Sydney's CBD fringe suburb Chippendale has fast become the city's new eating playground,
where Michelin-starred chefs dish up breathtaking plates next door to hawker;stalls and
hipster pubs, delicious, subeditor (and Chippendale local) David Matthews hits the streets.
An industrial slum, then a student hot spot, followed by Sydney's most exciting suburb. That's a brief history of Chippendale, the tiny precinct tucked between four main roads and Central station, just south of the CBD. For someone who watched (at least the back end of) this development over almost ten years - with nights spent clambering over couches at The Clare and hitting up Purple Sneakers parties in the Abercrombie Hotel -this change has been astounding. Students and creative types took advantage of cheap housing and turned the area into a cultural and creative hub where galleries exhibited local work, restaurants popped up in buildings scheduled for demolition and community gardens covered nature strips in back streets off City Road.
But the spectre of the old Carlton United Brewery, that had stood for over 150 years, still lurked. 2005 saw it close. Development started in 2010. Flash forward to 2016 and the revolution is complete. Central Park and the Kensington Street precinct are finally open, and around the heritage-listed brewery is a shopping centre, a world-class hotel, top restaurants and the tallest vertical garden in the world thanks to French botanist Patrick Blanc.
The picks here are the places making the new Chippendale what it is, driving the wave sweeping through the area, putting the 2008 postcode firmly on the map and keeping it there for the future.
THE NEW CASUAL
Five courses for $88 (plus plenty of snacks) leaves no excuse for not checking out ex-Momofuku Seiobo chef Clayton Well's Automata, especially when they're this good. The menu changes constantly, but an early visit in indicative of the style - crisp endive hearts are glazed in violet mustard as starters, the outer leaves envelope quail and burnt apple later in the night. Bar snacks such as burrata injected with shellfish oil are a great excuse to try sommelier Tim Watkin's varied drinks list too, featuring sake and skin-contact wines.
A Michelin-starred chef with more pedigree (and restaurants) than you can shake a stick at, all day service, killer cocktails - Vegemite martini included - and a sense of Old World charm with an industrial edge. Kensington Street Social, from British chef Jason Atherton, feels like a big deal, landing in The Old Clare with a flurry of poise and polish. It's a big machine in brass, concrete and glass where British touches highlight local ingredients - the curry butter served with WA marron and burnt lime (pictured), for example - and the execution is top level. Kale, dressed with pear and bottarga, soaks up sea urchin butter while spanner crab plays off cucumber gazpacho granita. The kicker? Breakfast is tops, too, and less than $20.
EYE FOR DETAIL
Expect no less than eight courses from former Noma chef Sam Miller at Silvereye and that's the 'express lunch' (dinner will last about 11 or 17), While ample, the menu - snack-heavy and keenly focused - never feels a slog. Spanish mackerel is cooked lightly over coals and served with three types of cucumber, salt-baked beetroot is sliced thin and dressed with blackcurrant, and skin-contract wines and drops from small producers work with the airy fit-out to keep you engaged all the way.
NEW AND OLD
Diehards may or may not appreciate the lobby bar's beer-stain inspired carpet and the $5 Resch's that's kept on the menu as a nod to the popular pub's past, but like it or not, revamped The Old Clare Hotel is slick, suave and retrospective all at once with its luxe finishes set against exposed brick walls. And yes, that's a bathtub in the middle of your room. Grab a rose, dip your feet in the water and stare out at the city from the rooftop pool and bar, or use it as a launchpad to explore the suburb and the shopping at Central Park. One more bonus? Kensington Street Social runs room service and breakfast, so you know it's good.