Locals by Locals: Penny Lawson

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It’s time for Edition Two of our Locals by Locals series! This time, explore Potts Point through the eyes, ears and excellent taste buds of PP local and friend of The Old Clare Hotel, Penny Lawson, of Penny’s Cheese Shop, which has recently moved into a beautiful big new space on Macleay. Here, today, on this here journal, Penny’ll help you live life like a Potts Point local! Unearth hidden gems of the hood! Waste no time on bad coffee and get straight to the good stuff. Walk in her shoes below. 

The Old Clare Hotel: How would you describe The Old Clare Hotel to a friend who hasn’t visited before?

Penny Lawson: Well! Downstairs there’s a bar I used to go to post gigs (a long time ago). But now… its location is key. It’s close to so many great things — Chinatown for food, the cinema in Central Park and incredible live performances at Phoenix. The hotel itself is unique, with so many personal details, gorgeous design aesthetic and obviously the rooftop pool is lush. 

TOCH: Can you give a brief intro to the area you spend a lot of your time, Potts Point — the vibe, what you love about it, any notable quirks etc. You recently moved your shop!

PL: I love Potts Point and the community here. It’s a pedestrian suburb with most people getting out and about on foot and there’s always a side street to wander down, floral displays at some of our amazing florists and people eating and drinking at all times of the day. 

TOCH: First up, where’s the best place to get a coffee? Add in any notable details here too! 

PL: My go-to is Primary Coffee on Ward Avenue. Dan, the owner, roasts his own beans once a week and I usually order a filter coffee which is always changing. Not only are the beans great, but they use excellent milk too. Primary doesn’t have a kitchen but they have a great pastry offer from PiOiK Bakery and some Shortstop Donuts

TOCH: How about the best place to kill a few hours? 

PL: Cathy’s tea shop, Ms Cattea Bar. I don’t know anything about tea but having a neighbour like Cathy, who’s an expert, means I’m learning a little. It’s a small tea bar where you can sit and drink tea and meditate, read a book or talk to Cathy or Lucie about tea and life and philosophy. I don’t know, the time seems to slow right down over a gong fu tea ceremony. 


TOCH: And the most hidden of the hidden gems in Potts Point?

PL: Not sure if it’s a hidden gem, but Piccolo Bar is a good time. It’s a pocket-sized bar specialising in aromatised wines (Amaro) and spirits. They serve bar food like hot dogs and a changing seasonal cheese board from us. Also, Bayswater Kitchenette, run by Glenda and Alessia is a local haunt for those craving service with heart and food like Nonna used to make. If you need some comfort food it’s there to give you a big hug. 

TOCH: Where do you grab a great plate of something on the go, if you want or need it?

PL: For lunch I often grab something from Pad Thai Chai Yo — the fried rice with extra veg, seafood or chicken is my favourite. I ask for extra fish sauce and chilli and it takes me straight back to Thailand. There’s also a few good banh mi options at Good Pho Me

TOCH: Most importantly, do you take cheese with her everywhere you go, you know for emergencies?

PL: HA! In winter I sometimes have a “pocket cheese” option to take to the footy. An alpine cheese like S28 from the Adelaide Hills is a good time. If I’m going to friends’ houses I’ll bring the cheese and sometimes if I go to the pub with friends I’ll take one cheese to try. But only if they don’t have cheese on the menu #byocheese.


TOCH: And where would you splash out on a schmancy dinner? 

PL: Potts Point is crazy good for food. There’s so many to choose from. Ezra for Tel Avivian-style — the best Ikra dip and oh my goodness they just put a boureka on with preserved lemon and mozzarella on and it is amazing. Bistro Rex and Bistro 916 have a solid offer of French classics. Cho Cho San is pretty amazing for Japanese.

TOCH: What should folks look out for if they’re hitting the suburb on foot? 

PL: Amazing boutiques and specialised stores like Booty, Mon Petit Choux and Locale. Potts Point Bookshop has hugely knowledgeable staff and a great range… But there’s also an amazing garden that you can go to (maybe with one of our famous cheese toasties)… it is a little walk, but it is so full of tranquillity with a great view — The Arthur McElhone Reserve on Onslow Ave.


TOCH: Any other tips to really immerse yourself in Potts Point and act like a local? 

PL: Head to Llankelly Place. During the day sit at Piña and grab a delicious breakfast and watch the locals get their coffee fix. In the evening its neighbour Dear Sainte Eloise is great for sitting on the lane, with a glass of natty wine and some top-notch snacks whilst watching the world go by.  

TOCH: Last but not least, we know you’ve got a good one. What’s your ultimate tip for a hotel stay?

PL: #byocheese! Or asking the people that work in the hotel where they like to go for good eats, hidden gems and how to get places (check out this very online journal by The Old Clare, Local Concierge!) — local knowledge is always the key to a great stay. 

The Old Clare is a hop, skip, roll and jump from Potts Point. Sign up to our newsletter or book a stay with us, to experience Potts Point Penny style. 

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