Get away from the tourist clichés in Potts Point, one of Sydney’s trendiest and most vibrant of suburbs.
Live like a local…
When does a tourist cease to be a tourist? Where does a traveller stop? Sometimes one comes to know a place so well that one moves beyond the whirl of ‘must-sees’ to a deeper appreciation. Maybe you just want a different angle on a city. It becomes nice to immerse oneself in an area where the locals actually live, with an everyday infrastructure on the doorstep and great neighbourhood restaurants and cafes that don’t break the bank.
One such area in Sydney is Potts Point. This sits below the notorious Kings Cross, beloved still of stag parties and sailors and the city’s fairly minor red light district. Even this has its attractions but go down the hill to Potts Point and you will find yourself in some of the most expensive apartment real-estate for trendy people in Sydney. The area retains a faintly Bohemian air, people gossip on the sidewalks and have favourite corner shops. Woolworths sits next to boutiques for the lady who lunches, the Indian newsagent is opposite the store for the dog who has everything , the laundrette is cheek by jowl with one of Sydney’s best delis - and there are great bus and train connections. Potts Point simply scores 10/10 on great places to live and play.
Potts Point is a great shopping destination with Macleay Street being the centre of the action. A personal favourite is Macleay on Manning (85 Macleay Street; +61 2 9331 4100) whose corner boutique always has stylish larger-than-life homeware. Perspex ladders appear to be ‘in’ ($1250) alongside giant glass vases and funky striped towels. Their fake furs throws ($300) are so realistic as to be worth buying!
Blueprint (46a Macleay Street; +61 2 9331 3488) is another homeware store with lots of quirky and cool items. Next door, Becker Minty Woman (46 Macleay Street; +61 2 8356 9908) is a gorgeous clothes and accessories shop.
The Potts Point Bookshop (14 Macleay Street; +61 2 9331 6642) is beautifully presented and has a wide and well chosen collection from glossy table top tomes to war stories. There is an excellent travel selection. Arida (61 Macleay Street; +61 2 9357 4788) and Tyrone Dearing (12 Macleay Street; +61 2 8354 0724) are worth a look to see how the smart Sydney houses might be furnished though you may have problems carrying any purchases home.
Pampered pet back home? Check out Paws Point (50 Macleay Street; +61 2 9360 6463): the designer dog toys such as the ‘koko chewnel perfume’ and ’ruff lauren’ are brilliant ($16.90).
Restaurants and cafes galore…
For breakfast, I love La Buvette (35 Challis Avenue; +61 2 9358 5113): grab a coveted pavement table and join the survivors from the night before to revive over a coffee. Buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup are great ($13.50) or try the bubble and squeak ($16.50).
The Yellow Bistro (57-59 Macleay Street; +61 2 9357 3400) is another good breakfast choice though lunch and dinner are pretty good too. They have a little shop where you can buy their delicious cakes - I love the strawberry and mascarpone ($8) or the New York cheesecake ($9 ). Locals pop in for their takeaway vacuum sealed meals.
The Macleay Street Bistro (73a Macleay Street; +61 2 9358 4891) is one of those great locals that you always wish you had on your doorstep. A simple white room, it has a reliable menu: the eye fillet with beetroot puree is a speciality ($36) but I had delicious barramundi with leek, fennel and vongole volute ($33). They have an interesting specials board - lamb’s brains anyone? Puddings are $14.50 - the passion fruit Eton mess was yummy - and it’s BYO (corkage $7).
Fratelli Paradiso (12-16 Challis Avenue; +61 2 9357 1744) is another long established local with breakfast pastries from their on-site bakery to rustic hearty Italian cooking in the evening. The chalk board menu in Italian might be challenging but I can vouch for the lasange ($20) and their lightly battered calamari.
Right next door is Lotus (22 Challis Avenue; +61 2 9326 9000) seriously sexy with noisy, closely spaced tables and Asian influenced cooking. Their chic backstage bar is a popular watering hole.
