PLAYMAKER
The Playmaker
Let's play
PLAYMAKER
  • It's Monday
    What day is it?
  • Now
    What time is it?
  • Anywhere in Sydney
    Where are you?
  • What do you feel like?
    What do you feel like?
  • And what else?
    And what else?
  • LET'S PLAY
FOOD & DRINK

Our Sydney: Here Are Our Readers' Favourite Spots to Visit in Newtown and Erskineville

From places to visit with your puppy to the late-night haunts doing things differently.
Flip the switch below and discover Sydney by day or night
By Melanie Colwell
December 23, 2020
  shares
By Melanie Colwell
December 23, 2020
  shares

OUR SYDNEY: HERE ARE OUR READERS' FAVOURITE SPOTS TO VISIT IN NEWTOWN AND ERSKINEVILLE

in partnership with

From places to visit with your puppy to the late-night haunts doing things differently.

There's no single reason why Newtown is considered the indie hub of Sydney. Rather, it's the sum of its parts: a thriving arts scene, a wonderfully diverse food and retail offering and dozens of late-night haunts. And the byproduct? The eclectic personalities who call the area home.

No matter what time of day you're in the area (or what the weather is like), the opportunities for things to do are endless — from grabbing a coffee at first light from Fleetwood Macchiato in neighbouring suburb Erskineville to last drinks at Earl's Juke Joint. In between, you can shop for vintage wares along King Street, admire street art, see an indie film at Dendy and catch a gig at The Vanguard. And we haven't even touched on all the stuff you can eat.

To celebrate some of the small businesses that keep the streets of Newtown and Erskineville buzzing, we've teamed up with City of Sydney to ask you — Concrete Playground readers — what businesses you love to support in the area. Here are your 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

    There are countless hybrid spaces across Sydney now (cafe-bookshop, barbershop-bar, sneaker shop-restaurant) but Rising Sun Workshop is particularly special. It combined two things that had no business being together — motorcycles and experimental Japanese food — and turned it into quite a successful business (well, actually, it’s a social enterprise).

    Chosen by CP reader Sreetama Nayek (along with Cafe Shenkin, Continental Deli, Vina Vegan and Mapo, which you’ll find elsewhere on this list), Rising Sun Workshop has inhabited the multi-storey space on Whateley Street since 2016. Here, you can work on or store your motorbike in the fully kitted out workshop, while sipping coffee and chatting to like-minded bike enthusiasts. Not a rev-head? You’ll still want to visit when you read the next two words: breakfast ramen. After that first slurp of buttered toast broth with bacon, egg and roast tomato, your concept of what constitutes brunch will change forever.

    Image: Destination NSW

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
    Want to start building your ultimate Sydney playlist?

    Start building a personalised itinerary to your neighbourhood here. Save it, share it and take it with you on your next local adventure.

  • 5

    Better Read Than Dead is a prime example of how an independent bookstore can thrive in the modern era of screens and snack-sized content. It’s called Newtown home since 1996 and, no matter what time of day you visit, there are always people browsing the floor-to-ceiling turquoise shelves.

    So, what’s it doing right? For starters, the range of titles is vast — from Australian and young adult fiction to piercing cultural studies and coffee table books. The staff recommendations are always spot on. In fact, the passion for words is spilling out of the joint with writing competitions, book clubs and author talks happening on the regular (the latter two via Zoom for the time being). And, of course, a punny name doesn’t hurt.

    Image: Destination NSW, James Horan

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 4

    Erskineville is certainly much quieter than its neighbour, but it does have lots to offer — particularly if you’re a dog owner. Past the station, where Erskineville Road turns into Swanson Street, you’ll find unassuming corner cafe Naked Brew, recommended by Concrete Playground reader Tom Teague.

    Owner Kevin Luu has taken full advantage of the cafe’s home opposite off-leash park Harry Noble Reserve by adding a dedicated dog menu. It includes beef liver sprinkle-topped doggie-chinos, doggie doughnuts and even doggie waffles topped with eggs and ice cream. For humans, there are buddha bowls, pork belly waffles, apple crumble french toast and more.

