Sydney City Guide

For a couple of decades there, Sydney traded on its looks – pointing at the bridge, at the Opera House, at Bondi, ‘Come ogle me!’ It was a Caligula, grandiose and perverted, and degenerately magnificent. Then recently, a collective realization took hold. Mere façade was no longer acceptable, as heritage and integrity – not just advance – was once again valued in the cities the world over. Shoebox bars occupy old shops and studios through Surry Hills and Darlinghurst; the rail yards in Eveleigh host markets and theatre; Sydney’s lionized dining scene is no longer exclusive to those on a cocaine budget. An intimate, individual experience of the city becomes so much easier. By all means climb the Bridge, take in a concert, and swim at Bondi. But then walk down a pokey, leafy street for the best coffee in the world, and a dip into an alley for a short drink. Walk up some stairs to find classically trained chefs serving street food. Catch theatre in a pub basement. Jump off a boardwalk into the harbour. So many clever people are throwing the right type of stuff at Sydney’s cultural fabric to render it a Pollock, now so much more than a beautiful mess.

Golden Age Cinema & Bar

Where: Paramount House, 80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills

When: Tue-Fri from 5pm, Sat-Sun from 2.30pm

Considering the frequency with which bar scenes appear in films, the bars that adjoin cinemas are usually, disappointingly, prefixed with the word ‘candy’. What a shame. You can tell a lot about a film by its bar scenes, and similarly you can tell a lot about the bar at Golden Age Cinema by the films being shown next door. This is a bar that stirs equal parts classic, cult, obscure and fun.

Golden Age arrives to us from Robert Barton, who has previously done great things establishing The Commons. Here, the drinks list is a small selection of classics, signatures, and seasonal cocktails with cameos from Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford, a homage to Blood and Sand, or new edits such as the maple pecan old fashioned or a buttered popcorn flip - “the romantic comedy of cocktails”. A menu of snack-worthy items includes cocktail shakers of popcorn seasoned with Genmaicha salt, director’s cut sandwiches, cheese and charcuterie, and the Agent Dale Cooper-approved pie of the night served with black coffee.

Importantly, this is a bar with a sense of theatre. A bar where staffing is thought of more as casting. A copper chandelier in helix-formation by Robert Haussman provides a dramatic centrepiece. Soft luxurious furnishings are favoured, and the seating ranges from a convivial central table and side booths for groups, to smaller tables that hug a curving banquette all dressed up in a deep gold glowing curtain. A bar with the feeling you never know who’s going to walk in.

By Cleo Braithwaite



Cornersmith Picklery

Where: 441 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville

When: Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 9am-4pm

Contact: (02) 8964 7463,

When we first wrote about Cornersmith, a friend commented, “I can’t believe you didn’t mention Portlandia’s ‘We can pickle that’ sketch.” With the opening of a new premises, that link felt inevitable. Cornersmith’s commitment to pickling is so zealous that they’ve dedicated a space on another Illawarra Road corner; the former butcher shop has become Cornersmith Picklery.

But they’re not just pickling here. They’re also jamming, chutneying and cheesing. And inviting you to do the same - the commercial kitchen is wide open and has provided ample space for their growing number of workshops. Upcoming highlights include cheese making with Kristen Allan, spring preserving, bread baking and ‘Basic Series #1 - the chicken and the egg’ sharing useful skills such as how to joint a chicken and make mayonnaise.

This corner also serves as a general store; shelf space for their own goods in jars and bottles, as well as highlighting favourite local produce such as Feather & Bone pasture-raised meats, Pepe Saya butter, Mecca coffee, Perfect South green tea, Katie Swift cordials and locally grown green groceries - whatever is in season. Right now you could paint a colourful still life of broad beans, fennel, walnuts, asparagus and royal blue potatoes.

Cornersmith has established a reputation for their contra deals with local home growers. And the tradition is set to continue here. Got a bumper crop of choko in the backyard? We can pickle that!

By Cleo Braithwaite



Chester White

Where: 3 Orwell St, Potts Point

When: Wed-Thu, 5pm-11pm; Fri-Sat, 12pm-11pm

How Much: Carne $19, wine mainly $40-$50

Contact: (02) 9332 3692

To stand in the doorway of Chester White, and to rotate your head 90º, is to take in every component of this fine, simple place: a pretty little tiled bar, hooks of cured meats, bottles of wine, jars of pickles and finally, a terrace. Such focus in a venue, though it’s to be expected, as the place’s pedigree comes via Buffalo Dining Club and Table for 20/Sticky Bar.

