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FOOD & DRINK

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

Discover where the locals go for an early morning feed and an after-work tipple — and everything in between.
Flip the switch below and discover Sydney by day or night
By Melanie Colwell
January 28, 2021
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By Melanie Colwell
January 28, 2021
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OUR SYDNEY: HERE ARE OUR READERS' FAVOURITE SPOTS TO VISIT IN SURRY HILLS

in partnership with

Discover where the locals go for an early morning feed and an after-work tipple — and everything in between.

Few suburbs sell the ideals of inner city living as well as Surry Hills. The area has everything you'd expect — top-notch coffee spots, trendy boutiques, buzzing watering holes and eateries for every budget. It's very easy to spend an entire day exploring the area, strolling down the main streets and weaving through the laneways. In fact, there's so much to see and so many shops, restaurants, bars and parks to visit, you may need a helping hand on where to check out first. So, we teamed up with City of Sydney to ask Concrete Playground readers what businesses they love to visit and support in Surry Hills. Here are some of the most popular spots.

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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    There was a time when getting your hands on international labels was a near-impossible feat, but boutiques like The Standard Store have made it much easier. When giving this Crown Street retail shop a shout-out, CP reader @emmajoy_e said, “The Standard Store is where I wish I could shop every day — budget allowing”. The retail space, owned by Orlando and Nicola Reindorf, offers a carefully curated and constantly evolving selection of high-end clothes, accessories, shoes and homewares from around the world. You could lose hours sifting through the racks filled with Sessun shirts, Apiece Apart jumpsuits, Bellerose t-shirts and Universal Works jackets. Elsewhere, you’ll find unisex fragrances by Heeley, Maison Balzac glassware and Masterpiece Bags backpacks.

    Image: Cassandra Hannagan

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  • 5

    Some of Surry Hills’ (and Sydney’s best venues) are the ones you won’t easily stumble across. Case in point: Suzie Q Coffee and Records, which is tucked into a former loading dock in Hutchinson Street. CP reader Chris Jamieson called Suzie Q “a real hidden gem”, and they’re not wrong.

    Described by the venue as a “celebration of the finer things in life”, Suzie Q is where locals go for an espresso (it currently has small-batch roaster Madding Crowd‘s brews running through the machines) with a side of Black Sabbath. As its name suggests, the folks at Suzie Q are as serious about tunes as they are caffeine. Expect an excellent playlist (which you’re encouraged to add to) and, once you’re done eating and drinking, spend a few minutes thumbing through the selection of preloved records for sale.

    The menu is a tight list of all-day eats with music-inspired names, like Make The Morning Last (tapioca and chia pudding with confit lemon and native honey), Through The Never (zucchini and macadamia burger) and Too Good To Be True (slow-cooked eggplant, tahini cream, labneh and apple and chilli sambal). And, alongside the aforementioned coffee, it serves locally produced wines, Young Henrys beers and a handful of cocktails.

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  • 4

    What’s a perfect day look like in Surry Hills? For Samantha Teague, it involves a visit to Ziggy’s Barber Salon. “It is the greatest! Get your hair done, go get Shwarmama,” they told us. Based inside Oxford Village shopping centre, Ziggy’s describes itself as a “modern old-school barbershop” and welcomes both guys and gals to visit for a cut, colour or shave.

    Whether you’re after a classic look or are ready for something a little wilder, the team of experienced stylists and barbers will sort you out. A cut and style starts at $58 for guys and $95 for ladies, with keratin and conditioning treatments, extensions and cut-throat face shaves all on offer, too.

    Image: Cassandra Hannagan

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  • 3

    Mama’s Got You. That’s one of the first things you’ll see, emblazoned on the lineup of merch, when you step into Shwarmama’s hole-in-the-wall space on Commonwealth Street. And no matter what has inspired the visit, Mama certainly has ‘got’ you. Opened in 2019, Shwarmama is an all-day kebab joint serving all the marinated, slow-cooked, garlic sauce-slathered eats to cure the most extreme hangovers or hangers (or both).

    The succinct menu consists of an Israeli-style brekkie sandwich (a pita pocket stuffed with fried eggplant, boiled egg and condiments), a falafel pita, a salad bowl and the NHSP (non-halal snack pack), with chips and chicken doused in tahini and garlic sauce. And, of course, the main event: the shawarma. Here, it consists of chewy laffa flatbread stuffed with marinated chicken (sliced off the rotating spit to order), hummus, chips and pickled vegetables. Wash it down with a soda, beer or wine, and make sure you grab a salted choc-chip tahini cookie to go.

    Image: Kitti Gould

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  • 2

    When was the last time you had eggs benedict for brunch? A few years ago, you’d have seen it on just about every cafe menu but the trend seems to have died down. We — along with CP reader Tim Chapman, who recommended it — are here to remind you of a spot that still serves a very excellent and very OTT version of eggs benedict for when you’re in need of a nostalgia fix: Waterloo Street’s Orto Trading Co. The light and airy cafe’s take on the dish subs bacon with two pieces of fried chicken, making for a very decadent start to the day indeed.

    Elsewhere on the menu, you’ll find blueberry and ricotta hotcakes, truffled scrambled eggs and house-smoked salmon bruschetta. Alongside coffee, fresh juices and smoothies, the cafe also serves cocktail jugs, beer and cider, should you really wish to take this brunch to the next level.

    Image: Cassandra Hannagan

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  • 1

    The Dolphin Hotel, recommended by CP readers Kathleen Carpenter and Natalie Ratcliffe, is an ultra-chic take on the classic Aussie pub. Instead of meat raffles, sticky carpets and super cheap happy hours, there are eye-catching interiors (with swathes of fabric and graffiti motifs), an upmarket dining room, an openair terrace and classy events featuring Sydney hospo legends.

