Well, well, well. If it isn’t your favourite hotel suburb guide: Locals by Locals. For September’s edition we enlisted friends of The Old Clare Hotel, and owners of Cafe Freda’s and Abstract Thoughts Gallery, David Abram and Carla Uriarte to share insights on how to help you live life like a Darlo local! Unearth hidden gems of the hood! Waste no time on bad coffee and get straight to the good stuff. Walk in their shoes below.
The Old Clare Hotel: How would you describe The Old Clare Hotel to a friend who hasn’t visited before?
David Abram and Carla Uriarte: The Old Clare Hotel is tastefully fitted out in warm tones with lots of lovely detail. Its original bones might be old, but it feels fresh, friendly, familiar and just the right amount of fancy.
TOCH: Can you give a brief intro to the area you spend a lot of your time, Darlinghurst?
DA: I grew up close to Darlinghurst and spent many late nights enjoying the bar and club scene that was once such a prominent part of Oxford Street and its surrounds. This formative experience directly influenced my desire to open a bar (the original Freda’s, a bar and live-music venue, in Chippendale) when the City of Sydney introduced Small Bars Legislation in 2007.
After lock out laws decimated local businesses including clubs and bars, it’s now beginning to sprout back to life with lots of small operators coming back to the area.
One of the great features about Darlinghurst and its history is its prominence as a LGBTQIA+ community culminating in the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras every year that brings a lot of life, colour and fun to the local area. We love being part of this community.
TOCH: Not many people could successfully turn a concealed nightclub concept into a welcoming bar on a busy intersection. How much would you attribute that to the original Freda’s community?
DA and CU: It’s always been our intention to focus on culture, the arts and community and to provide this in as much of a friendly and open environment as possible. This doesn’t mean it is only limited to only one kind of space. Even though the old Freda’s was more of a late-night venue for dancing, and Cafe Freda’s is more like a European wine bar, the soul of the businesses is the same, and as a result our community has followed us along this journey (and hopefully beyond). Sometime in the not too distant future we’d love for our next iteration to combine the best of both of these spaces – we really miss having a dance floor.
TOCH: Ok. It’s 9am — where’s the best place to get a coffee?
DA: It’s hard to go past Articifier on Bourke Street which is a staple of the local community and serves up consistently great coffee regardless of whether you prefer espresso, cold brew or milk coffees — it’s all excellent.
TOCH: How about the best place for a drink and snack, after you’ve left Cafe Freda’s, of course?
DA and CU: We really love Yachiyo on Victoria St. It’s delicious home style Japanese food with Suntory Premium Malt beer on tap. They also do great lunch specials.
TOCH: And the most hidden gem in Darlinghurst?
DA and CU: Maillot on Oxford Street is the coolest shop in Sydney that we feel a lot people may not know about. They sell a range of curated global street fashion. We also love Southwest Traders next door which specialises in Native American jewellery sourced from artisans. Also, Abstract Thoughts Gallery — our secondary space located next door to Cafe Freda’s which hosts regular exhibitions (Wednesday openings, 6pm till 9pm), curated markets, live music and other events.
TOCH: Where do you grab a great plate of something on-the-go?
DA and CU: It’s hard to go past our neighbours and friends at Dimitri’s who are putting up some of the best pizzas in Sydney.
TOCH: What about when you’ve got your tax back and have a spot of spare cash to splash out on a schmancy dinner?
DA and CU: Bar Vincent is a must. A beautiful little restaurant run by really experienced hospitality professionals. They just do everything right from food through to the service and a well-considered wine list.
TOCH: What should folks look out for if they’re hitting Darlo on foot?
DA and CU: There are a few good little pockets off the main streets such as the zone where Pass~Port, Pam Store, Stussy and Carhartt are located. Make sure you explore the laneways and alleys as well as Crown and Oxford Streets.
TOCH: Any other tips to really immerse yourself in Darlo and act like a local?
DA and CU: There are finally some new clubs opening, such as queer space Heaven just a short walk from us, which is now hosting seminal Sunday party Pavlova Bar. So make sure you get in touch with Darlinghurst’s long history as a late-night haunt and dance till your legs fall off.
TOCH: Last but not least, we know you’ve got a good one. What’s your ultimate tip for a good hotel stay?
DA and CU: Make sure you get acclimated with the hotel bar and pool as soon as possible 😉