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This Argentine-inspired grill is cool and kitschy. The decor is a mix of cowhide, faded South American posters, and leather furniture. Whole pigs or lambs roast slowly over an open pit, and the bar upstairs has a killer cocktail list.” —Luke Nguyen Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
Luke Nguyen says: “Our restaurant’s dining room is rustic, and we hope it feels warm and inviting, like you’re visiting our home.” 545 Crown St., 61/(0) 2-9698-4355, redlantern.com.au Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
This spot is an oasis of greenery in the middle of the city. Chef Richard Francis and his wife, Rainey [a server at Red Lantern], run this café in Richard Unsworth’s garden store. The result is a warm sanctuary where you can have good food and great coffee. I like to go there for breakfast. They offer simple, well-prepared egg dishes, and salads made with heirloom tomatoes. 357 Cleveland St., 61/(0) 2-8021-6406, gardenlife.com.au/cafe Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
On the first Saturday of the month, locals shop for vintage apparel and antique home decor at this flea market. Intersection of Crown and Collins Streets, Surry Hills. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Petrina Tinslay
Since Surry Hills was an industrial and commercial center early on, it seems like there’s a pub on nearly every corner. The Norfolk recently got a makeover. It’s a funky little place with great photos on the wall, an internal courtyard, tacos on the menu, and beer on tap. Don’t miss the Norfolk’s version of a Bloody Mary, served in a soup can. 305 Cleveland St., 61/(0) 2-9699-3177, thenorfolk.co —Luke Nguyen Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
The guy who runs Mao and More, John Williams, must have been Asian in his past life. His eclectic shop is full of Asian artifacts, including traditional silk Chinese lanterns, Shanghai sofas from the ’50s, collectible porcelain pieces, and antique Chinese chairs. You can get lost in there. —Luke Nguyen Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
If you're a beer drinker (or drinker in general), you'll fit right in Down Under. Here is a pretty well-rounded assortment of brews—from vintage Resch's to the popular low-carb Super Dry and Pure Blonde to the old staples VB and Carlton. Bluetongue is a brewery located in New South Wales's wine country, Hunter Valley, and serves as a nice addition to your wine tasting itinerary. Down on the end are a variety of Schwartz beers. Dr. Schwartz owns this hotel, the Sebel Surry Hills, as well as a handful of others. The Macquarie Hotel is located just down the street and is where these ales are brewed. As a matter of fact, I believe it has been renamed since I've been there as the Schwartz Brewery Hotel. Not only can you visit where the beer is made, but they have a great happy hour and a live music venue, the Mac. Go to the Sebel Surry Hills for a killer lunch special. Each week, there are three meals to choose from (the steak sandwich is always on the menu due to its demand). Your choice plus a schooner of beer or a glass of wine for around $10! Hard to beat in Sydney. The suburb of Surry Hills was one of my favorites in Sydney. The pub culture alone makes it an eventful place to walk around and explore.
The former studio of one of Australia’s most famous painters houses rotating exhibits and personal memorabilia. 2 Raper St., Surry Hills, 61/(0) 2-9225- 1800. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Petrina Tinslay
Yukako Ichikawa, who runs this Japanese restaurant, is all about minimizing food waste and educating people about how to eat more conscientiously. But you must be a member of the Wafu club to dine at her restaurant. Think Soup Nazi, but for a good cause. —Luke Nguyen Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
"This gallery offers glimpses into the private world of one of Australia’s most renowned artists, Brett Whiteley, who lived and worked in Surry Hills until his death in 1992. It’s in this old warehouse, full of personal memorabilia belonging to someone who was a bit of an eccentric, whose portraits are personal and emotive.” 2 Raper St., 61/(0) 2-9225-1881, brettwhiteley.org —Luke Nguyen Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
"Here is an amazing, ultramodern building. It’s mostly glass, but there’s no air-conditioning—it’s totally green. The library specializes in fashion and design, and it has comfy leather couches, so it’s a good spot for reading, listening to music, or people watching." —Luke Nguyen 405 Crown St., 61/(0) 2-8374-6230. Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
Luke Nguyen says: “My wife absolutely adores Dolly Up and its owner, the lovely Erin Paige Hutchings. She offers vintage fashion at its best—a carefully curated collection.” —Luke Nguyen 361 Cleveland St., 61/(0) 2-9699-8181. Photo by Petrina Tinslay. See all of Luke Nguyen’s favorite places in Surry Hills, Sydney. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
First things first...breakfast at Bill's. I have visited Sydney three times now, and two of three have begun at Bill's. Yes...it's the ricotta pancakes with banana and honeycomb butter with a side order of chewy thick-cut bacon that keep me coming back. I am excited to say that last year I was able to introduce my "sweetie" to Bill's during his first ever trip Down Under. He cosigned by saying that it was a pleasure for "Bill" to have made his acquaintance. I knew they'd get along. A match made in heaven.
