We’re not sure what it is about Newtown. The suburb isn’t much bigger than other suburbs, and yet per capita, it has the highest proportion of fantastic places to eat, drink and shop in. Dare we say it …the highest in all of Sydney? Newtown’s offering is so vast, that you’ll need to make a plan (like reading this list) to divide and conquer with your crew.
On your marks team, here are our favourite King Street haunts.
Earl’s Juke Joint
From the outside, Betta Meats looks like a butcher shop of questionable cleanliness. When Earl’s Juke Joint took over the space, it left the old façade unchanged. Behind the yellowed curtains and past the bearded bouncer is one of the coolest bars in Newtown. Plugging itself as “NOLA-inspired” (that’s New Orleans, Louisiana), at Earl’s the bourbon flows and the music is top notch.
If you went to uni in Sydney, or you’re still studying, the Marly Bar is an institution. Food is typical but tasty pub fare, there’s trivia on Wednesdays, a bottle shop to refill your growlers with Young Henry’s Newtowner, and on the weekends it packs with revellers faster than you can say “lock-out laws”.
Corrior is as narrow as its name would suggest, but it’s worth the squeeze. The atmosphere is candlelit and moody with a wine and cocktail list good enough to make you want to cancel the rest of your plans and stay all night. The cocktail menu is full of classics like the whiskey sour, cosmopolitan and Manhattan, and the menu is substantial enough to be called “dinner”. Start with fried chicken steam buns, and then share a spicy meat lover’s pizza.
Luxe has a few locations around Sydney, but the Newtown spot just around the corner from the Marly Bar is the original. There’s a full menu, but who needs lunch when you can fill up on towering lemon meringue tarts dusted with red sugar crystals, perfectly rich salted caramel and chocolate tarts or single serve carrot cakes sprinkled with rose petals? Not us.
Pastizzi Café’s crispy, greasy, lovely little Maltese pockets of cheese and meat are so popular; they named the café after them. Sit in and have an assortment for lunch–chicken and mushroom, ricotta and feta, apple cinnamon–and then grab a pack from Pastizzi’s freezer so you can have them on demand at home.
Opening in 2013, Mary’s Newtown led Sydney’s American burger revolution. The atmosphere is one part heavy metal, one part hard core. A recent Facebook posted sums it up: “New Year’s resolutions are for quitters. Bin those good intentions and come and get greasy like the flippin’ legend that you are.” Preach. And we know, it isn't technically on King Street, but seriously, could you mention Newtown without it? Didn't think so.
Neighbour to Luxe Bakery, Miss Peaches cooks up hearty American soul food. There are grits, macaroni and cheese, jambalaya and collard greens with an Inner West twist: they’re actually kale cooked in vegetable stock. Burgers and sandwiches however have a southern twist, like the southern buttermilk fried chicken burger with Cajun corn hash salsa served with a side of fries.
Rising Sun Workshop
The 18-month wait for Rising Sun Workshop to open its permanent location is part of Newtown folklore. Marrickville Council wasn’t keen with a motorcycle repair shop and restaurant combination, so they moved across King Street to the City of Sydney side. Labour was crowd-sourced, with locals pitching in to help gut and refit the old Mitre 10 building. The story of that labour of love is in every rich bowl of ramen at Rising Sun. Broths come in three strengths: light, dark and the monk, a miso-based soup that’s the darkest (and most delicious) of all.
Continental Deli’s tinned food game is strong. Its pun game is strong too. There’s the delicious Neopoli-tin ice cream, the “Yes we CAN” slogans emblazoned on the back of bar staff t-shirts, but as much as we love a good pun, the food at ConTINental (get it? Tin?) doesn’t need any gimmicks. Downstairs is a bar serving a tasty Negroni Spagliato (gin is swapped out for sparkling wine), alongside a cheese, charcuterie and tinned goods menu. Upstairs has a full bistro menu of items made for sharing (the best kind). The heirloom tomatoes and burrata salad is divine, as is the skirt steak finished with a sticky, tasty barbecue sauce.
If you happen upon Bloodwood without a booking, the cocktail menu will actually make you grateful for the long wait at the bar. It’s so good, even the virgin drinks are inspired. The house kombucha comes with watermelon and long pepper, and the chairman kaga is made from sencha green tea, peppermint and agave. But booze is where the menu gets interesting. Electric lady land is tart and fresh with homemade rhubarb syrup poured over vodka with a splash of soda. Riced vovo is made from pandan leaf rum, wild rice syrup, coconut and pineapple and a praline rim. Once you finally get a table, start with the original polenta chips. They come with a creamy, sharp gorgonzola sauce. After that, try anything. There’s not a dish that we don’t adore.
Milk & Thistle
Milk & Thistle is one of the few Sydney designers who still manufacture clothing in Sydney. The style is beautiful, pared back, with a hint of Scandinavian aesthetic. Simple loose kimono sleeve dresses and 90s slip dresses come in strong, solid often neutral colours, and collections are punctuated by lovely prints of abstracts, mountainscapes or horses thundering across plains. Watches are by cult brand The Horse, and shoes are those hard to break in, but incredibly cool-looking Funkis wooden clogs.
Made590 is longish walk past the Enmore Road and King Street split, past a shrinking number of vintage shops, but it’s so worth it. Representing indie designers, many of whom manufacture in Sydney, Made 590 also has its own range of colourful, print-heavy clothing. Crammed with clothes, and knick knacks like ceramic koala head wall planters, colourful tins and charming hot air balloons, the space feels like a kooky artist’s apartment.
Looking for more great things to do? Head here.
Rising Sun | Image credit: Federica Portentoso