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FOOD & DRINK

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

Here is where to go for affordable, quality eats and let-your-hair-down fun.
Flip the switch below and discover Sydney by day or night
By Melanie Colwell
December 18, 2020
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Our Sydney: Here Are Our Readers' Favourite Spots to Visit in Haymarket

Here is where to go for affordable, quality eats and let-your-hair-down fun.
By Melanie Colwell
December 18, 2020
  shares

OUR SYDNEY: HERE ARE OUR READERS' FAVOURITE SPOTS TO VISIT IN HAYMARKET

in partnership with

Here is where to go for affordable, quality eats and let-your-hair-down fun.

Haymarket, home to Sydney's once bustling Chinatown, was one of the first areas to feel the real economic impacts of what this year would become for Sydney. Though it's still in survival mode, the suburb's small businesses are primed for visitors to return. And return they should, because Haymarket's cultural importance cannot be overstated. It's one of the best areas of Sydney to get direct access to the customs and traditions of your ancestors — or those of your neighbours — through art, food and music. It's where you can put your culinary prowess (and chilli tolerance) to the test. And it's where you can make $20 stretch across multiple meals and release the inner pop star who usually only sings in the shower. Every encounter you have with a local vendor contributes to why you love living in Sydney, and they need your patronage now more than ever.

So we teamed up with City of Sydney to ask you — Concrete Playground readers — what businesses you love to support in Haymarket.

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.

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    We’ve been singing the praises of the cream puffs at Chinatown’s Emperor’s Garden for years — if you’ve tried them, you’ll know why. And apparently we’re not the only ones, with several of our readers also naming Emperor’s Gardens puffs as their Haymarket pick. “I always pick up a container after dinner in Haymarket. So cheap. So tasty,” says Samantha Teague. Haven’t tried them? Here’s what you’ve been missing: these little dough balls are filled with a piping hot, gooey custard with just the right level of sweetness. They’re seriously moreish, but what makes them even more appealing is that they cost just 40 cents each. Yes, you read that correctly. And the more you order (and, trust us, you’ll want more than one), the cheaper they get, so 20 little puffs will set you back just $5.

    Image: Alpha via Flickr

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  • 5
    Haven Specialty Coffee Darling Square

    Haven Specialty Coffee is one of several well-loved Sydney venues that jumped at the opportunity to expand when the new Darling Square precinct was unveiled last year. By coffee-crazy trio Roy Yu, Kit Tran and Bruce Koo, Haven’s second outpost is a bright and airy cafe on Harbour Street. The sleek fit-out, with a consistent palette of grey and timber throughout, is reminiscent of coffee shops you’d expect to see in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore. The food offering has a similar Asian influence — think char siu sauce on the B&E roll, sichuan pepper remoulade on the fried chicken burger and the signature dish, a daikon cake with dried sausage, shrimp, shiitake mushroom and xo sauce.

    The food is not the main affair here though, rather it complements an expert coffee offering. For those who wish to further their coffee education, Haven also runs workshops on latte art, pour-overs and tastings. The OG Surry Hills location is no longer around, but the team has just opened a brand new space in Rosebery.

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  • 4

    It’s going to take you some time and dedication to find your favourite thing on the menu at Boon Cafe. For CP reader Johnny Ong, it’s the crab fried rice, which he likes to enjoy after a session at Timezone. The Thai-style eatery, an off-shoot of the specialty Asian grocer Jarern Chai, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and there are some 78 food items on the menu to get through — some of which strictly adhere to traditional Thai cuisine and others that stray into other territories. For example, at breakfast you can order the ginger and chicken congee with a thousand-year egg, or opt for the congee with bacon and eggs. Or you could try pan-baked eggs with smoked fish sausage and chicken mince.

    Come lunchtime, the chicken, squid and holy basil sandwich, served with a fried egg, will have you wishing your school lunchbox sandos had been this interesting. Further down the menu, you’ll find several takes on a spicy green papaya salad and fragrant broths. And, if you ask us, the pandan custard-filled croissant is appropriate at any time of day.

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    Timezone Haymarket

    In these strange times, spending a few hours pretending to be a kid again — when your biggest care in the world was that someone else is playing with the game you want to play with — is quite appealing. Enter Timezone, the mega games arcade that welcomes big and little kids alike for hours of unbridled fun. We’re talking old-school games like Street Fighter, Big Buck, pinball and ice hockey. There’s even bumper cars and electronic dance games if you’re up for a little physical action. This place is open from 10am till 11pm every day, which means the fun only really stops when you run out of steam.

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    You may be thinking: a supermarket? Really? But bear with us. Thai Kee IGA is no ordinary supermarket selling basic essentials like peanut butter and toilet paper. The store inside Market City has an enormous range of specialty international ingredients and snacks you’ll struggle to find elsewhere — think La Croix, Japanese Green Tea Kit-Kats, and Heng’s Salted Egg Spread. Earlier this year, in support of local hospitality venues that were forced to close during lockdown, Thai Kee released a restaurant line of DIY frozen meal kits, which are still available. You can try your hand at making Demochi’s mini doughnuts, Cho Cho San’s pork katsu tonkatsu bao, Chaco Ramen’s chilli coriander ramen, Ho Jiak’s Hainan chicken or Arisun’s cheesy fried chicken at home. Thai Kee also accepts online orders with free delivery across Sydney for orders over $50.

