For the best ‘dog’s eye and dead horse’ (pie and sauce) in Sydney, head to Harry’s Café de Wheels, a celebrity landmark with a heritage listing.
KFC chicken king, Colonel Sanders, once dined there. Elton John held a press conference there. And Frank Sinatra, Pamela Anderson and Brooke Shields were regular customers.
It’s fair to say you haven’t really visited Sydney until you’ve eaten a pie with peas from Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, alongside the naval dockyard at Garden Island.
The 27 sq metre (291-square-foot) caravan famous for its meat pies and hot dogs has been a magnet for celebrities, tourists and late-night revellers at Woolloomooloo for more than 74 years.
Tourists are drawn here by word of mouth and travel guide blurbs, while taxi drivers and shift workers often head to the Cowper Wharf icon for an early morning pick-me-up.
There are no tables here, just high counters with stools on either side of the renovated van. The modus operandi for most is to eat their pie with one hand as they stand or wander by the harbourside, gazing at some of the best views in Sydney.
Harry’s signature creation is ‘the Tiger’ – a meat pie topped with fluffy mashed potato, mushy peas and a big whack of gravy.
The pies are made by Harry’s own bakery, Hannah’s at Ultimo. They’re a thick-cased pie filled with tender diced topside that can be eaten with one hand without spillage.
The menu also includes chicken pies, curry beef pies, pasties, sausage rolls and hot dogs.
Established in 1945 by former fruit truck driver Harry Edwards, Harry’s Cafe de Wheels has long been a part of Sydney’s heritage.
So much so that it was recognised with a heritage listing from the National Trust in 2004 because it was a place of cultural and historic interest for future Australians.
The original salt-rusted caravan was donated to Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum in 1985 and is still on display there. (Visit Hannah’s bakery across the road from the museum for one of Harry’s legendary pies.)
Michael Hannah acquired Harry’s in 1988 and he opened 13 more franchise stores (including one in Shenzhen, China) before deciding he was at the right age for retirement in May last year.
The new owner Tino Dees, who moved to Australia from Germany in 2008, now plans to expand the hot dog offering at Harry’s. He’s already meddled with the hot dog bun, to mixed reviews.
For some reason I’d always thought Harry’s was open around the clock. But when I dropped by around 1.30am last week (pictured above), the only creatures feasting on pie crumbs were the hungry seagulls.
Harry’s operating hours actually vary throughout the week.
From Monday to Thursday it’s open from 8.30am to 1am, on Friday it’s 8.30am to 2am, Saturday 9am to 2am and Sunday 9am to 1am.
You’ll also find Harry’s spin-offs at Darling Harbour, Haymarket, Burwood, Liverpool, Penrith, Tempe, Wetherill Park, Woodbine and Newcastle.
But it’s hard to beat the original on the shores of Sydney Harbour.
Where To Find Harry’s Café De Wheels
The original van is at the corner of Cowper Wharf Road and Brougham Road in Woolloomooloo, close to the Garden Island naval base, and not far from Kings Cross or Potts Point.
Fun Fact The "de Wheels" name came about when the local council said street vendors couldn't remain permanently in one spot. Original owner Harry Edwards discovered he only had to shuffle the pie van 30 centimetres every day to remain compliant.
© 2019 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved
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