Once upon a time, the inner city Sydney suburb Chippendale was associated with crime, gangs and drugs; the area was pretty much a no-go zone for much of the 20th century. In 2007 Frasers Property acquired the Carlton United Breweries site and brought a team of world leading architects together to realise its vision of cutting edge urban living preserving the rich heritage of the area. In late 2015 the Kensington Street Dining Precinct was officially unveiled to the public and a laneway packed with 1800s terrace houses was transformed into al fresco dining, shopping, art galleries and creative space. In this guide we show you some of the diverse dining options that Kensington Street has to offer.
The word “Kopi Tiam” is a Malay term for Coffee shop, found in Southeast Asia specialising in meals and beverages. Kensington Street welcomes its own Kopi Tiam offering hawker style street food popular across Asia in Spice Alley. Old Jim Kee is where we seek out classic Penang Char Koay Teow or Nasi Goreng; Alex Lee Kitchen offers Malaysian too but with a stronger focus on Roti and noodle soup such as Laksa and Har Mee. And Hong Kong Diner is where you get your dumpling fix – steamed or fried.
If you are not in the mood for street food, check out Holy Duck located at the ground floor of the Old Rum Store. As the name suggests, they are all about Chinese BBQ and roasts with duck at the heart of the menu. Part of the Chef’s Gallery group, Holy Duck offers a casual and cost-effective menu. A whole roast duck will only set you back $45 and trust us it is worth every penny. We were equally impressed with the Shantung chicken, a crispy skin chicken that has been twice cooked (boiled then deep-fried) and served in classic Shantung dressing of black vinegar, chilli, soy sauce and coriander. The meat was succulent and the skin is as crispy as can be. While you are there check out the burger selection as well as the newly launched dinner menu.
For South-east Asian food, Mekong is the perfect venue for both casual and special occasion dining. Like its namesake river, the restaurant is divided into Lower Mekong (ground floor) – street style South-east food found along the banks of Mekong River and Upper Mekong (top floor) – modern Asian with a special twist. We were dubious when our waitress recommended the house specialty – grilled cabbage – but after just one bite we realised how special this side dish was – the aroma from truffle and chargrill makes this by far the best vegetable dish on the menu. Other highlights include King Prawns, chargrilled pork ribs and Crisp Coconut Crepe with minced prawn and crab meat. On paper at least, filling coconut crepes with seafood and sweet shrimp paste sounds odd. However when the exquisite looking dish arrived we were left in no doubt that savoury seafood was entirely compatible with the sweet crepe.
March this year marked the first anniversary of the one and only French establishment on the Kensington Street dining precinct – Bistrot Gavroche. Housed in a beautiful old rum warehouse, the restaurant respects the historical structure of this timeless Sydney space while creating a traditional Parisian bistro atmosphere that’s unique to the city. For the celebration of the anniversary a special “chef’s table” tasting event was launched to showcase traditional French dishes using the best Australian seafood paired with Pommery champagne. Morton bay bug semi-cooked was served with leek vinaigrette and paired with Pommery Brut Royal NV. The acidity and sharpness in the pickled vegetable cut through the sweetness of the bug while the blend of a third each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the pairing champagne delivered a creamy softness to the palate. One year in, Bistro Gavroche has achieved its purpose and spoilt Sydneysiders with classic French cuisine and ambience right in the heart of the city.
Nothing screams warming and hearty dishes more than Andiamo Trattoria. The restaurant is built on the of concept home-cooked meals using family recipes with some dishes slow-cooked for more than 12 hours. Forget about micro herbs or edible flowers here, what you will find is hearty, honest traditional Trattoria dishes comforting to the body and soul. Nonna’s Homemade Polpette (Italian meatballs) is served in a vibrantly coloured tomato sauce garnished with parsley and Parmesan. The rich sauce is absorbed into the meatballs through the hours-long simmering process and the flavour penetrates every bite. Andiamo is where friends or family get together to enjoy familiar dishes in a relaxing and comfortable setting. This is home-style cooking where you are encouraged to take time out of your day to enjoy simple, honest food.
A special occasion deserves to be marked in style; the trip to Automata was one of our most anticipated dining experiences of the year. The ‘snack’ to begin was certainly a leap into the unknown with a dehydrated fish bladder (!) vaguely resembling a prawn cracker and Shitake mushrooms wrapped in a strip of pork fat. It tasted far better than it sounds! The fish bladder was packed with flavour, even delivering a slight burst of heat to start with and the Shitake mushrooms were almost sweet to the palate. A very unique way to begin. Other highlights included a delicious John Dory fillet served on a bed of burnt carrots, a moreish strip of duck beautifully cooked and balanced by red cabbage and a superb puree and tender Amaebi (a sweet prawn) with an amazing XO sauce reduction. A truly memorable evening of food which at $88 for the degustation also represented great value. The service was efficient and friendly and the venue itself is stylish and contemporary with the kitchen on full display.
Handpicked Wines opened on Kensington Street in November 2016. The name refers to the wine company’s ambition to “handpick wine regions and grape varieties domestically and internationally to bring the world of wine under one label”. Handpicked wines are divided into three tiers – ‘Regional’ (identified by the hand print label) – every day drinking wines showcasing the characteristics of each wine region; ‘Collection’ (black label) – special occasion; and ‘Single Vineyard’ (white label) – limited release. At the cellar door, customers are able to taste six different wines at $10, $15 or $20 depending on the mixture of tiers. Alternatively the tasting flight of four wines, each at 75ml (the equivalent of two glasses), will only set you back $20 with 12 combinations to choose from. Once you have picked a favourite, you can purchase by the glass starting at $10 and enjoy in the adjacent lounge. Handpicked Wines chose to open their first cellar door on Kensington Street to take advantage of its desirable location as the latest dining and lifestyle destination in central Sydney. It’s your one stop shop to sample the best varieties of both Old and New World without even leaving the country.
Crowned “Dessert King” of Masterchef 2015, Reynold Poernomo changed the dessert game in Sydney with Koi. The fine dining patisserie style cafe brings jaw-dropping exquisite desserts to Kensington Street in both takeaway or dine in format. The 6 course dinner set menu is priced at $80 pp and the 4 course dessert only set menu is $15 less. Most takeaway desserts are between $9 and $15, changing daily. At Christmas and on Valentine’s Day, Koi also introduce limited special editions to match the occasion. The hardest part is to cut open the dessert and reveal its inner beauty. Some are mousse cake, some are served in a glass jar and others are covered in a glossy mirror glaze. The flavours range from chocolate to fruit based and each dessert has multi-dimensional texture changing in every bite. Koi re-define the meaning of dessert and broaden our horizons.
Almost two years into its launch, Kensington Street’s revitalisation puts Chippendale back on Sydney’s map for social and urban living. It is a destination location for versatile dining options, art, creativity, and retail shopping. Next time when you plan a casual night out, a friends’ gathering or a special occasion surprise, think Kensington Street.
Find Kensington Street tucked away on the city side of Central Park, just off Broadway and on the eastern fringe of Chippendale. For more information, go to kensingtonstreet.com.au.