    Image: Mad Men Media

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 3

    On the corner directly opposite Naked Brew is long-standing pub The Kurrajong Hotel. “The Kurrajong has a soft spot in my heart. Great pub,” says CP reader Lauren Ward.

    Last year, the Gurdys duo, Clare and Brett Davis, returned the 1930s pub (which, for a time, was known as the Swanson Hotel) to its former glory — and name. They gave it a serious makeover in the process, including a new bar and kitchen, but kept a lot of the original art deco features. The aforementioned bar keeps things exciting with 12 rotating beer taps pouring limited-edition craft brews from the likes of Wayward Brewing Co, Batch Brewing Co and Hope Estate. Meanwhile, the kitchen puts up refined pub fare, including a mean Sunday roast. And, like its neighbour, the pub is completely dog-friendly, even inside.

    Image: Kimberley Low

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 2

    If you’re skeptical that big fashion brands actually follow through when they espouse the causes of sustainable and ethical production, you can rest easy knowing that The Social Outfit has these values right at its core. The social enterprise fashion label provides refugees and migrants with employment, education and training to help them build their lives in Australia.

    Further to this, it collaborates with dozens of Aussie fashion labels, including Romance Was Born, Ginger & Smart and Citizen Wolf, to save excess fabric and textile waste from landfill. This means a visit to the King Street store could see you nabbing a scarf, scrunchie, bumbag or pants in a high-end label’s print for a fraction of the price.

    Image: Luisa Brimble

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 1

    Shenkin Erskineville is the flagship venue for the Haikin family’s group of popular Israeli eateries. The corner cafe made a name for itself with its Middle Eastern food, particularly the shakshuka — poached eggs with a slow-cooked tomato, capsicum and garlic sauce served with pita — which may be one of the best brunch dishes you can get in Sydney.

    But when Concrete Playground reader Chris Jamieson told us they love to visit Cafe Shenkin “for coffee and pastries”, they highlighted the sleeper hit of this Erko establishment: the baked goods. Owner Arie Haikin worked in his parents’ bakery in Melabis growing up. That expertise now results in freshly baked cinnamon scrolls, burekas, babkas, croissants and more filling the display cabinet each morning.

    Image: Brendon DSouza

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 0

    Every Sydney suburb requires a few staples: a police station, a fire station and a deli. Luckily for Newtowners, they’ll find all three in a row on Australia Street. Even luckier for them, that deli is Continental Deli Bar Bistro.

    Here, you’ll be greeted by cured meat hanging from the ceiling, a glass cabinet stocked with giant cheese wheels and LP’s chorizo, and floor-to-ceiling shelves of tinned goods. These aren’t the tins of spaghetti, baked beans and (god forbid) canned pork you’d find in your grandmother’s pantry. No, we’re talking Ortiz anchovies, Espinaler cockles and Conservas de Cambados octopus. Oh, and the bar’s signature tinned cocktails, which CP reader Ally Brown called out: “I love Continental Deli. You can’t go past the steak tartare and a Mar-tinny.”

    After dark, the venue opens its upstairs bistro area to serve a Mediterranean-style menu, featuring the aforementioned steak tartare, barbecued king prawns and roasted chicken with green beans. And, of course, flan in a can and Ciccone and Sons neapoli-tin gelato for dessert.

    Image: Kimberley Low

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 0

    “A clam pizza and bottle of wine at Bella Brutta, followed by a few cocktails at Earl’s Juke Joint is my ideal night out,” according to Samantha Teague. And we must agree. When this 50-seater venue — complete with bar seating and a giant pizza oven from Italy — opened in late-2018, it quickly earned a spot on many ‘Best pizza in Sydney’ lists (including ours).

    The venue is a joint effort by Luke Powell of LP’s Quality Meats and Joseph Valore and Elvis Abrahanowicz over at Porteño, so you know the ingredients used here are going to be top-shelf. The pizza menu changes on occasion but the mortadella (yes, by LP’s) with green olives and the surf clam, served with chilli, garlic and parsley, are mainstays and must-tries. A piece of advice: save room for the ricotta cannoli.

