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FOOD & DRINK

Our Sydney: Here Are Our Readers' Favourite Spots to Visit in Darlinghurst

Discover hole-in-the-wall cafes, monster sandwiches and Sydney's best ramen.
Flip the switch below and discover Sydney by day or night
By Melanie Colwell
May 03, 2021
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By Melanie Colwell
May 03, 2021
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OUR SYDNEY: HERE ARE OUR READERS' FAVOURITE SPOTS TO VISIT IN DARLINGHURST

in partnership with

Discover hole-in-the-wall cafes, monster sandwiches and Sydney's best ramen.

For some time, Darlinghurst has been leading the charge when it comes to urban living, offering up an eclectic collection of independent galleries, boutique shops and hole-in-the-wall eateries.

And when nighttime hits, the suburb truly comes alive. There are options aplenty for eating and drinking before you really turn the volume up with a boogie — or catching a drag show in an Oxford Street bar or a play at one of the independent theatres.

To help you explore more of this part of Sydney, we teamed up with City of Sydney to ask Concrete Playground readers what businesses they love to visit and support in and around Darlo. Here are some of your top picks.

Read on to discover some of the most popular picks to visit during the day. Then, flick the switch above and we'll dim the lights to show your favourite things to do once the sun goes down.

  • 6

    Are you guilty of taking photos of your brunch before taking a bite? No judgement here, just a friendly piece of advice: make sure you add The Mayflower to your hit list. It was recommended by several CP readers, including @_niinz_, @itschristianlee and @puri_seerat. The opulent cafe is located in an art deco building and it’s a social media fiend’s dream, from the fit-out — millienial pink walls, onyx stone tables, pendant lights and lush floral installations — to the menu.

    We’re talking Ferrero Rocher french toast, truffle mac ‘n’ cheese and lobster rolls. And if all of that doesn’t sound decadent enough, The Mayflower also has caviar service, starting at $30 for ten grams of white sturgeon caviar. There’s also black pearl beluga cavair for $228 (30 grams) if you’re feeling extra flush. All of the caviar is served with blinis, crème fraîche and chives.

     

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  • 5

    The humble sandwich has evolved well beyond being a school lunchbox staple. Partial responsibility can be taken by this hole-in-the-wall Stanley Street operation, which opened in January 2020. Its monster sambos, recommended by @teaguese, are served on thick-cut Sonoma bread and put the stodgy, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter numbers from your childhood to shame.

    There are six to choose from, including crispy pork belly (with burnt butter ricotta, garlic sauce and salad) and spicy barbecue beef brisket (with caramlised onion chutney, horseradish and salad). There’s also a house-made falafel option, served with hummus, tahini, green sauce and roasted eggplant. Mrs Palmer also does a fortnightly special, occasionally created by a top Sydney chef. Plus, there are also two salads and four types of fries, including tater tots and haloumi fries.

    When you visit, be sure to take note of the door to the left of the counter. It doesn’t lead to a stock room, as you may assume, but to La Farmacia — a tiny, dimly lit margarita bar, open after dark.

    Images: Terence-Kent Ow

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  • 4

    Where in Sydney can you get a haircut, eat lunch, buy a few records and hear live music all in one space? The answer is They’re There. This mixed business opened on Oxford Street in late-2020 and describes itself as a “cultural hub”.

    It’s an interesting mish-mash of businesses, so prepare to lose some time exploring everything on offer. Start by grabbing a coffee or dairy-free smoothie from Notmilk, then browse through Scratches Records‘ vinyl collection. Need a haircut? Out the back of the store, you’ll find Brock and Sonnys Barbershop, which is a no appointment, cash-only, pay-as-you-feel operation.

    Come lunchtime, Reuben & Me serves up tasty reuben and cubano toasties from Monday to Friday, while The Honourable Plate takes over on weekends with mostly vegan Mediterranean street food.

    The hub hosts late-night events on the reg, too, including open mic nights and DJ sets. Keep an eye on its Instagram for upcoming happenings.

