48 hours in Surry Hills
Sydney is a town with a lot of love for killer drinks and impressive snacks. Head to this five-star wine bar for a lean chardonnay by natural winemakers Commune of Buttons, or a glass of amber from Marrickville’s Wildflower ale on tap. The ever evolving menu by Ester’s chef Matt Lindsay has show-stopping plates like crispy pig’s ear with burnt honey and oysters with sunrise lime. It’s an elegant way to start your Surry Hills adventure and it’s close to Melbourne export Chin Chin and boutique hotel Paramount House Hotel.
If you fancy kicking on to somewhere with more of a party vibe, this Toyko-influenced dive bar is where you’ll find a lot of nostalgic fun under one roof – from kickass karaoke booths (that are free to hire) to shoot ’em up arcade games and pool tables. The low-lit bar is decked out in neon, lanterns and bamboo and their drinks menu is just as themed. Pair your Yuzu Highball with chicken karaage, served late into the night.
Visiting on the first Saturday of the month? Shannon Reserve is where you’ll find vintage bargains and $5 boxes of vinyl at the popular Surry Hills Markets. Reward your rummaging with a cone of the most famous gelato in Sydney; people line up around the block for the salted caramel and white chocolate flavour, all churned fresh in store, at Messina. Head south on Crown to browse the Standard Store, which specialises in European fashion labels. A few doors down there’s an eclectic music, film and book store called Title where you’ll lose hours flicking through the hand-picked selection. And nip into the Collector Store for a covetable range of Australian homewares brands and gifts.
For a quick feed, head to the original corner bakery on Bourke Street for one of their locally famous pork and fennel or lamb and harissa sausage rolls. This place draws a crowd, so join the back of the line and start planning your picnic order: a loaf of sourdough, a tray of assorted sweetcakes (we love the ginger brûlée tarts) and prepare to dine in the pocket parks that surround the bakery. If you’re lucky there may be a window seat to enjoy your buttery sausage roll indoors. The scramble is all part of the experience.
One of the highlights of this year’s Sydney Festival was an epic play set in Sri Lanka and Sydney called Counting and Cracking. The five-star show was testament to the theatre company’s record for theatre punching well above its weight. Belvoir St Theatre, home of Belvoir theatre company, is where you can catch their current season of highly rated plays. Sarah DeLappe's Pulitzer-nominated drama The Wolves, featuring Puberty Blues star Brenna Harding, is showing till March 3. Book ahead for Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing, which had sold out runs at three consecutive Edinburgh Festivals (Mar 9-31) and catch Ursula Yovich in a rocking pub gig in Barbara and the Camp Dogs (Apr 4-28).
This laneway wine bar is still the most fun place to get a little sauced in Surry Hills. The Porteno crew, whose Argentinean restaurant is on the adjoining street, took over the beloved wine bar previously known as 121 BC. That single, red-tiled table still takes up the majority of the floor space with people tucked in around it most nights. Squeeze in with your date and order a little tin of grilled sardines lavished with butter and matchstick thin fries, or the impossibly silky seafood sausages from LP’s Quality Meats. Let yourself get talked into a glass of something less ordinary like a fermented, on-skin orange wine.
Every Saturday night, the tiny mirrored stage at this Art Deco-inspired cinema bar hosts up-and-coming bands and musicians – and it’s free entry every time. They’ve recently hosted indie-electronic trio Mansionair and electro-pop duo Greenwave Beth, and soon Perth singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly will be playing to the cool crowd in the glowing bunker bar. There are drinks specials after 9.30pm, but make sure you indulge in one of their movie inspired cocktails like Mean Girl, Godfather or Clockwork Orange. Even better, make time for a screening in their tiny cinema next door.
This micro roastery based on Albion Street has been pumping out flat whites and Honduran baleadas since January 2012. They roast beans sourced from trips to El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Colombia and Costa Rica, and the café menu is inspired by Central and South American cooking. Take a seat at the blue-tiled communal table out back and order huevos divorciados – soft fried eggs on red and green salsa, charred beans, cheese and tostadas. For your second drink, try an iced horchata or a Mex Coke.
What was once the workplace and home of Australian artist Brett Whiteley is now a managed museum, looked after by the Art Gallery of NSW. It’s open to the public and free to visit, including on Sundays from 10am-4pm. You’ll get to see how the artist lived through his unfinished paintings, art equipment and reference books. Everything is preserved as it was when he lived in the Raper Street warehouse, including the graffiti wall covered in quotes and images.
Every Sunday from 5-7pm, the Dolphin Wine Room is packed with fashionable locals who enjoy tasting-sized dishes and very well priced drinks. Get in as early as possible to the corridor room, as part of the huge pub managed by Maurice Terzini (the man behind Icebergs), to sample wines from all over the world for between $5-$7, as well as delicious snacks, often cooked by visiting chefs, also priced for Aperitivo Hour. The concept is based on Terzini’s experience at the Melbourne Wine Room in the George Hotel in Melbourne, so you’ll feel right at home.