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A local's guide to Kings Cross and Potts Point
The area is back to its vibrant, immigrant heyday. Cafes, bars, restaurants -- one resident samples the best of what's on offer, all in one very busy day
I’m a biased, Potts Point local, but believe me when I tell you the area’s renaissance (including little brother, and non-suburb Kings Cross) would do New York or Paris proud.
It’s returned to its vibrant, immigrant heyday of the 50s, we locals say, when it was the city’s bohemian epicenter.
From the neon signage, strip clubs and tattoo parlors of Darlinghurst Road to the tree-lined avenues and Art Deco apartments of Potts Point, this crowded corner of the world encompasses the best (and some might say the worst) of what Sydney has to offer.
It has given birth to more cafés, restaurants and drinking establishments than any local could get through in six months.
But I have made a vow on this Saturday to have enough coffee, eat enough food and drink enough cocktails to bring on a buzz of epic proportions.
Every morning, diners fill the cafés and spill out onto Challis Avenue, dunking their croissants into long blacks at Fratelli Paradiso Bakery, while further up the road at Zinc people are doing business over newspapers and its famous home-cooked baked beans.
- Fratelli Paradiso Bakery, 12-16 Challis Ave, +61 (0)2 9357 1044
- Zinc, 77 Macleay St, +61 (0)29358 6777
But my first stop for the day is, as usual, coffee at Yellow Bistro (also known for its exquisite cakes). Today is going to require stamina, so it’s a no-brainer: I add scrambled eggs on toast with smoked salmon and balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes to my coffee order.
- Yellow Bistro, 57 Macleay St,+61 (0)2 9357 3400
Afterwards, I pop across the road to admire Saskia Havekes’ amazing floral arrangements at Grandiflora. I’ve been lucky enough to receive some of her amazing handiwork on occasion. I’ll just buy an armful of her prettiest, pinkest roses.
- Grandiflora, Shop 1/12 Macleay St, +61 (0)2 9357 7902
Markets and breakfast
On Saturday mornings, we locals like to meet and greet at the Kings Cross markets in Fitzroy Gardens, home to the El Alamein Fountain. Growers bring in fresh produce -- some organic -- while there are also stalls for cheese, meats and cakes.
My second caffeine fix for the day comes from the Toby’s Estate stall –- I have to line up, but the organic coffee is worth the wait. Here, I meet up with my local food buddy, J, who shall join me on today’s cornucopia of consumable delights.
- 6/81 Macleay St, entrance on Manning St, +61 (0)2 8356 9264
From there, it’s a matter of market choice: Will it be the mouth-watering gozleme from the Turkish ladies or a ham and cheese crêpe, or something else?
J goes for the egg-and-bacon roll -- at the end of the longest queue at the market. I’m a sucker for sweet things, so I have a breakfast dessert in the form of a lemon curd slice.
Clearly, we’re going to need to work off some of the morning’s offerings with a little shopping, window or otherwise.
Our initial stop is Macleay on Manning -- the first of the design-led shops to move into the area. I’m still coveting the Limoges porcelain and Missoni towels, while J admires the interiors tomes.
- Macleay on Manning, Shop 1, 85 Macleay St, +61 (0)2 9331 4100
Across the road is Becker Minty’s flagship store. I try on a selection of vintage jewelry, whilst J admires the offerings before leaving with a Cire Trudon candle.
- Becker Minty, Shop 7, 81 Macleay St (enter on Manning St), +61 (2) 8356 9999
By this stage, it must be time for another coffee (three and counting). Our favorite newcomer is Room 10, in the recently reinvigorated Llankelly Place (more on that later). We decide to sit on stools in the mall among the hipsters, and suddenly feel a little old. Ahem.
- Room 10, 10 Llankelly Place
We do like to consider ourselves rather literary-minded, so we pop in to the Macleay Bookshop, which has been a favorite for local bookworms since the early 1950s. I love that the books are all lined up horizontally, as the original shelves can’t accommodate most modern paperbacks.
- Macleay Bookshop, 103 Macleay St, +61 (0)2 9358 2908
Restaurant options when darkness falls
Once the sun goes down, Potts Point’s charms really come into their own. (As does the seedier end of Kings Cross, although the locals largely avoid this on weekends.)
Llankelly Place, just around the corner from the fountain, has changed enormously from just a year ago. What was once a seedy laneway has now been transformed into a buzzing food destination.
Should we tuck into the Xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) at Bamboo’s communal laneway tables? Or will it be the thin-crust pizza with potato, rosemary and feta at Mad Pizza?
- Mad Pizza Pronto, Shop 5, 23-31Darlinghurst Rd, +61 (0)2 9356 2850
- Bamboo Dumpling Bar, Shop 67, 23-31 Darlinghurst Rd, +61 (0)404 745 393
No, tonight we’re going to start at LL Wine & Dine, our home away from home in the ’hood. We take our favorite spot at the front bar for a coconut & chili martini -- as hot as it is cooling.
We’ve spent so many evenings here, when the Barge brothers -- Tim, Chris and Matt -- have regaled us with tales of the bar’s former life as the Ecstasy Bookshop (where a whole lot more than reading used to go on).
We decide to consider this our entree destination, and have a plate of the pork belly rolls –- tiny make-your-own variations on yum cha staples. And just one more martini. We’ll have to save the deep-fried soft-shell crabs for next time...
- LL Wine & Dine, 42 Llankelly Pl, +61 (0)29356 8393
True locals know that you don’t want hip bars and fine dining every night of the week, and for those nights when only comfort food will do, Maggie’s is the place to go.
We head to the Austrian schnitzel house for a serving of its chicken (me) and veal (J) schnitzels, served with a mountain of the most buttery, satisfying potato rosti imaginable.
- Maggie’s, 50 Macleay St (enter on FitzroyGardens), +61 (0)2 9331 2226
Once dinner is done, it’s time for a nightcap. Right next door to Maggie’s is Velluto, a tiny bar with sandstone walls, black velvet curtains – and cocktail master Briën Tanti’s delicious white chocolate martini, complete with floating Maltesers. After a schnitzel, I do consider this to be the perfect dessert.
- Velluto, Shop 7, 50 Macleay St (enter from Fitzroy Gardens), +61 (0)2 9357 1100
Two (or is that four?) martinis down, it’s almost time to call it a night, but J and I decide on just one last tipple. So we head back towards the “Paris end of Potts Point,” as the locals like to call it.
Tucked behind its restaurant is Lotus, a sexy little bar encased in golden Florence Broadhurst wallpaper and manned with another cocktail master, Petr Dvoracek. We like to set tasks rather than just read from the menu, and we are never disappointed.
- Lotus, 22 Challis Ave, +61 (0)2 9326 9000
Thankfully, from here it’s just a very short walk (downhill) to our respective abodes and some very sweet dreams – unless the caffeine has its evil way.