    Images: Terence-Kent Ow

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  • 3

    Now the novelty of being able to hang out in groups again has worn off, you’re probably starting to remember the annoying problems that arise — like trying to find a dinner spot that’ll please everyone. The answer for many is Bar Reggio.

    The Italian restaurant holds a place in many Sydneysiders’ hearts thanks to its lively atmosphere, share-friendly menu and affordability (including the fact that it’s BYO). Everyone has their go-to order at this long-running joint, but you can’t go wrong splitting a couple of pizzas, including the Ricky’s (bolognese and parmesan) and Capricciosa (mushroom, ham, anchovies and olives).

    It’s also worth throwing in a few portions of pasta for good measure — CP reader @ally_brown88 calls it the “best pasta in Sydney”. You can mix and match pasta shapes and sauces, but our picks are sausage and porcini penne and spaghetti arrabbiata. There are desserts on offer but, to be honest, you’ll probably be way too full to partake.

    Image: Leticia Almeida 

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  • 2

    No doubt you’ve heard of Lankan Filling Station, O Tama Carey’s shrine to Sri Lankan cuisine. It opened to much fanfare in 2018, pleasing Sydneysiders with its hands-on menu of hoppers, sambols and curries. It even snapped up Overall Winner in Concrete Playground‘s Best New Restaurant in the 2018 Awards.

    The check-box menu requires a level of restraint — something we’re usually in short supply of by lunchtime on Friday, which is when CP reader @emmajoy_e recommends visiting. Start with a few hoppers, which you can alternate dipping into the spicy katta sambol, punchy white fish curry and creamy raita. Room for dessert? Treat yourself to a scoop of ginger and tumeric gelato.

    If your schedule is too packed for a leisurely Friday lunch, the eatery offers most of its menu (apart from the hoppers) for takeaway. Or, you could plan ahead and book into LFS’s famous Crab Curry feast, which happens on the last Sunday of each month. The $80 set menu includes starters, sides, dessert and three mains: a black crab curry, beetroot curry and honeydew, coriander oil and gotu kola dhal.

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  • 1

    Bloodhound Espresso, on the corner of Palmer and Liverpool Streets, is precisely the type of reliable cafe you’d like to call your local. It’s set a little away from the hustle and bustle of Darlo’s busier thoroughfares, while still being easily accessible.

    It has a decent amount of both indoor and outdoor seating — particularly useful if you’ve got your doggo in tow — plus a window set up beside the coffee machine for takeaway brews.

    The brekkie menu, available until 11.30am and all day on weekends, is simple but covers all bases. The Turkish Breakfast is a highlight — hummus, dukkah, falafel, salad, boiled egg and turkish toast. And the brekkie burger is a winner, particularly if you load it up with an extra hash brown and avo.

    Image: Terence-Kent Ow

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  • 0

    Sydneysiders love to hit multiple venues in one night — but it can be risky business. What happens if you leave one excellent spot and then spend precious drinking and dancing time walking and waiting in line at the next? If you want to keep things simple (but not boring) this Oxford Street haunt, recommended by Concrete Playground reader @teaguese, is the answer.

    Upstairs, Big Poppa’s functions as a restaurant. The big leather banquettes, bare brick walls and candles create real cosy vibes. It may feel more appropriate for date night, but the restaurant’s share-style menu caters well to groups — particularly the cheese-loving kind. There are about 19 soft, blue and hard varieties available as standalone orders (served with fruit, honey and bread) as well as appearances in other dishes, including hand-cut pappardelle and polpette (meatballs) with stracciatella and pecorino.

    Once you’re suitably sauced, head downstairs to the bar, where the hip hop tunes get louder and the cocktails are on point. You can still get snacks down here for when that second wind hits, too. Oh, and the best part? It’s open until 3am. Every. single. day.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 0

    If you happen to find yourself at Shady Pines on a weeknight, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see some of the Concrete Playground staff there enjoying a tipple — the perks of the office being just a 30-second walk away. And it seems we’re not the only Sydneysiders who consider this laneway dive bar their after-work haunt of choice, with CP reader @laurenellen_1 giving it a shout-out.