Queues consistently spill out onto the footpath at this little corner shop. A rusted metalwork sign above the tiny bakery café, situated on the leafy Bourke Street Surry Hills, reads ‘Boulangerie’. The creme brulee tarts are locally famous, and we're here all the time for a loaf of sourdough (plain, seeded, hazelnut and raisin, fig and cranberry or potato and rosemary). Nab a corner booth seat if you can. Image courtesy of bourkestreetbakery.com.au.
El Loco does an excellent taco for a fiver. A crunchy tangle of chopped cabbage, coriander, spring onion, and a spiced mayonnaise done in messy zigzags over the lot arrives at our table. Little cubes of "mystery" meat, offal perhaps, are tender and packed with flavour. El Loco’s safer selection of $5 tacos – chicken with sweet corn salsa, chilli marinated tofu, prawn and salsa verde and lemongrass beef, are also good. El Loco is a flip-flop, sand-in-the-shorts kind of place, though it tends to attract a suited or hipster crowd. Mexicana cactus and sunset mural walls suggest tequila is consumed to fit a general festive hot sun vibe, not just to get drunk. For the jalapeno margarita, the barman shakes up a shot each of Herradura Reposado Tequila, Cointreau, roasted jalapeno syrup, lime juice and a wash of Ilegal Mezcal agave with some clunky icecubes, and throws it in a clear plastic cup with some roasted jalapenos. It’s a sweet and acidic muddle of completely awesome. Two in our party get the Excelsior hot dogs ($9) because of ordering envy on a previous visit to El Loco. The foot-long dawg is a grilled pork Frankfurt in an almost-as-long soft bun. Picked jalepenos are hidden in there, and the top is laden with pico de gallo, a fresh finely chopped salsa of tomato, white onion, chilli and lime juice, then it’s squiggled with mayonnaise and so much cheese. Both diners held their bellies while I ordered another taco.
Mixing local clothing brands with boutique housewares from around the world, the Collector Store will inspire new ideas for your home or wardrobe. The front of the shop is dedicated to such Australian brands as Something Else, Secret Squirrel, Rittenhouse, Kylie Hawkes, and Brent Wilson, while the back stocks wooden trivets and cutting boards, ceramic dishes, Pendleton blankets, and all sorts of linens and Turkish towels.
Standing in its current location since 1927, the Royal Albert Hotel was formerly known as the Jam Tin for the container behind the bar that held patron tabs, some of them quite hefty. Today, the Royal Albert continues this legacy of hospitality, serving a huge selection of craft beers and several ciders—on tap, in bottles, and, for a couple special ones, on an old-school hand pump. (Try Willie Smith's organic cider and Young Henry's Real Ale, often served on the hand pump). Albert makes burgers and crinkle-cut fries, while the Bamboo Bar next door will deliver dumplings, pancakes, buns, and spring rolls. Come at happy hour (5-7pm everyday) for $5 house beers, wines, or spirits, and on the third Saturday of the month for a vinyl soundtrack from the 50s and 60s. Also look out for regular tap takeovers by Australian breweries.
Located in the up-and-coming Hill Street Design Precinct, Workshopped is both a talent scout and an incubator for great Australian design. The shop identifies emerging talent and exhibits pieces, carries them in the shop, and commissions work. The studio brought the Australian mid-century furniture of Tony Parker back to life and is currently crowd-funding the second release of a stainless steel, waterproof watch by Ben McCarthy. The store also stocks handmade household goods from Huon pine bowls and coasters to one-of-a-kind stainless steel knives set in antlers made by the brand 1803.
Fujiyama is dedicated to the Japanese art of eating and drinking—that is, eating small plates with free-flowing booze and conversation. The restaurant offers simple sashimi, nigiri, and hand rolls that pair nicely with frosty glasses of Saporro, which is served on tap. There are also some interesting fried dishes such as the Satsuma Age—fried fish, potato, carrot, and soybean balls served with ginger soy sauce—and the KFC (Kenji’s Fried Chicken). Or try the teriyaki beef rib with a sake from the six-page menu. There's also Japanese umeshu, shochu, and a full-page list of whiskey. Kanpai!
Sydney is no stranger to dimly-lit bunker bars, but Surry Hills' Play Bar is an original in the oversaturated speakeasy scene. Owned by a DJ and his partner, you can expect either turntable sessions or live funk or soul nearly every day of the week. What's music without a drink? Good thing Play Bar has tons of libations from wine and craft beer to cocktails with playful names (Playboy, Playgirl, Foreplay, are we sensing a theme here?). American-style bar bites from the Nighthawk Diner are on the menu, too--try the Philly cheese steak. With shiny concrete floors and graffiti-, netting-, and brick-covered walls, Play Bar offers a basement-style party you won't want to miss.
