Surry Hills is full of surprises, even for a couple of born-and-bred Sydneysiders. Here are some great finds we enjoyed on our girls’ weekend in Sydney’s inner-city suburb using Cambridge Hotel in Riley Street as our base.
Of course, if you’ve crammed your day with sightseeing, you don’t need to be guilted into going out for dinner, as you can order room service (pub-food classics courtesy of The Porterhouse Irish Pub across the road) or devour a plate of homemade pasta in the hotel’s on-site Italian osteria, Baccomatto.
Tonight, however, we’ve decided to venture out and uphold the time-honoured pastime of ‘dinner and a flick’. We’re in Surry Hills’ old ‘Hollywood Quarter’, no less, where the former screening room in the Paramount Pictures building has been reinvigorated as Golden Age Cinema.
Below street level, this elegantly restored Late Art Deco heritage-listed cinema with its dimly lit lounge bar is a real find. Welcoming staff and friendly bar service make us immediately feel we’ve been inducted into Surry Hills’ clandestine world after dark. After soaking up the speak-easy vibe of the bar and back-patting ourselves for this great discovery, we take our choice of seats in the cosy 56-seat theatrette, a glass of crisp pinot grigio in hand.
5.30pm: The cinema’s program features “classics, cults and creepies” in addition to new releases. Tonight’s screening is Finding Vivian Maier, a fascinating documentary that attempts to piece together a portrait of the elusive nanny and maid who secretly took more than 100,000 photographs – many on the streets of Chicago – which were hidden in storage lockers for decades until their serendipitous discovery.
7.30pm: Leaving our fellow filmgoers sipping on Hollywood-inspired cocktails in the cinema’s late-closing bar, we take our debrief across the street to Longrain restaurant. The starter of half a dozen delectably creamy Coffin Bay oysters – au naturel with freshly squeezed lime – quickly multiplies into a dozen, finding its match in a classic Provencal rosé, Petit Rose Tout Simple.
Encouraged by the restaurant’s well-conceived communal dining at long timber tables and its “dishes are designed to be shared” philosophy, we delve into the South-East Asian-inspired menu. Our waitress had us at “special of the day: king prawns with sambal”, to which we add the insanely delicious caramelised pork hock with five spice, served with a chilli vinegar that cuts through the sweetness perfectly. It’s a meal we’ll be raving about well into tomorrow.
Day 2, 10.30am: Below the city-skyline views from our hotel room balcony, the street beckons – namely the shopping strip of Crown Street. Reviving our faculties with an espresso at Pieno café, we recover the ability to speak in full sentences (thank you, coffee) and make a mental note to return for lunch at The Winery, which is adjacent.
11am: The shops on Crown Street are inspired and eclectic. In the window display of Holy Kitsch, an Elvis ‘Day of the Dead’ calavera gives passers-by a facetious death stare amid the riot of Mexican art and “bonewares”.
At the other end of the spectrum, Blank Space, a pop-up gallery space for local artists, is the current home of The Feather Tribe’s elegantly curated collection of works, which range from one-off jewellery to uplifting wall art.
At the famous Messina gelato bar the Palumbo family’s Sicilian heritage finds expression in 40 gelato and sorbet flavours and their signature gelato cake, hazelnut zuccotto. Morning tea ‘to go’ is a small tub of sweet yet piquant mandarin sorbet, which hits all the right notes.
For a further dose of Italian craftsmanship, we stop by Republic of Florence, two doors down, where classic Italian leather handbags and carry-ons – without the premium prices – could surely twist a girl’s arm.
After losing ourselves in retro heaven at TITLE Store, which specialises in old vinyl and new books with an art bent, we find ourselves circling the displays of fashion and accessories like bowerbirds at Pure Magik boutique, which is located in a renovated terrace house.
At the corner of Crown and Davies streets we discover the spiritual home of shoe enthusiasts: The Cook, His Wife & Her Shoes (aka the “personal shoe boudoir” of Regina Evans). The decor says Parisian whimsy while the exquisite heels from European, American, Icelandic and Australian designers are something to make you swoon.
Today, The Cook persuades us to try the black pixie ankle boot by Hoss Intropia and the multicoloured Mary Jane heel from KRONbyKRONKRON, while ‘Geraldine’, a black-and-white suede ankle-strap heel by Chie Mihara, bats her ‘eyes’ at us.
1pm: Back at our starting point on Crown Street, The Winery’s casual garden terrace welcomes us like an old friend. The restaurant’s modern take on the prawn cocktail with large, juicy prawns goes down a treat with a glass of Italian prosecco.
The decadent Champagne Room upstairs, complete with velvety blue booths, a dazzling chandelier-rich bar and Art Nouveau ‘Press for Champagne’ buttons so your flute is always full, is one for the bucket list.
Sipping on a prosecco ‘roadie’ so we can linger longer, we look around and realise we’re not the only chicks hatching plans to return.
If you liked what we did in Surry Hills, you might also enjoy these attractions in the area:
The girls were guests of Cambridge Hotel.