Sydney is huge. Everyone knows that. There’s an amazing harbour, a famous opera house and landmark bridge. Yes, you already knew that. I started this series of five things scene/loved, to make it a snappy read for you, but also to force myself to edit. Sydney is hard. There are so many layers to the place. I spent two weeks there recently, and had a laugh at the double decker buses as they passed me, bound for the ultra-commercial Darling Habour, while I explored the city streets on foot.
Sydney is busy. The best thing to do is walk. Walk around, look up, and accidentally discover amazing things – it’s how I found the State Library of NSW. I got to see the Pulp Confidential Exhibition, showcasing quick and dirty publishing from the 40s & 50s, revealing a rich history of Australian comics, as well an excellent collection of portraits by Nic Bezzina called The Shopkeepers of New Town. Both great, free, and housed in a beautiful heritage building. I window shopped on Oxford St in Paddington, and fell in love with crisp, leafy walks along Crown Street, in Surry Hills. It led me to the O-Organic Cafe (yum), and the discovery of a beautiful pocket of the city. Sydney is great.
We stayed in Surry Hills, so my chosen five things are all in close proximity to there. It’s quite ridiculous that I didn’t make it to Bondi beach, Newtown or Enmore. Embarrassing, really. I have unfinished business in Sydney, and you may feel that way too.
01 | The Paramount Coffee Project, Commonwealth St, Surry Hills
The Paramount offers a gentle ginger muesli and 90s hip hop wake up ritual, pepping up your mood for the day’s activities. The place is full of friendly staff who remember your face, great coffee, and the decor is perfection with polished concrete and high ceilings, housed within the historical deco contours of Paramount House. Paramount’s sister cafe, Rueben Hills, about 3 blocks away, has rosewater bircher muesli, equally good coffee, and a touch of rap, for your paper reading pleasure (or tapping).
02 | Bitter Phew, Oxford St, Darlinghurst
Bang in the middle of Sydney’s renowned gay district on Oxford Street, and two doors up from Ching-A-Lings, is a very masculine, first floor beer den called Bitter Phew, with chesterfield couches and dark wooden finishes. All are welcome to savour craft beers from twelve taps, with rock n roll tunes gently clanging their way through the room. I first discovered the place when my friend Jodee Knowles suggest I go there to see her mural on the back wall (we later sat in front of the wall together, cacking over countless pints of ale). The staff at Bitter Phew are friendly and passionate about the product – they can talk you through the different flavours on offer, from a Zephyr to an Imperial Stout or a Prickly Moses.
03 | Ariel Booksellers, Oxford St, Darlinghurst
Who doesn’t love a good book shop? Ariel Booksellers is a beautiful, sunny store, full of books (check), stationery, and general miscellany that not only inspires reading, but awakens creativity, and dreams of travel and all the fun things that you love (but had forgotten about).
Whether it’s picking up a new novel, or poring over iconic fashion images in the oversized pages of countless hardcover books, Ariel is just on the fringe of the city on bustling Oxford St, and with its welcoming, happy atmosphere, it’s a karmic break from all the action that awaits you outside.
04 | Cafe Lounge, Goulburn st, Surry Hills
Cafe Lounge is like a mutant tiki bar on crack. The decor is completely random, and when we went (mid- flight on a night out), there was a five foot DJ with a huge afro, wearing a Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt, playing old school nuggets of funk and rap. It was hard to sit still, really. And we really didn’t. We ended with a night cap back at Bitter Phew. The two venues are within walking distance of each other, and are very complimentary if you like Rock AND Rap (you can like both. You’re allowed!).
05 | The Powerhouse Museum, Harris St, Ultimo
There are so many wonderful things to see at The Powerhouse Museum, also known as the Museum of Applied Sciences. We spent an afternoon looking in on A Fine Possesion – Jewellery & Identity, and Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear in Fashion, but there were so many other things showing at the same time. It’s well worth a visit, and the cafe at the front is much better than your average nugget & chips affairs.
Also worth a visit – State Library NSW, Taronga Zoo, MCA, The Champagne Room at the Winery in Surry Hills.