    Image: Kitti Gould

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 0

    Okay, we may have just said not to skip on the ricotta cannoli at Bella Brutta, but there is one exception: if you’re already planning to pop to Mapo, just a few doors up, for a scoop of ice cream. With Italian-born Matteo Pochintesta at the helm, Mapo offers up artisanal gelato made using only natural and sustainably sourced ingredients. Signature flavours include the pistachio, made with certified premium Sicilian nuts, and the single-origin chocolate gianduja — both are vegan. There are always stellar specials on offer, too, like beermisu (made with The Grifter Omen oatmilk stout), black truffle and bush honey and Pepe Saya sea salt caramel.

    Image: Kitti Gould 

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 0

    “I have to stop myself getting dinner from there every night,” says Ben Hansen of Enmore Road eatery Cairo Takeaway. And we understand the dilemma. Owner Hesham El Masry opened the venue in 2016 as an homage to his mum’s Egyptian cooking, and the result certainly captured the hearts of locals. The adjacent laneway is often filled with hungry patrons waiting to dine in (it doesn’t take reservations).

    Waiting for a table isn’t really a bad thing — it gives you time to pop across the road to pick up a bottle of natural wine from P&V Wine and Liquor Merchants, as Cairo Takeaway is BYO. And once you are inside, you’ll appreciate the lively atmosphere and punchy flavours of the Middle Eastern-style charcoal meats, falafel, dips, pita and salads that much more.

    Image: Destination NSW 

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 0

    It all started here on Mary Street in 2013. By ‘it’, we’re referring both to the Mary’s empire, which has spawned outposts across Sydney and Melbourne (and is responsible for the reinvigoration of The Unicorn and The Lansdowne Hotel); and, arguably, the tidal wave of burger venues that have since popped up across the city.

    In terms of food, CP reader Lauren Ward puts it best: “Mary’s can’t be beaten for burgers. And chicken. And the mash and gravy. The whole menu, basically.” Yep, Mary’s isn’t doing anything too adventurous — it’s simply serving up American-style fast food. But there’s no denying it’s all very tasty. This, along with the other elements that make up the experience — the very dark space playing very loud metal — obviously resonated with Sydneysiders and Mary’s is still considered a go-to in the area.

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 0

    With so many to choose from, it’s hard to pick a favourite bar in Newtown (though, we’ve tried). For CP reader Tim Teague, it’s Gurdys for its “great food and cocktails”. Opened by husband and wife team Brett and Clare Davis back in June 2017, Gurdys became a local favourite thanks to its confident bar snack game and focus on sustainability, from how the bar and kitchen source ingredients to the recycled materials used in the fit-out.

    The cocktail menu features twists on the signature tipples, like a rhubarb and basil sidecar or rum espresso martini, while the wine and craft beer lists both lean local — inner west breweries Wayward, The Grifter, Young Henrys and Yulli’s Brews all make appearances. The food offering is entirely plant-based — think spiced tofu parcels, barbecued watermelon with smoked corn puree and black sticky rice — with toasties available as a late-night snack (10pm–12am).

    READ MORE Add to Playlist
  • 0
    Vina Vegan Restaurant

    The southern strip of King Street is known for its string of dietary requirement-friendly eateries, and Vina Vegan Restaurant has been a part of the lineup since 2009. The family-run outfit specialises in hearty plant-based Vietnamese food, and it is CP reader Karen P’ng’s pick for the area. The menu is designed to share with meat substitutes available in everything from noodle soups and sizzling stir-fries to zesty salads and rice paper rolls. It’s also incredibly affordable — every main dish (aside from the hot pots to share) is under $20. There are also two set menus on offer, both for under $30 per person.

    READ MORE Add to Playlist

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

Top image: Naked Brew, Mad Men Media

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

Top image: Naked Brew, Mad Men Media

 

Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x
Counter Pixel