The best places to eat in Newtown
Opened by two of the greatest restaurateurs Sydney has seen in recent times, Elvis Abrahanowicz and Joe Valore of Porteño, Gardel’s Bar and Bodega (which they co-own with Ben Milgate), and LP’s Quality Meats (which they co-own with Luke Powell), this is more than just a restaurant. At Continental in Newtown a downstairs deli opens at 11am and becomes a casual bar/restaurant as the later hours creep in, while upstairs there's a bistro for those fancier nights out.
At this new age pizzeria (they put clams on a pie) there are five pizzas in total, including one proudly wearing a soft pink coat of LP’s mortadella, and another featuring the house-made pepperoni – it’s a clever closed loop system since Luke Powell of LP’s fame is behind this venture, along with his partner Tania Haughton, plus hosp legends Joe Valore and Elvis Abrahanowicz of the Porteño group.
At Hartsyard 2.0, there’s no sign of a sophomore slump. Aside from the absence of their famed fried chicken (unclasp those pearls, you can still get it up the road at Wishbone) what you’re getting here these days is just a slightly more sophisticated pressing of their original neighbourhood diner.
It’s entirely likely that Mary’s is more famous as a burger place than as a bar. People queue for up to an hour just to get in the front door of this slightly scuzzy boozer with a penchant for Slaytanic font. Of course only the uninitiated don’t know that there’s often a secondary queue up the stairs for a table on the mezzanine. People really love Mary’s burgers.
In spite of the name you can eat in at Cairo Takeaway, and it’s a good time. They put a lot of care into assembling their mixed plate, featuring a mean, dark green felafel and a vegetable slice, but we can’t resist the smell of the grilled chicken doused in garlic and the lamb kofte packed with diced onion that comes on the meat edition.
At the centre of every Filipino celebration is lechon, a spit-roasted whole suckling pig that’s equal parts crackling and tender flesh. And while whole suckling pigs are awesome but how often do you have twenty mates over for dinner? That’s why Sydney Cebu Lechon’s Newtown restaurant has been such a hit, serving up lechon by the plate.
While this half motorcycle workshop and half eatery lured us in for breakfast ramen (a beautiful big bowl of rich, fatty broth made from an infusion of buttered toast, topped with a just-set onsen egg, shards of crisp bacon and a charred tomato), dinner time here is worth a look in too..
The larder is very well stocked here and it needs to be, given the fanfare that has followed their opening. They source their 'nduja, smoked pancetta and salamis from up near Byron Bay; their smoked wagyu and ham from the Barossa; and they make their own rich, crumbly black pudding in house. But it’s the cheeses that are responsible for the queues of turophiles pressing their noses against the glass here. It’s $20 for two, $29 for three or $36 for four cheeses and you get to choose each and every one.
They’re still charging mid-90s prices for their classic Greek food here and the booze is outrageously affordable - the $30 bottle of Lazanfanis red from Peloponnese is a straight-shooting people pleaser. If you just want a bit of everything consider the mixed entree plate. It doesn’t sound like much but what you get is a lot.
You'll find devotedly authentic Hunanese restaurant with blazing exotic peppers and unfamiliar preparations on Newtown's main strip these days. Pappa’s Stew, aware of the steep learning curve faced by many diners, took a leaf out of Japan’s lavish replica-food displays, setting up a full spread of their best dishes by the counter for maximum visual assistance.
Everyone knows the rock-star fine dining restaurants in Sydney: Quay, Sepia, Momofuku Seiōbo and Bennelong. But there are a couple of neighbourhood fine diners you need to pop on your bucket list, too. Sixpenny in Stanmore is one. And so is Oscillate Wildly, Newtown’s teeny-tiny restaurant that sits just next to Black Star Pastry and down the road from the Courthouse.
Turns out pizza without cheese is still bloody excellent. Sure, there were a lot of naysayers on the internet when Gigi on South King Street changed to a plant-based menu, but they were wrong, because a chewy, wood-fired pizza base covered in a layer of sweet golden tomato puree and tender ribbons of capsicum gets all the umami depth it needs from a liberal dose of olive tapenade, capers, chilli, oregano and olive oil.
Don't expect a fine diner here – it's not that kind of place. Instead, you'll find a neighbourhood restaurant bashing out share plates like salty, savoury Provencal-style pancakes covered thickly in Persian fetta and toasted pumpkin seeds. There's plenty of veggo gear here, including lightly pickled mushrooms with broad beans and golden, super crunchy polenta chips with a gutsy gorgonzola dipping sauce – a mainstay on the menu since they swung open in 2010.
The arepa is everything to Venezuelans, a gluten-free cornmeal patty eaten plain or split open and stuffed with meat or beans. They’re about as ubiquitous as a burger or kebab in Venezuela, eaten any time of day but always a hit late at night. Sydneysiders might have seen La Reina’s bright orange stall at weekend markets or food festivals but their digs in Newtown finally offer a permanent address for arepa fans to get their fix.
This Italian eatery may be sleek and shiny, what with the polished concrete floors, big glass windows onto Enmore Road and open kitchen, but the menu is old school. There's usually two pastas on the menu – a gnocchi and a fettuccini with meatballs – but their main love is piping hot pizze that they fling into the wood-fired oven on big, decorative peels (like a shovel, or a giant spatula).
How about a drink after dinner?
Cruelty-free dinner ideas
People repping a vegan diet don't have prentend they enjoy pumpkin salad anymore. Sydney is now home to plant-based burger shops; classic Italian pizzerias that opt for cheese and meat alternatives; gelato shops that favour coconut bases; and a growing contingent of fine diners offering fancy degustations for vegans.