Just around the corner…
Venturing only a little further afield opens up another world of possibilities: in the ‘Cross’ is Hugos (33 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross; +61 2 9332 1227), one of those scarily trendy places where the waitresses are even more glamorous than the clients. Enjoy such combinations as pork belly pizza with radicchio on a thin crispy base ($28) or pumpkin with gorgonzola ($20). Later the action moves to their upstairs bar, one of the ‘in’ bars of the area.
On the other side of Kings Cross, Darlinghurst is a vibrant spot. If hungry, grab a bottle of wine at the excellent Camperdown Cellars opposite and curl up at Una’s (340 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst; +61 2 9360 6885). Waiters come with lederhosen and the enormous meals with sauerkraut on the sides but the schnitzel and rosti with jaeger sauce ($19.50) is guaranteed to fill the biggest gap. They also do huge breakfasts.
For pudding, skip the strudel and go across the street to Messina (241 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst; +61 2 8354 1223) for excellent ice creams ($3.9 one scoop/$4.9 for two); I like the peanut butter and gingerbread or their pavlova with heaps of strawberries and crushed meringue.
Malabar (274 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst; +61 2 9332 1755) has some of the best Indian food in Sydney with superb dosas: a filled crepe. Their banquet menu is great value at $35/head. The simple room has a fascinating Maharajah photo in black and white down one side.
I also like Fishface (132 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst; +61 2 9332 4803) for sophisticated fish and chips.
Bottega del Vino (77 Macleay Street) has a good wine selection plus their own reliable ‘cleanskins’ (unlabelled bottles) for $10. They do great sourdough bread and some yummy dips and cheeses. Also good is The Deli - Potts Point (65 Macleay Street; +61 2 9358 1266) which does tasty mini frittatas, quiches and seriously solid cakes: try the lemon meringue or chocolate cheesecake ($7.50).
Visit the Croissant d’Or (117Macleay Street; +61 2 9358 6014) for croissants and pain au chocolate. There is a farmer’s market in Fitzroy Gardens at the Cross every 2nd and 4th Saturday and a craft one on Sundays: both good places to graze at the food stalls.
One of Sydney’s great little theatres is the Darlinghurst Theatre (19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point; +61 2 8356 9987; www.darlinghursttheatre.com) which will usually have something interesting on stage.
A mere twenty minutes walk from Potts Point, the Palace Verona Cinema (17 Oxford Street, Paddington; +61 2 9360 6099 shows a select assortment of the latest shows plus foreign language and art house films. Advance tickets for on www.palacecinemas.com.au. ($17 a ticket).
If you do one tourist thing…
Elizabeth Bay House (7 Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay; +61 2 9356 3022; www.hht.net.au; entry $8) was built in the 1830’s in the Greek Revival style. It is tucked away just below Macleay Street and well worth a visit for its fine rooms, grand staircase and great views.
Macleay Lodge (71 Macleay Street, Potts Point, NSW 2011) has simple double rooms with shared bathrooms from $70: great value for this area. Their sister hotel round the corner, Challis Lodge (21 - 23 Challis Avenue, Potts Point, NSW 2011) offers a similar standard within an old Victorian mansion with doubles from $70 or $80 ensuite.
Victoria Court (122 Victoria Street, Potts Point, NSW 2011; Doubles with breakfast $100 - $130 ) is a traditional Victorian hotel with well presented ensuite rooms and a good continental breakfast with newspaper.
The Maisonette Hotel (31 Challis Avenue, Potts Point, NSW 2011) has some good value deals from $89 for a double ensuite; centrally located, the rooms are fresh and spacious and come with kettle and microwave.
Macleay Serviced Apartments (28 Macleay Street, Potts Point, NSW 2011; +61 2 9357 7755; www.themacleay.com) has smart apartments with a harbour view from $160, as well as a pool and room service from the local restaurants.
Something in reserve…
I always leave Potts Point feeling I have missed something, a well reviewed new restaurant unvisited or an old favourite not fitted in, but then that is one of the area’s charms. There are just so many good places that one never has the time - but what a perfect excuse for a return visit one day.