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It’s easy to spend time in Sydney ticking off the iconic and awe-inspiring landmarks that have given it worthy status as a bucket-list essential, but the less-visited edges of the city are so dynamic that to bypass them on a visit would be to evade the real soul of Australia’s largest metropolis.
Sydney’s urban fringe is ever evolving, and the last few years have seen an explosion of exciting new bars and restaurants that are pushing international standards skywards while maintaining a unique Australian flair.
Life within the narrow streets
A short meander from George Street in the centre of town will have you in the flourishing neighbourhood of Chippendale, where within the compact web of streets lined with terraces, warehouse conversions and lofts you will stumble upon new cafes, bars and stellar independent galleries, such as White Rabbit Gallery, which has the most impressively curated collection of contemporary Chinese art outside of Asia.
Within blocks of this cultural gem, you can experience hidden laneway bars like Freda’s, where friendly bar staff deliver a small menu of appetising tapas and whip up enticing cocktails alongside a stage showcasing emerging artists, musicians and DJs who perform here most nights of the week.
If a couples or group dining experience is what you seek, Chippendale also offers one of the most celebrated new dining establishments in the city. Ester is a fully licenced restaurant open for lunch and dinner, which fuses unique and unexpected ingredients with main-course favourites, providing a fresh approach to wood-fired cooking, all within a modern concrete-walled space.
Every city has a cultural heart
Nearby Redfern could be considered the cultural heart of the city, where our Indigenous brothers and sisters provide the spiritual heartbeat in this trendy inner-city neighbourhood. A celebrated new cultural attraction is the two-story ‘Black ANZAC’ mural by street artist Hego that stands proudly over Redfern Station.
The rise of Redfern as an uber-cool bar precinct seems to have happened overnight.
From the Berlin-inspired Arcadia Liquors, complete with secluded courtyard and fairy lights in the front windows, to the swashbuckling bar The Dock, where, if you and your friends can extend your trip to be in town on a Monday night, you’ll be able to experience the Redfern Shanty Club, an all-in sing-along of old sea shanties where no experience is necessary to join in at the chorus.
Intimate bar seating at Arcadia Liquors:
Right next-door is Redfern Continental, a welcome new foodie addition that features European-inspired fare and a well-stocked bar that stylishly lines one wall of the restaurant. Or just a little further down the road is Moon Park, which serves a modern take on Korean food in a first-floor space with an envious balcony overlooking leafy Redfern Park.
The kind of edible artwork dished up at Moon Park:
A warehouse full of possibilities
The rapid rise of urban cool in Chippendale and Redfern has been spilling ever outwards, with bordering Alexandria, Rosebery and Waterloo becoming essential areas to visit on any short stay in Sydney. These formerly industrial areas have had a resurgence that has seen artists, foodies and designers all flock to breathe new life into the factory and warehouse spaces common to this part of town.
The Danks Street precinct in Waterloo has become a hub for cutting-edge design stores and galleries, while local food hero Luke Mangan has recently moved in with an industrial chic wine bar called Mojo, injecting further spark into the area.
Alexandria has surely cemented it’s place on the foodie map of Sydney with stars like The Grounds of Alexandria, whose café, herb gardens and animal pens have seen it become one of the most Instagrammed places in the whole of Australia. But it could be predicted that the newer Bread & Circus, with its chic pastel and wooden décor may overtake in the most-photographed stakes, as it is oft visited by trendy young bloggers eager to keep on the pulse of the city’s coolest eateries.
But the real surprise of this district just to the east of the CBD is Rosebery, with its large warehouse conversions making it one of the newest hot addresses in Sydney and well worth exploration. Kitchen by Mike was one of the first new ventures to move in, and this stripped back canteen in the former Rosella factory has fresh seasonal food and shares a space with Australian design company Koskela, who sell bright and contemporary home wares.
After visiting nearby Black Star Pastry for some of the best coffee, sourdough and sweet treats in Sydney, you’d be smart to dine at the new Italian eatery Da Mario amidst hanging plants and timber décor.
But no trip to the Rosebery area is complete without a visit to Archie Rose Distilling Co. Young founder Will Edwards has brought expertise learnt from Tasmania’s award-winning whiskey makers and is distilling traditional spirits in new ways, even lightly infusing native botanicals into the gin and whiskey available from the trendy on-site bar, providing a unique Sydney experience that you can take home with you; a reminder of your visit to one of the most dynamic new districts in Australia, and of the time you spent encountering a whole new Sydney, just a short skip away from the CBD.
Gin aficionados can’t go past the Archie Rose Distilling Co.