The focus here is on the ‘carne’, each arriving on a faux-newspapered tray of bread, cheese and house-made pickles arranged around your meat of choice. And boyoboy, them meats. Truffled salumi, culatelo (it’s literally pig’s arse, and don’t baulk), speck, a spicy nduja, a rich lonza, and half a dozen others. They’re taken off the rack by the charming types behind the bar and sliced to order. The pickles have enough slug of acidity and spice to cut the richness of the food, and I couldn’t stop eating them. By now you’ll have gathered it’s not quite a vegetarian spot, but the Del Forno, a spinach and ricotta ‘polpette’, ain’t too shabby. The wine list is in keeping with the minimal theme, short but deliberate. There’s also Trumer on tap, which isn’t bad as a recess drink between meats.

The whole experience is utterly simple: good cuts and good wine in a tasteful setting. Sitting at Chester White, shoving handfuls of meat in your mouth, it’s somehow possible to feel sophisticated.

By Alex Vitlin


Orchard Street Dispensary

Where: 137 Macpherson St, Bronte

When: Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-3pm

Not long ago, Kirsten Shanks started dropping beautifully thought about juice cleanses on Sydney doorsteps. And now, already, she has opened a shop/natural therapy consultation space and oh my god it is a good one. You can tell from the moment you walk through that heavy door with the gold veteran chemist lettering. She has created some shelf space for her own teas and candles, plus a selection of health stuff from other like-minded makers aka products with sharp packaging that don’t feel too new-age.

One thing that Orchard Street Dispensary introduced me to is Botanical Cuisine. It comes from Melbourne and is jarred treats of sticky date pudding, tiramasu, and gingerbread ice cream, with a big proud ‘organic raw vegan’ label. Excuse my French, but I have tried the sticky date and it is fucking incredible.

On a more strict health front, Kirsten has shelves full of supplements which are purposely behind the counter so that she can pick what is absolutely best for you. She is stocking skin care by Jacqueline Evans and Australian oils by Halka B. You can buy the Orchard Street juices individually and let me tell you about her teas. They come in big brown medicinal jars and involve chunky dried ingredients that smell so good. Almost as good as her candles, which take on earth, fire, air and water.

By Hayley Morgan


Grandfathers Axe

Where: 64 Wydham St, Alexandria

When: Tue - Sun 10am-5pm

Contact: Jarrad 0413 583 499, Ed 0404 451 663

‘Grandfathers Axe’ is a term that refers to an axe that has had its handle replaced and its head replaced but is still the same axe. It’s also the name of a shop that sells beautifully restored sofas, chairs, desks and lights by Danish furniture hall-of-famers such as Douglas Snelling, Finn Juhl, Hans J. Wegner, Ole Wanscher, Hans Olsen, Hvidt and Molgaard, and Arne Vodder.

Owners Jarrad and Ed opened this linseed-scented Mad Men set-room “properly” in January, which means we’ve all been sitting on our horrible replica Eames Group swivels for five months too long. Their website, which is updated daily, reveals the entire collection. As you’ll see they have a shop in Melbourne, which opened about two years ago, that they can bring stock up from upon request. Also on the website is an ‘off-site’ section for pieces that are in storage or are currently going through restoration, and in ‘upcoming’ there’s a collection of pieces probably sitting in a container on the Suez Canal right now.

You can put dibs on them already.

I have a while to go before I save up enough for my Sven Skipper ‘Bear’ chair in original condition reupholstered in dark blue Gabriel wool. But when I do, oh when I do.

By Marissa Shirbin


Nan's Place

Where: 2 Portman St, Zetland

When: Tue-Fri, 6.30am-3.30pm; Sat, 8am-3pm (kitchen closes 2.30pm)

How much: White or black coffee $3.50, raw kale salad $14.00, Holmbrae chicken sanga $12.00

Contact: (02) 8084 0731

Other than those kids from Flowers in the Attic, who doesn’t love their Nan? Most of them seem to just buy you stuff your parents won’t and force you to eat delicious food. It was in tribute to her own dear Nan that Jodie Johnson named her new cafe in Zetland. The name might be a bit misleading though, Nan’s Place isn’t some ‘30s throwback.

Food wise, anyone on a ‘80s health kick can order the half ruby grapefruit with coconut sugar and toasted almonds. For those not on a health kick, or who woke up still smelling like booze, you can order your poached rock chick hen eggs with a side of pork and fennel sausages and tomato relish. The scones are probably the most Nan-like dish, although these scones are fried and have Inca berries in them. I don’t think my Nan knew much about Inca berries, but I’m pretty sure she’d still rate these. Lunch options are interesting salads and sandwiches made with bread from Brickfields, filled with things like house made pickles and kimchi mayonnaise. They also bake some sweet stuff, but it’s hard to go past the cheesecake brownies.