    The food menu offers elevated pub fare with pizza, burgers and steak sitting alongside pappardelle brisket, pork cotoletta and grilled octopus with salsa verde. Of course, there are nods to tradition in the pool tables and wine list, which even features a boxed wine. But it’s an orange wine made exclusively for the venue in Victoria’s Pyrenees wine region so, you know, it’s only bending the rules a little.

    Image: Elise Hassey

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  • 0

    Sydneysiders know a thing or two about beloved creative spaces becoming endangered. Fortunately, sometimes the cries of despair are heard and the venue is saved. In 1984, Nimrod Theatre was saved from redevelopment with droves of theatre lovers forming a syndicate to buy the building. Thus started the new life of Belvoir St Theatre, which was recommended by CP reader Susan Shi.

    More than 30 years on, with government support from the Major Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council and Arts NSW, the theatre is one of the most acclaimed and beloved venues in the country. It continues to play host to the best and the brightest of the arts and entertainment industry. This year will see the return of the blockbuster musical Fangirls (showing at the Seymour Centre), an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and At What Cost?, a production by Nathan Maynard, the recipient of Belvoir’s 2019 Balnaves Foundation Fellowship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island theatre artists.

    Image: ‘Fangirls’, Brett Boardman

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  • 0

    It’s always sad when a beloved venue closes — but it makes finding an equivalent that much sweeter. This was the case for Concrete Playground reader Mariel May Andaya, who told us, “Harpoon Harry never fails. I used to love Goodgod Small Club (RIP) and HH is like its older, more mature brother. (It’s) always a good time.”

    If you’re in need of a little escapism (aren’t we all?), Hotel Harry’s Cuban-inspired venue delivers. With wicker chairs and handpainted detailing, plus Latin influences sprinkled throughout the food and drink menus, Harry’s tries very hard to set itself apart from the traditional watering holes that surround it. And it works, with crowds flocking to the venue for its daily $10 burger and cocktail deal, dance floor and roster of special events, including comedy nights.

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  • 0

    This has to be our favourite Surry Hills recommendation from a CP reader. “My favourite spot in Surry is Strawberry Hills Hotel. The staff members are the most non-judgmental people in the city,” Moore Bakari tells us. They continue, “I once saw a man walk in forgetting to wear his pants and, with a friendly smile and a cold beer, they simply reminded him of his error. That’s what I need in a bar. Pants or no pants, a place that just lets me be me.”

    Though it had a refurb a few years ago, Strawberry Hills Hotel has never lost the charm that made it one of Surry Hills’ best watering holes (if Bakari’s enthusiastic review is anything to go by). There’s an excellent rooftop terrace for sunny days, plenty of indoor seating and stellar daily specials, such as $10 schnitties and $5 tinnies on Tuesdays.

    Image: Trent van der Jagt

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  • 0

    Golden Age is all about recapturing some of the charm that was ‘going to the movies’ before the age of streaming on your commute, from your couch or in the bath. Set inside the revived art deco building Paramount House (also home to Paramount Coffee Project, Paramount House Hotel, Paramount Recreation Club and Poly), the cinema and bar oozes movie magic. The award-winning film program combines old classics and retrospectives with select new releases and eclectic indie titles.

    After catching a movie, pop into the atmospheric bar to debrief over a maple pecan old fashioned or sloe rose negroni. Hungry? Snack on a three-cheese toastie or Messina choc top, or split a cheese board with your companion. The COVID-19 pandemic may have put a pause on some of the venue’s other happenings, including the monthly film trivia night, but it saw the release of Golden Age’s own curated streaming service, Movie Night.

    Image: Cassandra Hannagan

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  • 0

    Tahlia Phillips justified Butter as her pick for Surry Hills in just three words: “Fried. Chicken. Ramen”. The inner city palace of sneakers, fried chicken and champagne has been fulfilling Sydney’s most opulent cravings for almost five years now.

    In that time, the menu has blown out to include smashed beef burgers, Nutella fries and even noodle salads, but the OG offering — fried chicken — is the real reason to visit. You can get a mix of fried chicken wings, thighs and tenders served in a shoebox with hot sauce for dipping. Or, you can have it in burger form, with dashi butter and pickled cucumber. You can even get it sandwiched between Butter’s famous hot cinnamon doughnuts, if you’re feeling really adventurous. And, as mentioned, atop piping hot ramen. Unfortunately, the ramen is only available in winter, but it makes for a very exciting day each year when it reappears on the menu.

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  • 0

    “It’s fine dining Lebanese,” Oliver Keefe told Concrete Playground of their pick, Nour. This sprawling Crown Street restaurant burst onto the scene in 2016 with the bold aim to reimagine Middle Eastern-style feasts. The menu is, of course, designed to share. And while you’ll see familiar dishes and ingredients on there, they’re presented in bold and imaginative ways. Like hummus with wagyu beef tongue and green tomato or the falafel crumpet with tahini, pickled onion and soft boiled egg on the Sunday brunch menu.

    In fact, the Sunday brunch menu is really where the restaurant earns its cred with the likes of Turkish-style scrambled eggs, woodfired coconut basbousa with fenugreek custard and spiced sujuk with stretched curds and sourdough manoush on offer. You can order a la carte (dishes range from $14 to $49 each) or sign on to one of the banquets ($45 or $69). Plus, you can make it boozy with bottomless espresso martinis, Aperol spritzes and Persian spritzes for an additional $49 per person.

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

Top image: Golden Age Cinema, Cassandra Hannagan

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

Top image: Golden Age Cinema, Cassandra Hannagan 

 

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