Flickering candles, velvet theater curtains, hushed conversation, and classic cocktails dressed up with slices of dried lemon or lime—the Golden Age Cinema and Bar feels like a secret supper club of yesteryear. Yet, with a geometric light installation, fresh bar snacks and drinks, and a digital film projector, the experience is entirely modern. That's exactly what owners Barrie, Bob and Chris Barton—who also launched Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne—were after: creating a bar and movie experience that combines the best of today with the best of yesterday. The theater, housed underground in the 1940s Paramount Pictures building, features 60 seats made in the '40s and sourced from Switzerland. Shows are both classic and contemporary, with two screenings per night as well as special events such as the monthly Two Thousand Film Club, during which a notable local picks their favorite film and engages in a live Q&A. Before or after the program, enjoy movie-inspired cocktails, including a daily cameo that's crafted entirely around what's being shown—think whiskey for the music documentary Muscle Shoals set along the Tennessee River—with herb and parmesan popcorn, maple-bourbon pecans, or the sundae that Gelato Messina reinvents every month. Oh, and on Tuesdays, films are shown at "golden age prices," which means you could see a 1960s flick for $1 with the purchase of a drink. You're welcome.
In a converted warehouse decked out with white and blue tiles and colored LED light strips, Reuben Hills prepares house-roasted, single-origin coffee three ways (filter, cold-brew, espresso) and hosts cupping and tasting sessions every Friday at 10am. The food is java-focused, too, inspired by buying trips to Central and South America. Menu staples include eggs with queso fresco and black beans, sopapillas, torta ahogada, and a spiced grilled chicken sandwich with tomatillo salsa (pictured). For non-coffee drinkers, there's fresh juice blends, Mexican coke, and some seriously tempting milkshakes. Salted caramel, I will never tire of you.
At one of two locations in Surry Hills, rent a Tokyobike to navigate sunny Sydney in summer. Designed for comfort and lightness in the busy city of Tokyo, the bikes are also great for the smooth, well-marked paths of Surry Hills. Besides bikes, the Tokyobike shops also sell Japanese home accessories, totes by Superior Labor, and bike bags and baskets by the Finnish company Linus. The best part about a Tokyobike? It'll make you look like a local.
Abdul's falafel and pickled turnip combo is quite possibly my all-time favourite. The homey, family restaurant is a mecca for delicious Lebanese goodies. Whether you're in the mood for some hummus, kafta, or cinnamon tea, you can't go wrong. Everything rocks. Be sure to give yourself some time for this meal. You're not gonna want to stop eating.
A new addition to the old Paramount studios building—also occupied by Tokyo Bike and the Golden Age Cinema and Bar downstairs—the Paramount Coffee Project is just as its name suggests. It's a concept café that sources great beans from all over the world and serves patrons the latest in coffee geekery. The place looks more like an airy French bistro than a testing grounds for proper extraction and dripping, but hey, why not have your coffee and eat great food too? In this case, you should eat the waffle with dulce de leche, toasted hazelnuts, and peanut butter ice cream. Unlike most Sydney cafés, the PCP doesn't have a loyalty with any one roaster; the staff tries beans processed all over Australia and constantly brings in new favorites. They also bring in their favorite coffee companies from overseas (the Coffee Collective from Denmark, Glanville & Babinski from Los Angeles) to do weeklong café takeovers. Follow these guys on Facebook to keep up with what's next.
Brace yourself; this is not your typical java joint. The futuristic space—which features a slanted concrete floor, caged lights that run the length of the ceiling, and the outline of a comic strip on a solid black wall—looks like it could be Batman's driveway. Instead it's owner Simon Jaramillo's coffee lab, or reform school if you will. A fourth-generation Colombian coffee farmer and an overt Joker fanatic, Jaramillo aims to change (or at least aid) the public's understanding of coffee. This means tasting notes are written on the chalkboard beneath the coffee's name, and customers are invited to ask questions about the high-tech filter cones, chemex vessels, the spacey looking cold-brew contraption, and the custom espresso machine imported from Italy. Each style of coffee is also served a different way. Flat whites arrive in a mug with a diagonal-cut opening to enhance the aroma; the signature cold drip is delivered in test tubes, well, just for fun. For even more fun, ask Jaramillo about the cupping and roasting classes he runs in Botany Bay.
A family-run gallery that's been operating in Sydney since the 1980s, the Hughes Gallery is a multi-room space dedicated to emerging and underrated Australian and international artists. The gallery has helped launch the careers of such Australian painters as Ian Smith, William Robinson, Davida Allen, and William Robinson. During my visit, outback paintings by Joe Furlonger were on display as well as works by Jason Phu (pictured), which deal with the dislocation and disassociation experienced by Asian Australians.
An incubator for Australian contemporary design, Object Gallery features the works of more than 200 designers per year through exhibitions, events, and workshops. The center also publishes an online magazine for iPad and tablets and offers an artist-in-residency program where one Australian maker gets to work out of the downstairs shop (pictured) for a two-month period.
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