Coffees made with Reuben Hills beans are on the menu as white, black, single origin and filter, which seems like another era defying move. Well played. Before opening her own place Jodie was at Campos and Reuben Hills, so you know she knows her coffee. But if you’re not up for it they offer some crazy flavoured soda too, made with syrups from NZ guys Six Barrel Soda Co.

By Roy Leibowitz


Dog Dog Japon

Where: Skyview Shopping Plaza, 537-551 George St, Sydney

How much: Hotdogs from $3.90

Much doge. So topping. Such Japon. Wow. This isn’t a ubiquitous Shiba Inu (though if you look closely you’ll see one peering out a window on the signage), it’s an eatery on the ground floor of Skyview Shopping Plaza. Dog Dog Japon haven’t just thrown out the rulebook on hotdogs, they’ve rolled it up, drizzled it in curry mayo, stuffed it into a bun and put it on the menu. Okay not really, but everything else is there in a bun: teriyaki chicken, potato and beef croquette, pork katsu, shrimp stick and, wait for it, yakisoba: noodles in a bun. If ramen can become a burger, and a roast dinner can dream of being a pizza, then why shouldn’t noodles dress as hotdog?

A cursory glance around the internet reveals Japanese hotdogs gaining popularity first in Vancouver, Seattle and New York. Though not Sydney’s first foray in to Japadogs (see nearby Chanoma Cafe), Dog Dog Japon follows suit with a menu that spans classic dogs (plain, chilli or cheese) to fusion dogs (the okonomi hot dog is kranksy sausage, coleslaw, bonito flakes, dried seaweed, chopped shallot, tempura flake, mayo, pickled ginger and tonkatsu sauce and only costs $3.90 (for the small) to almost anything off a standard Japanese menu put into a bun. A side order of chips comes with salt and black pepper, curry mayo or mentaiko (fish roe) butter.

There’s a lot of good dogs around town right now, and these are by no means the best of them. But most definitely, wow.

By Cleo Braithwaite


Long Jetty

Where: Long Jetty, Central Coast (90mins from Sydney)

When: Anytime

How much: Free

C.S. Lewis warned writers against using the word ‘infinite’. Try to use something lesser, like ‘very’, otherwise you have nowhere else to go in your descriptions. Nonetheless, there is a really long pier* north of Sydney and walking out onto it on a still, sunny day and beholding its mirrored-image majesty is like stepping into the infinite.

Up is down, down is up, ground is sky, and sky is wet and shimmery. There are few things more soothing, yet sometimes terrifying, to the mind than contemplating the unfathomably boundless nature of the universe.

Some may simply see a great place to fish, and it’s true, there are a lot of fish. Not an infinite amount, let’s just say a plentitude. However, Thousands readers, more brilliant and sensitive to the poetic aesthetics of reality, are advised to stop in at the suburb of Long Jetty next time they’re heading up Newcastle way. There is also a staggering amount of vintage shops up there, more on that in a couple of weeks.

*In fact there are three: Parrys Jetty, Walkins Jetty, and Long Jetty. What’s the difference between a pier and a jetty, anyway?

By Ronan MacEwan


Pre Loved Roots Garden Nursery 

Where: Sydney Corporate Park, behind 75-85 O’Riordan St, Alexandria

When: Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm 24/7 after hours (cash-only sales)

Contact: (02) 9469 5665

What do you mean you don’t care about plants? Is your heart a withered, petrified nub of neglect, cowering at the shallow end of a pool of hate, too afraid to even get your hair wet in the pool of hate? You probably say you don’t have a ‘green thumb’? Well take a leaf out of this guy’s book.

And now meet your new favourite place: Preloved Roots in Alexandria, a nursery of second-hand plants. They pick up people’s unwanted plants from the verdant gardens of the eastern suburbs, and nurture them until they find a new home. It’s like an orphanage, full of Bangalow palms, orchids and Peace lilies - Little Orphan Annies to your Daddy Warbucks.

The prices are good - most range between $5 and $30. The bargain of the day on our visit was a huge Dwarf Jade for $40, and other good finds are when a plant comes already potted in ceramic. The range is ever-changing, with new donations being updated on their facebook. And should the mood strike you at 3am on any given day, they do cash sales 24/7.

Twenty-four hour planty people!

By Cleo Braithwaite