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  • 1

    An ocean swim and cold-pressed juice. A dark room and some dry toast. Every Sydneysider has their own winning routine to sort out a hangover. For us, and CPer Cordelia Williamson, it’s endless dumplings and a little hair-of-the-dog. “Sunday yum cha at Marigold with a Tsingtao in hand never goes amiss,” she told us. Take that sore head for a trip up to level five of the Citymark Building and fill the bottomless pit that is your stomach with all of the fried things: prawn toast, crispy dumplings and spring rolls. Get some steamed greens, too — trust us, they’ll help. And don’t skip the mango pancakes.

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    The best laksa in Sydney is hotly debated. We’re not going to definitively claim Ho Jiak has the crown, but we will say that the Penang-style diner’s offering is very, very good — particularly with Hainan chicken. Alternatively, you can opt for crispy skin salmon belly, prawn or vegetables and tofu as your filling of choice. Not satisfied with doing only one thing really well, the rest of Ho Jiak’s menu is bursting with crowd favourites. In fact, we received several votes for this Haymarket eatery from CP readers, and each one called out a different dish. For Samantha Teague, it’s the lobster mie goreng. For @grandmaal, it’s the roast chicken with dry egg noodles. And for Ally Brown, it’s the Hainan chicken. Suffice to say, you can’t really go wrong no matter what you order at this street food-style joint run by Chef Junda Khoo.

    Images: Trent van der Jagt

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  • 0

    According to CP reader Tony Tan, this is the ideal night out in Haymarket: “Kogi Korean BBQ, then karaoke. Best combination”. We’ll get to the karaoke soon, but first, let’s chat Kogi. You’ll find this upscale Korean-style barbecue joint on level three of Market City. Be seated in one of the sleek steel booths, and you probably know the drill from here. You’ll start by selecting items from the menu designed by Seoul-trained chef Hang Jun Chung. It includes 15 top-notch cuts of wagyu beef and pork, plus seafood and veggies. Then you’ll get on the tools, grilling the meat and veg yourself directly over charcoal right at your table. To pair with your now-smoky produce, order some traditional sides like kimchi pancakes and cold soba noodles — and keep in mind the restaurant will offer free refills.

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  • 0

    Whether you’re an out-and-proud karaoke fan or you need to be suitably sauced before you take control of the microphone, there’s no denying that a night spent belting out 80s ballads, 90s rock and early noughties hits is a walloping good time. Dynasty Karaoke, which was called out by several CP readers as the go-to after dinner spot in Haymarket, is hidden inside Chinatown’s Dixon Mall. And it’s open every day till 4am, so you only need stop when your voice gets croaky.

    If you’re confident in your singing abilities (or at least you’ll feel so after a few beers), there’s a huge public stage on which to practice your X-Factor audition. Otherwise, you and your mates can nab one of the 13 private party rooms and really get your cringy karaoke on with everything from Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys to My Chemical Romance on offer. The venue also boasts a lounge bar, a sports bar, restaurant, electronic darts, and touchscreen table games.

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    Sea Bay Restaurant

    There are some restaurants around Sydney that we love for the decor as much as we do the food and drinks. And there are some restaurants where the decor doesn’t even cross our radar, but the quality of the food more than makes up for it. Sea Bay Restaurant falls into the second column. This eatery on Pitt Street may look non-descript, but for CP reader Ally Brown, it’s a winner. “Best dumplings and shallot pancake I’ve tasted. Cheap and delicious,” they told us. And they’re right. Those dumplings, crafted by owner Robert Guan, are just $13.80 for 12, and you can get them boiled, steamed or fried. Even better, Sea Bay is BYO, making this a great place for a pre-pay day date night or catch-up with mates.

    Image: Trent van der Jagt

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    The portions are huge in this ramen eatery tucked away in Chinatown’s Eating World. Add to that the fact that the collagen-rich pork broth is produced by boiling over 100 kilograms of pork bones on a daily basis, and you have yourself a bowl of ramen quite unlike any you’ve had before, with a thick and salty broth that goes down surprisingly well.

    The menu is simple, with two of the dishes being rice-based and the rest being soup-based. Try the tonkotsu ramen, served with slices of pork and seaweed in the aforementioned broth, which is so thick, it’s practically gravy. The simple ingredients mingle well with each other and result in a flavour which is unique yet classic. And combined with the low prices and generous portions, there are more than enough reasons for Gumshara to be a staple in the diets of many a penny-pincher.

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  • 0

    You know that feeling of utter relief when you finally leave a space you’ve spent way too much time in? Of course, you do. We’ve all felt that on varying levels this year. So you have some idea of what to expect when you conquer one of Break the Code’s escape rooms — though everything is heightened in here. There are four themes to choose from: The Da Vinci Code, Indiana Jones, Avatar and Lost. Each requires you and your teammates to solve puzzles using collaboration and logic under a 60-minute time crunch. It’s a great team bonding exercise to try with colleagues or mates — or even your family, if you dare.

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

Top image: Single O CBD, Alana Dimou; Ragazzi, Nikki To

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

Top image: Single O CBD, Alana Dimou; Ragazzi, Nikki To

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