48 hours in Newtown
This pay-as-you-feel restaurant originated in Melbourne, so you’ll feel right at home in the Newtown branch that spills out onto the south end of King Street. The social dining experiment was created by founder and former Sri Lankan refugee Shanaka Fernando and the not-for-profit enterprise offers wholesome vegetarian food for a by-donation fee. Diners are invited to decide what they think the meal is worth and pay accordingly, or simply to part with whatever they can afford. It’s often packed, so head there for an early feed and you’ll beat the after-work crowd – or join the queue and make new friends. It’s a welcoming crowd.
Head down King Street to a bar inside what looks like an old butcher’s shop. Behind the lace curtains, you’ll find a popular cocktail haunt that may feel like New Orleans, but we promise you’re still in Sydney. Take a seat at the long timber bar and let the excellent team of bartenders mix you up a well made Singapore Sling or a daiquiri that has the power to convince your hips you’ve got the rhythm in you. They’re open till midnight, so settle in and enjoy the specialty mix of ’90s hip hop, swampy rock and blues for your listening pleasure.
The streets of Newtown and Enmore are decorated with large, heritage listed murals to smaller tagging, stickering and vigilante paint jobs that reflect the vibrant and bohemian neighbourhoods. Get to know the area on a three-hour walking tour with Culture Scouts for $95 per person. You’ll see the city suburb through its street art led by a guide who knows the area like the back of their hand. See Will Coles’ metallic gun, Lister’s dancing ballerinas, and Phibs and George Rose’s ‘Save Our Coral Reef’, all in discoverable walking distance. We bet even residents would learn something new.
If your diet is largely plant based, you’ve come to the right suburb. There are a number of excellent vegan eateries in the area, and one of the most popular is Gigi on South King Street, who proved naysayers wrong with their entirely plant-based menu. 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. It turns out pizza without the cheese is very exciting indeed.
Grab a friend or five for this one. You’ll need to put your thinkers together if you want to solve this puzzle. The years rewind to 1945 as you step through the doors of one of Sydney’s best escape rooms: the Cipher Room. You’ll find yourself in a mysterious study where the elusive ‘Agent M’ has left you a trail of clues to follow. Your objective: unravel the secrets hidden within its walls, while you race against time and try to beat the enemy agents before the clock strikes 12 and you’re caught. The bigger the group, the less you pay – anticipate $37-$44 per person per game.
This deli-bar-bistro is where you can get a perfectly chilled Martini in a tin, as well as a Manhattan and a Cosmopolitan. It’s also the perfect place to refuel. With a selection of cheeses, charcuterie boards, cured meats, crackers and seafood tinned in-house, you’ll have everything you need to graze your way through dinnertime. Order a triple-cream Brie from the fridge and wash it down with a glass of local, biodynamic wine.
From 8pm every Saturday night local bands take their place on stage and rock out with the crowd. Only half of what you’ve heard about Sydney’s live music scene is true – yes, there are challenges, but there are also local pubs where the party kicks on late and there’s no cover charge to watch a rising star in the muso world. The room is filled to the brim with a rowdy rabble of 20 to 40 year olds and you’ll be hard pressed to find an audience member who isn’t head-bopping or dancing.
Rising Sun Workshop is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is half café, half motorbike workshop. The Japanese leaning menu has a breakfast ramen that’s a big bowl of rich, fatty broth made from an infusion of buttered toast, topped with stretchy, firm noodles. The whole lot is topped with a just-set onsen egg, shards of crisp bacon and a charred tomato – the savoury, umami depth of which is a strike of pure genius.
Start at the Social Outfit at 188 King Street, which specialises in ethically produced clothing made in collaboration with social enterprise projects – they have patterns by designers like Romance Was Born, Bianca Spender and Kate Beynon. Cream on King is one of Sydney’s best vintage stores, where flannel shirts and floral dresses reign. Further south of the station you’ll find Swop Clothing Exchange, where you can rummage through some of the city’s finest cast-offs for that perfect pre-loved. And the Collective Ensemble has second-hand men’s and women’s denim and leather jackets, shoes and boots from brands like Baxter and RM Williams. Left your sunnies at home? Head to Dresden, who produce a number of glasses and sunglass frames using recycled materials. They even have a limited edition range of frames made from disused Australian banknotes. And stop by the unique All Buttons Great and Small for a store entirely devoted to the sale of the humble button.
Brewery Young Henrys is all about the inclusive afternoon sessions at their cellar door and on a Sunday arvo you’ll want to shake a leg in order to secure one of the prized high tables. Drink like a local with a frosty Newtowner, down a Real Ale for a proper, English-style bitter or secure serious summer refreshment with the perennially popular cloudy cider. Food trucks often park up at the brewery door and sort out those beer munchies. The brewery is renowned for its sustainability practices, and a big part of their philosophy is on keeping things local, for example they donate tonnes of spent grain to a local farm where it’s eaten by some very happy cattle. Take home one of their tinnies as an ethical souvenir to remind you of your weekend.