Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, Sydney

If you’ve been Down Under, visited Sydney’s Darling Harbour, admired its trademark Harbour Bridge, marvelled at Opera House, gazed at naval ships from the waterfront at Woolloomooloo, but overlooked Harry’s Café de Wheels, you should go back.

Harry’s Café de Wheels is a Sydney institution in its own right and considered a historic symbol by many. That’s a huge acknowledgment for something as insignificant as a pie-cart, because, that is really what this café is. A pie-cart with an awning, with walls covered in pictures and murals of famous faces: Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Joe Cocker and Billy Connelly are some of the indelible ones. But what would bring them to this kiosk, other than King’s Cross’ bohemia in the vicinity, that is?

The answer is a pie floater. This is a traditional Australian meat pie covered with ketchup and found floating (upside down) in a mushy peas soup. Sounds disgustingly unappetising, doesn’t it? Especially for a dish that has recently been recognized as a South Australian Heritage Icon. But wait till you take your first bite of this crusty pastry filled with chunky steak and gravy, no higher than an inch and a half. Stairway to (gourmet) Heaven, if you ask me. And if you want to get there quicker, add some barbeque sauce and maybe a dash of vinegar. I recollect a fellow gobbler commenting that visiting Harry’s was akin to takeaway eating religion.

A pie uniquely named the Curry Tiger was accorded the most preferred status by yours truly. Sitting on a bench at the Finger Wharf, slurping away at more than one of these became a favoured way of life. The seagulls were the only noticeable problem, especially as they noisily made their intentions clear to all: a share of the pie. Another speciality of this café is a pastie: mushy peas and potatoes wrapped in a crust, considered by some locals as the national dish. They both taste brilliant, even at an unearthly 5am, after an exhausting spell of clubbing.

Since 1945, Harry’s Café de Wheels has been serving meat pies to soldiers and those willing to trek down to Woolloomooloo Bay docks for the sake of adventurous taste-buds. Keeping this tradition alive, the café continues to feed hungry souls hankering for filling and inexpensive food. The one change being of a permanent nature; it is no longer on wheels. It is now a fixed structure at the Woolloomooloo Bay Area with branches in other locations.

However, for a short period in between, it did take on the moniker Harry’s Café de Axle as someone stole the wheels! Wouldn’t you have taken the pies instead? Go figure, mate.

8 comments

  • Hmmm…the meat pie sounds interesting! Now, who’s gonna give me a ticket to Down Under?

  • Yes, I’ve been there many years ago. And it is an Institution for sure. However, at the time I wouldn’t have rated it a ‘Gourmet Experience’ but I do admit that was before we Australians came under the influence of Aisan culture and a bit of ‘spice’ in our food. So next trip to Sydney, I will definitely head down to see Harry again.

  • The way to a traveller’s heart is food. All tourism bodies, please note: the perishable monuments on the plate are more important than those brick and stone ones.:)

  • Passed it by- opted to have lunch at one of the wayside cafe’s at Woolloomoolloo instead (didnt know of its celebrity status then !) I do remember clicking a picture of it though – more because it featured, on one side of the kiosk, the classic picture of a Sailor kissing a girl when the War was declared over….Will recommend it to Twiggy now that she is in Sydney !

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