Insta-famous hairdresser Jane Wei gives us her top tips for Newtown

The director of Lennox Street’s A Loft Story shares where she likes to eat, drink and shop
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Jane, you’ve lived in Newtown for nearly two decades. What do you love about it?
It’s very relaxed, no one ever judges you, it’s very community-based so you always see familiar faces around, which is really nice. I think everyone here shops locally, too, and we’re right next to the dog park, so we tend to see clients with their dogs and you feel like you’ve met their whole family. We’re also dog friendly in the salon (we have an Instagram account for the pups that come to the salon). Newtown’s really easy going and accepting.

How did you come to open up a salon in this warehouse space?
I live down the road and worked around the corner for around ten years. I saw the space around and it was perfect timing when place came up for lease. It used to be Rising Sun, and though it was out of my budget I thought ‘I’m going to go all in. It’s perfect’

It doesn’t feel like a hairdressing salon; you’ve filled it with plants, there’s art hanging on the walls…
We’ve had products by local designer labels, swimwear brands and a Sydney-based sunglass designer showcased in here. Now we’re changing from retailing designer goods towards workshop/event hire. We’ve had cake workshops with Katherine Sabbath, which has been very successful. We’ve done an art exhibition. And currently we’re hiring the space as part of Airbnb’s new ‘intimate gigs in unique venues’ experiences; we’ve got five jazz concerts lined up. I’m exciting to see what musicians come on board. We’ve installed nighttime lighting so the spotlights hit the plants to create a different mood.

Back to the hair – why do you think your clients come to A Loft Story?
Good hair and good chats. A lot of clients are local creatives, or nearby nurses or people that live or work here. But I’d say that because of Instagram – and we specialise in colour corrections – a lot of people do travel here, and when they’re here they like to make a night of it in Newtown. They ask me where to get dinner, or get make-up.

Where do you send them?
I always send people to Mary’s or the Courthouse, but if those places are really busy I send people to Black Sheep – it’s a little cocktail bar with fairy lights and they’re not missing out on the action of King Street. For fancy dinner there’s Oscillate Wildly, which has been there for years and is really, really good. If they want a pub meal I always recommend the Carlisle Castle Hotel, which is where we go for drinks with the team.

Are there any other beauty businesses you’d recommend?
We have a good relationship with Lady Lash, which is on King Street. The owner Charlotte and I do each other’s hair and lashes, and we give our clients a discount at each other’s venues. We’ve run exclusive discounts and promotions too.

Where do you recommend for breakfast or coffee?
My usual place, which is on the way to work and a sure-fire thing is Black Star Pastry – I grab a guilty pleasure pastry and a giant coffee. I get the infamous watermelon cake, or the palmier – the big butterfly pastry – I break it apart and it lasts me all day.

What about on a hangover?
Grumpy Baker is another one I go to often as they do a more elaborate breakfast. They’re really friendly and also deliver to our clients in the salon, as well as lending us cutlery. We have a really good relationship with them.

Do you have any favourite shops in the area?
I go vintage shopping a lot, so Cream on King a lot and Uturn Recycled Fashion, and the Red Cross Op Shop. Most of the furniture in the salon is vintage or antique. I also go to the Wholefoods a lot as I’m trying to cut down on packaging and most stuff is organic and you can measure it out and pay for what you need. They have delicious goji berries coated in dark chocolate.

And where do you like to let your hair down?
I go to Earl’s Juke Joint a lot, and Bloodwood is good. Also Gelato Blue – they have a great selection of house-made ice cream, and vegan ice cream. Leadbelly is really good for live music. Also Botany View and Union Hotel – two great pubs that have live music and draw a late crowd.

Jane's favourite places in Newtown

Making coffee at Black Star Pastry
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants

Black Star Pastry

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The brainchild of Christopher Thé (former pastry chef at Woollahra fine diner Claude's), this Newtown patisserie offers everything from macaroons to individual tartes Tatins. You'll find a little banquette lining the inside window with a few stools scattered about and a pile of magazines a foot high next to the ever-pumping coffee machine.

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Vegan ice cream at gelato blue
Photograph: Emily Lloyd-Tait
Restaurants, Cafés

Gelato Blue

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The great thing about gelato is that if you prefer fruit flavours to creamy ones you’re already choosing the vegan option – your lemon, passion fruit, mango and strawberry-raspberry options at this Newtown gelateria taste just like they would at any other ice cream shop. It’s in the chocolate/caramel/vanilla family of flavours that Gelato Blue are doing things differently. 

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Health and beauty

Lady Lash

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Lady Lash specialises in fixing the hair around your eyes, whether that’s a boost to your natural beauty or reinventing what nature gave you. At the King Street salon, they offer eyelash extensions, tints, removal, and brow waxing, tints and cosmetic tattooing – they can even completely reconstruction your eyebrows and customise lash extensions to suit the client.

Food at The Grumpy Baker Newtown
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
Restaurants, Cafés

The Grumpy Baker Newtown

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Created by Michael Cthurmer in 2002, the Grumpy Baker is now has eight stores around Sydney selling artisan sourdough and serving brekky and lunch menus that champion seasonal produce. Every day you’ll find muffins and pastries, Single O coffee and an extensive selection of loaves, from rye to fig and walnut or linseed soy. Their dine-in menus focus on sandwiches and salads and they make their own muesli, pies and sausage rolls in-house.

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Shopping, Op shops

Cream on King

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Cream on Crown’s Newtown sister is a one-stop shop for flannel, floral and Doc Martens. It also has an impressive display of sunnies.

Person making cocktails at the Black Sheep Newtown
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan
Bars, Wine bars

The Black Sheep

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This fairy-lit bar offers up nibbles for just five clams a pop and they've been known to host a Lou Reed tribute night. The soup kitchen special on Mondays draws hungry uni students in with a soup, crusty bread and beer for only $12 and if you not on a tight budget, give one of their cocktails a whirl.

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Band at Leadbelly
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Bars, Cocktail bars

Leadbelly

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Generally speaking, you used to go to gigs for great tunes and shitty drinks, and you went to a bar for great drinks and a Spotify playlist for atmosphere. But now Leadbelly has come along and broken all the rules by being a live music venue with really excellent cocktails in the same space that once housed the Vanguard. 

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Bars, Pubs

Courthouse Hotel

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If the world were about to end, we’d probably do what Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect do right before the Earth’s destruction in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and go to the pub. And we’re not talking just any pub – we’d make tracks to the Courthouse Hotel. 

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Bars, Pubs

Botany View Hotel

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The Botany View has been taken over by Paddy Coughlan (the guy behind the revamps of Chippendale’s Lord Gladstone and Camperdown’s Lady Hampshire), and he has restored this old pub to a Sydney muso hotspot with free live music in the front room every Friday and Saturday night.

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People sitting at Earl's Juke Joint
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Bars

Earl's Juke Joint

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Bartending is in many ways the study of party alchemy – mixing drinks to lift you up, cool you out and caress your soul if it’s in need of a little TLC. And there’s nowhere we prefer to pull up a stool and bend the elbow than at the long, sturdy, timber bar at Earl’s Juke Joint.

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Explore more of Newtown with our area guide

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