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Where to Shop Like a Local In and Around Balmain

Head to Darling Street to sift through books and stock up on art supplies.
By Lucinda Starr
July 27, 2020
By Lucinda Starr
July 27, 2020


in partnership with

Head to Darling Street to sift through books and stock up on art supplies.

Tucked away just over the Anzac Bridge, you'll find one of the inner west's most tranquil spots: Balmain. The peninsula suburb is a leafy oasis with historic shopfronts, old trees and lots of couples with kids and pups. But, this area is anything but sleepy suburbia. Inside Balmain Village's renovated Victorian terraces you'll find a thriving community of local businesses who've won the hearts of residents and visitors alike. These are the kind of spots where you'll be greeted with a smile and chat, places to linger and browse at leisure without any frantic crowds.

So whether you're looking for that very specific book or the perfect gift for a mate, Balmain is where you should make a beeline for. To help make your shopping adventure successful, we've teamed up with American Express to put together this list of local Balmain favourites. All of them are delightful in their own way — and you can shop small with on Darling Street with your Amex Card.

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    Belle Fleur Fine Chocolates

    Sometimes, a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk will do — but if you’re looking for a nice little gift for a sugar-loving family member, it certainly won’t. For those times, head to Belle Fleur Fine Chocolates at the Rozelle-end of Darling Street. Almost. For the last 30 years, the chocolate team has been using techniques and expertise passed down over four generations to create new and inventive flavours and designs. Take, for instance, the Aussie – “a unique Aussie salted flavour in a smooth ganache, enrobed in dark chocolate” — which sounds like another way of saying it’s Vegemite-flavoured. There are plenty of options for more conservative chocoholics too, like their many truffles, pralines and caramels (yes, including salted). Even if eating chocolate isn’t your thing, check out the shop as it often features large chocolate replicas of famous buildings, tool sets or even hamburgers.

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    Proudly positioned at the corner of Darling and Elliott streets, Efendy is a Balmain institution. It’s easy to imagine you’ve stumbled into the laneways of Istanbul here, with a leafy courtyard and traditional Turkish ornaments adorning the corners of every room. The menu is best enjoyed by the banquet which, for $79 per person, includes a selection of cold snacks to start before moving onto large meaty share platters and a selection of sides. Expect authentic Hatay-style hummus, bone marrow with spicy sucuk sausage, and charcoal-cooked  kebabs of chicken and lamb.

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    After a hectic week at work, we’ve all contemplated ditching our nine-to-five for something more creative. And for Ally Bell, deciding to leave her corporate gig to follow her floral passions has been one she hasn’t looked back on. The store feels more boutique than flower shop, brimming with unexpected blooms and living colour at every turn. Pre-dawn market visits ensure every stem is handpicked to showcase the best seasonal flowers from local growers. Aside from creating bespoke bouquets, Ally also runs floral workshops year-round to share her love for floral design with aspiring florists across Sydney.

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    Just moved into a new pad and need to decorate? Balmain’s Stem is the place to start. It’s a mixed offering of furniture, homewares, and gifts alongside a selection of mens’ and womens’ fashion. Each brand has a distinct Scandinavian slant — think Marimekko, Elk, Alex Monroe, and Normann Copenhagen. It’s a place to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon, browsing stacks of handmade ceramics and bespoke garments. The sense of craft and care in each piece is obvious in the quality and will add an unexpected touch to any space — whether its a modest apartment or a sharehouse.

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    On a Saturday morning, nabbing a table at Contessa Balmain proves an almighty challenge. The all-day eatery has been an institution on Darling Street since 1992 — making it one of the suburb’s oldest residents. And its popularity comes with good reason. The menu fuses American classics with traditional Italian flavours. Expect freshly baked bread from Luxe Bakery alongside Contessa’s take on Sydney’s brunch staples. For those looking to indulge after a big Friday night, the ‘ultimate’ hickory-smoked bacon and egg roll will do the trick. As the day rolls on, the house-made pastas, burgers, and salads are sure to keep you fuelled and firing.

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    No matter what your relationship to arts and crafts — whether you take adult art classes or haven’t attempted to draw since school – at some point or another, you’re probably going to need some art supplies. For those who want to attempt a masterpiece, head straight for Tilly’s Art & Print. Stocked with oils, markers, paper, and pencils aplenty, this inner west spot is a must-see for aspiring artists. Whether you’re looking to craft your own handmade cards or perhaps give that creative side-hustle a go, a wander through these aisles is bound to leave you inspired.

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Support the places you love and shop small at the local stores that make Sydney so great. To learn about American Express and the Shop Small initiative, visit here. Then, head this way to find more must-visit spots around the inner west.

Top image: James Horan/Destination NSW. 

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