New Canterbury road
Petersham
New South Wales 2049
Australia
Tel: +61 2 9560 4037

Sweet Belem Cake Boutique
35B – C New Canterbury road
Petersham
New South Wales 2049
Australia
Tel: +61 2 9572 6685

Trading hours: Wednesdays to Sundays 8.30am – 5pm, Sunday 9am – 4pm

Sweet Belem on Urbanspoon

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12 Responses to Petersham, the “little Portugal” of Sydney

  1. InTolerant says:

    The salt cod and those beef ribs look fantastic! Very different cuts from an Asian butcher indeed :)

  2. celia says:

    Petersham is very close to home indeed, and it sounds like you had fun there! I think the charcoal chickens there are second to none! :) We like Gloria’s Cafe and the Honeymoon Bakery there as well…

  3. Sissi says:

    There is apparently every single nation of the world in Sydney! There are many Portuguese and people with Portuguese origins in Switzerland too, but I have never heard of the charcoal grilled chicken. I haven’t even been to a Portuguese restaurant… but have been planning to do it for years. I know that thanks to the Portuguese I have a regular access to horse mackerel they love, otherwise not eaten nor in Switzerland nor in France.

  4. This was a fun post! I have never been to a Portuguese restaurant or market or anything! You got me excited to try new cuisine. It looks like there are some places in the Bay Area that I should check it out. The charcoal chicken looks delicious too. It’s my dream now to go to Sydney, and all the cities in Australia for FOOD!!!!

  5. Kimby says:

    This post was education, entertainment, and eating, all in one! Thanks for the tour of “little Portugal.” It was especially heartening to read that the butcher shop there specializes in cutting meat for different applications. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought home a steak or something to throw on the grill (labeled as such) and been disappointed by the improper cut, too late to rectify.

  6. Awesome round up of Petersham. I have been wanting to try Silva’s for a while now.

  7. I’ve always wanted to try salt cod, I’ve collected recipes I just need to buy the fish. I hadn’t realised that chargrilled chicken was such a speciality of Portugal. I like the idea of the chicken but it does need to be really well cooked. You’re very lucky to have such diverse mixes of food. Sydney sounds a fabulous foodie place to visit. GG

  8. Raymund says:

    Chicken cooked in charcoal would taste really good, in Philippines this is the most popular way of grilling meats but when I moved to New Zealand making some charcoal grilling was a rarity due to the convenience of gas grills.

  9. Juliana says:

    YUM! Growing up in Brazil we used to see all this food year round, since Brazil was colonized my the Portuguese…now living in LA it is so rare to see anything that is from Portugal :(
    I love bacalhau and would love to get it…seeing all the pictures, just made me aware of hoe much I miss it.
    Have a wonderful week ahead :)

  10. I love Portuguese chicken! And those custard tarts…heaven. I would brave any queue for those!

  11. This is a great round up of the charcoal offerings in Petersham! It’s only 9.24am and now I’m craving chicken.

  12. Sophia says:

    oooh fascinating post! I wish we have a Little Portugal, too. I love ethnic enclaves like these that provide such a rich and flavorful profile of different cultures.

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