On this enlightening tour, I discovered that the paradoxical nature of Potts Point strikes a perfect balance, making it an exciting and inspiring place to visit. A dizzying mix of privileged living and crippling poverty, urban congestion and green gardens, this suburb is a place of contradictions.
What really sets Potts Point apart is that although it is one of the more upper class suburbs in Sydney, it also encompasses Kings Cross, the city’s infamous underbelly. This unique feature means that the well-off residents of Potts Point have a special understanding of their city’s poorest inhabitants, coming into contact with the homeless every day. For the newcomer, it is a most unsettling experience wandering the streets of Potts Point, where just a few metres away from a swanky restaurant or trendy café, you could easily stumble across a large group of homeless people, a methadone clinic or a strip club. This proximity to those in need has created an interesting culture in Potts Point, a culture where sustainability, supporting the locals and remembering what is really important in life is a part of the mentality. I was lucky enough to be taken on a tour of this vibrant suburb by long-time resident Indira Naidoo, who showed me that Potts Point is anything but your typical emotionless city hub.
Arriving on the train into Kings Cross station, I emerged onto Darlinghurst Road, a street lined with strip clubs, pubs and kebab shops. After walking about 50 metres I turned down a lane way and was immediately transported into a trendy and sophisticated urban hotspot. Our first stop for the day was Room 10 Espresso, a hole in the wall coffee shop in Llankelly Place.
Here we sipped on some of the most sought after coffees in Sydney, while the café owner enlightened us on the Potts Point coffee culture. People come from all over Sydney to enjoy Potts Point’s unique standard of coffee. This café, like others in Potts Point uses a blend of coffee provided by a small company, thereby supporting small business while simultaneously ensuring the highest level of quality. Customers love knowing that their coffee isn’t coming from a commercial giant and that what they’re consuming is something special. Interestingly, the cute café lined lane way used to be one of the worst streets in the area with crime running rampant. It has been transformed by the ever vigilant council, determined to allow these niche businesses to flourish.
We moved on from this hipster haven, where people’s biggest concern is whether their favourite barista will be serving their coffee, to a place where people’s worries are much more profound.
Wayside Chapel, located just a few metres away, is a church largely concerned with providing refuge for the homeless. We catch a glimpse of its simple but appropriate slogan, “Love over Hate”, as we are led to the roof of the building. After the drab and saddening downstairs area of the building, the roof was a shock to the system. As far as the eye could see was an explosion of vibrant, colourful, beautiful plant life; a true urban oasis. We had arrived at the Wayside Chapel garden, a community garden run by the homeless with overwhelming success. This chapel, with its rooftop garden, is a testament to the amazing community spirit of Potts Point residents. The building had previously been condemned and was due to be demolished; however fundraising attempts in the community yielded a massive $8.2 million. This money was used to rebuild the chapel in a completely environmentally sustainable way. The building now uses natural airflow instead of air conditioning, solar panels, rainwater tanks and of course, it also boasts a massive vegetable garden.
The garden provides the ultimate refuge for the homeless, allowing them to connect with nature, rise above the drudgery of the streets (literally), and involve themselves in something of which they can be truly proud. Two homeless people who have worked on the garden are now even employed as professional gardeners by the city council. The garden produces fruits and vegetables used in the Wayside Café, which provides low cost meals to those in need.
Our host Indira explained the wonderful sense of community and connection the garden provides to those who need it the most. She is an ambassador for the garden and explains the true value of growing your own food. Potts Point residents, herself very much included, are enormously interested in the importance of reducing their carbon footprint, using less imported food and becoming more self-sufficient. She explains how growing your own food makes you appreciate the preciousness of each and every morsel. The sense of fulfillment and pride earned from growing food is something which surpasses socioeconomic boundaries, benefiting the rich and the poor equally.
On this note, Indira takes us into her own home, to show us the balcony garden which has changed her life. The author of the book, The Edible Balcony, Indira has transformed her tiny balcony into a bountiful kitchen garden. We were treated to her mind blowing, homemade fresh basil pesto, which was enough to convert anyone to the idea of an edible balcony. Indira explains that an edible balcony takes only 10 minutes a day to maintain, and offers the incredible benefits of reconnecting with nature, while also saving money and reducing your carbon footprint. This edible garden is just another hidden gem, representative of the lesser known, vibrant green identity of Potts Point.
