If you’re visiting Sydney for the first time, you’re sure to make a bee-line for the sparkling harbour, followed shortly after by iconic Bondi Beach, but for a truly authentic Sydney experience, make like a local and discover Eastside Sydney, which is nestled between the two and a mere stone’s throw up the hill from the CBD.
Made up of the neighbourhoods of Darlinghurst, Potts Point, Kings Cross, Surry Hills and Woolloomooloo, the eclectic Eastside stacks up against other international areas that bear a similar compass point, such as East London and East Village NYC, in that they are stylish while being gritty and arty, and are packed full of entertainment venues, killer bars and restaurants, vintage and new street fashion, co-working spaces for the digital nomad and above all, are where local creatives love to hang out.
Darlinghurst, or Darlo as the locals affectionately call it, is home to the world’s largest Mardi Gras Festival in March, and is also an enclave for cool restaurants, rooftop bars, music venues and record stores. This is where you can get some of the city’s best coffee and chow down on a ramen roll at the Scandi-Japanese Edition Coffee Roasters, see some of the best international and Australian bands at Oxford Art Factory, or sidle up to a 1920s New York-style wine bar like the brand new Johnny Fishbone, where you’re sure to be served by a tattoo-clad, but friendly-as-hell bartender, eager to recommend some of their tasty bar snacks. If you have ever tasted the wines and snacks at Buffalo Dining Club or Chester White, you know you’ll be in for a treat at the owners new Spanish-style tapas enclave. Did we mention the wines are sorted in reference to some famous Johnnys? Jon Bon Jovi, John Travolta, and more. Be sure to take a stroll down the top end of Goulburn Street, where you’ll happen upon some prime examples of the city’s favourite street artists, like Mulga and Sindy Sinn, or have the chance to go record-digging at aptly-named The Record Store.
Peckish in Potts Point?
Thought Melbourne has all the cool laneways? Potts Point, or the Paris end of Kings Cross, is crammed with designer shopping and artisanal delicatessens, and some of Sydney’s best bars and restaurants in a village of beautiful tree-lined streets and one particularly hip and revitalised laneway – Llankelly Place. Dear Saint Eloise, on the corner of Orwell Street, feels more like you are relaxing in your friend’s dining room with one of the best wine libraries and selection of tasty bites around. The roe boats, burrata with charred bread and mint, and smoked mussels are simply to die for. Take a stroll down Macleay Street and you could think you were somewhere on the Left Bank of Paris. Want to see some great theatre on the cheap? Check out the Darlinghurst, Hayes and Kings Cross Theatres for culture on a budget, and if you plan on getting some work done while in town, check out TwoSpace, where you can work from the rooftop of Kings Cross Hotel.
Creative Surry Hills
Just over the road (Oxford Street) head to Surry Hills, once the home of Sydney’s salubrious set, but now filled to the brim with hipsters, creatives and organic cafés. Feeling thirsty? Corner store come cocktail haven Rosie Campbell’s offers a range of rum based beverages to whet every whistle (perhaps try the epic ‘Rosie’s Coco Colada’ with Pampero Dark Rum infused with Pimento, pineapple, coco lopez, sugarcane, lime and banana foam). Crown Street is lined with boutiques, bars and bookstores, and Surry Hills also has its own art house Golden Age Cinema and an annual neighbourhood festival – can this suburb get any cooler?
Knowing how many l’s are in Woolloomooloo is the hard bit, but finding somewhere to have a great coffee and a bite to eat is easy. Woolloomooloo has had a somewhat chequered past, filled with tales of travelling sailors, but is now one of Sydney’s fastest changing suburbs. Bordered by the Royal Botanic Gardens, a public pool with the best views of the harbour, and the Garden Island Naval Base (aye aye Captain), the suburb is also home to one of the fanciest and longest wharves in the world. Not only are there are a number of world-class restaurants of the elk of China Doll and Otto, the Finger Wharf also boasts a newly renovated Ovolo Hotel. The lobby is an Intagrammer’s dream, and rooms are filled with cool art, free goody bags, enough plugs for all your tech needs and views to kill for. We don’t want to give all their secrets away but you should probably ask about the kissing booths and the ‘rockstar’ rooms on offer. Fancy an afternoon snack or something indulgent for breakfast? Check out the local bagelry with a wood-fired oven sent directly from Montreal – bagels that are baked so they are crunchy on the outside and soft and squishy inside. Smoking Gun Bagels offer a number of treats to get you in the mood – ‘Bitch Peas’, ‘Honey I’m Comb’, ‘Miso Hungry’ and the best cream cheese this side of NYC.
Words by Jacqui Smith
Images by Roisin McGee