    It may have something to do with the very appealing happy hour: between 4–6pm, the bar mixes $12 margaritas and negronis and slings $5 wines and beers. Or it could be the free bowl of peanuts, which is replenished regularly by the attentive bar staff.

    Also on the menu at the American-themed saloon? Whisky with fresh apple juice, craft beer tinnies and basically any classic cocktail you can recall, all of which can be enjoyed while surrounded by taxidermy and listening to rockabilly tunes.

    Image: Leticia Almeida

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  • 0

    Dance floors are back, baby. So it seems like a very appropriate time to remind you of one of Sydney’s best places to have a boogie: Stonewall Hotel. Recommended by CP reader @eklhaa, this Oxford Street stalwart has been bringing the good times to Sydneysiders — particularly the LGBTQIA+ community — for well over two decades.

    With three storeys to play with, there’s something happening every night of the week at Stonewall, including trivia on Tuesdays, nightly drag shows, karaoke and parties led by some of Sydney’s up-and-coming DJs.

    No matter why you’re there, start your night with a cheap and cheerful dinner at Dick’s Diner on the ground floor — classic bar dishes like fish ‘n’ chips and chicken schnitzel with chips and salad are a steal at $15. Trust us, you’re going to need your fuel. This spot stays open until 4am most nights.

    Image: Katje Ford

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  • 0
    Casoni Darlinghurst

    There are so many incredible Italian restaurants in Sydney’s inner city. One that deserves more attention, according to CP reader @olgaspivak_, is Casoni. Tucked away on Bourke Street, opposite the courthouse, this little eatery has been humming away for many years. Though, a change of ownership and fresh lick of paint in 2019 has given it a breath of fresh air.

    The new menu is still undeniably Italian — staple dishes like pumpkin ravioli with burnt butter and sage haven’t gone anywhere. But look a little closer and you’ll see the unmistakable influence of Asian and native Australian flavours. It’s particularly evident in the starters. The first is hiramasa kingfish with yellow nectarine, Davidson plum, yakult cream and shiso oil. The second: miso eggplant.

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  • 0

    The title for Sydney’s best ramen is hotly debated, but a good case can be made for Chaco Ramen. After all, this intimate restaurant’s take on the noodle soup proved so popular it ended up stripping almost everything else off the menu in 2019. It opened second premises in Potts Point to continue serving yakitori.

    And, during lockdown in 2020, it started delivering frozen soup and noodle packs for punters to enjoy the legendary ramen at home — and it’s continued since.

    The ramen comes in five variations: fat soy, fish salt, yuzu scallop, vegetable or chilli coriander with chicken. There’s also a cold tomato truffle option for hot days. CP‘s Tahlia Phillips enjoys the “fat soy ramen with a Yulli’s cider”. There’s also the option of gluten free noodles or extra toppings like Hokkaido scallops, wontons and spicy miso.

    Images: Letícia Almeida. 

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  • 0
    East Village Hotel

    Sydneysiders never tire of epic views of the city skyline — particularly if they’re admiring it with a drink in hand — and one of the best vantage points is atop Darlinghurst’s East Village Hotel, recommended by CP reader @jadeimans.

    With bright white furniture and yellow striped umbrellas, The Terrace is the perfect setting for sundowners on a stellar Sydney day. The cocktail menu includes a coconut espresso martini and the appropriately named F*** 2020 (bourbon, St Germain, lemon, orgeat, ginger syrup and aquafaba), with $10 cocktail specials between Wednesday and Friday.

    Pair your tipple with share-style plates, including pork sliders, loaded tater tots and fried chicken.

    Image: Brett Stevens.

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For more small businesses to visit and support in Darlinghurst, check out our Day and Night Guide

Top image: Letícia Almeida

For more small businesses to visit and support in Darlinghurst, check out our Day and Night Guide

Top image: Bar Reggio, Letícia Almeida

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