It’s time to explore Redfern through the eyes, ears and excellent taste buds of ‘fern locals, The Guardian Culture Editor Steph Harmon and The MCA’s Learning Manager Matt Roden. Friends of The Old Clare Hotel, Steph and Matt spent their first night as a married pair at yours truly, staycationing in the C.U.B Suite. Here, today, on this here journal, they’ll help you live life like a Refern 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.
Redfern by Steph Harmon & Matt Roden
How would you describe The Old Clare Hotel to a friend who hasn’t visited before?
The Old Clare is a bit special for us. Before we even met we both spent many nights at its previous iteration, the dank old student standard pub – playing pool, dodging sticky patches on the mis-matched couches… Once Matt caught a James Dela Cruz DJ-set there!
Lifetimes later we chose the shiny new hotel – elegant, up-market, chic – as our wedding night destination, despite living just down the road.
These days, we frequent the bar as the starting point (or nightcap) for a we-dressed-up-for-this night out.
Do you have a relationship with Chippendale at all?
We’ve lived in the area for the 10 years of our relationship; Steph for another seven before that. Gentrified Chippendale is such a mishmash – an ever-changing mecca of great cafes, restaurants and bars that has somehow retained pockets of historical significance, if you know what you’re looking for. You can still see the mews where the Carlton cart horses were stabled, now family terraces; heritage buildings have been converted into eateries, but with the original architecture intact; and you’re also neighbouring Redfern, Sydney’s other greatest suburb, where Matt worked for nearly a decade. This part of Gadigal country is a hugely important historical and contemporary place for Indigenous Australians. Yabun festival at Victoria Park, NAIDOC Week at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, and the First Nations-owned Tin Humpy, on Redfern St, have all been spaces to listen, learn, and pay the rent.
First up, where’s the best place to get a coffee? Add in any notable details here too!
Brickfields. You can smell the croissants baking across Cleveland St and the sit down breakfasts are amazing – but for a bite on the run we recommend the chilli savoury scone. Get it warmed up.
Best place to kill a few hours?
Prince Alfred Park is full of beautifully designed and enthusiastically sat-upon green spaces, tennis courts, playground equipment and an off-leash dog-friendly lawn – and one of the greatest and most photographable outdoor pools in Sydney.
The most hidden of the hidden gems of the area?
Tucked away amongst overgrown jasmine vines is Sydney’s smallest gallery – the Knox Street Window, on Shepherd St near Broadway. It’s really just a window, and always feels like you’re peeking into another world – and the quality of the art, particularly sculpture and video, is undeniable.
Where to grab a great cheap eat?
Spice Alley (across the way from the Old Clare!) is a very vibey night out – a whole bunch of Asian eateries nestled up to each other under fairly lights in an outdoor market (we love the green curry from Alex Lee’s in particular). But also, can’t go past the toasties at Arcadia.
And where should you splash out for dinner?
We grieved the loss of Pron Prohm Thai Restaurant, a fantastic cheap Redfern spot which for some reason was our Valentine’s tradition – but Ron’s, which took over, is a great upmarket replacement: they kept the decor, fake grape vines included, and the original signage (but they lost the other letters; now it just reads “Ron: a Restaurant”.) Wander down and you’ll find Bart Jr, by George and her team, which has its own bubbling community – and great wine and burrata.
What should folks look out for if they’re hitting the Chip’ on foot?
Take a nature walk at dusk – Chippendale back alleys come alive in jacaranda and bougainvillaea season
Any other tips to really immerse yourself in the hood and act like a local?
Read up on the history of Redfern. Pick your favourite dog at Central Park or Prince Alfred. Pinch some herbs from the community gardens on every other street. Go from the Palace Cinema to the TimeZone at Central Park mall, like you’re 15 again. Make friends with your barista and your bartender – maybe they’ll save you your favourite seat.