After this temptation of home grown, organic produce, we were taken to a local restaurant to satisfy the hunger which had been awakened in us. Monopole, is renowned not only for its award winning menu and wine list but also for its use of fresh local produce, house made charcuterie and biodynamic, natural organic wines.
We were treated to a selection of dishes which really were something special.
We started with the house made charcuterie plate with pickles ($26 for a selection of 4 or $10 per portion) which was a far cry from the usual uninspired selection of prosciutto and salami. The cured meats included Pork Neck, Duck Breast, Rangers Valley Tri Tip and Beef Brisket. Each had a unique natural taste not commonly encountered in Australia. Seeing the meats hanging over the kitchen was strongly reminiscent of the European dining experience we Australians love. The long strips of extremely salty Duck Breast stole my heart and I sneakily ate far more than my fair share.
Next we tucked into a dish of salt cod, green peas, pistachio & mint ($18). This dish was presented as a mound of creamy mashed potatoes with chunky gems of salt cod distributed throughout. The green peas, pistachio and mint were sprinkled on top. The taste was both salty and creamy with a vinegary tang. The mild flavour of the cod added robustness to the dish without a strong fishy taste. The rich flavours were offset by the refreshing mint and green peas while the pistachios added a textural element without an overpowering flavour. This dish tasted best when spread over some crusty brown bread.
Next we were served a salad of baby cucumber, celery, fennel & pine nuts with rye bread ($16). As a hater of both celery and fennel, this was not my favourite dish. However it was a light and refreshing salad, bursting with moisture and the rye bread pieces added a crunchy and surprisingly flavoursome touch.
Lastly, we were served the spiced leg of lamb, Spanish onion & fetta ($28). Presented in thin slices, the lamb was cooked to perfection; pink in the middle but mercifully devoid of any hint of the metallic taste of blood. The fetta was soft and spreadable with the tell-tale rich creamy flavour of high quality goat’s cheese. A slice of lamb, spread with fetta and topped with Spanish onion was the perfect mouthful.
The dishes at Monopole are perfect for sharing, and after dining there I feel confident that it’s one of those rare places where you can confidently order anything off the menu, knowing that it’s bound to be something special. The use of fresh, local and house made products to create high quality, innovative dishes is characteristic of Potts Point and makes for a guilt free dining experience.
Onwards and upwards, we stopped in at Poho Flowers (a comedic reference to the suburb’s seedy nightclub, Soho) to take a look at some plants that were sadly not edible, but beautiful nonetheless. This small business, run by the charming ex- fashion photographer Barnaby is yet another example of Potts Points’ love of fresh and local greenery. The shop refuses to import flowers, using flowers from the local market to ensure the highest quality whilst simultaneously supporting local growers. The artistic eye of the talented Barnaby ensures that the arrangements are far from boring and most bouquets incorporate something native to give them a unique Australian twist. This is a beautiful small business and yet another little pocket of urban paradise.
Our day ended with a visit to the Potts Point markets which are in the Fitzroy gardens, a location which fittingly bridges the gap between the luxury of Potts Point and the debauchery of Kings Cross. This market sells – you guessed it – plenty of fresh local produce as well as coffee and snacks and is an extremely pleasant way to spend a Saturday. At these markets you can grab one of the famous bacon and eggs rolls, an artisan coffee and some fresh fruit and veg for the week and enjoy Potts Point like a local.
My day in Potts Point left me with the impression that it was perhaps the most interesting and visit worthy suburb in the city. Traipsing to the tourist mainstays like the Harbour, Chinatown and the CBD is all well and good, but if you want to experience some of the uniqueness of real Sydney living, Potts Point is the place to be. Potts Point is a vibrantly creative, diverse village with a flourishing dining industry and inspiring pockets of beautiful garden greenery. It includes people from all walks of life, who contribute to the distinctive and impressive culture and history of this geographically tiny, but artistically massive suburb.
Massive thanks to the businesses who opened their doors to our stickybeaking!
Room 10 espresso
10 Llankelly Place, Potts Point, NSW
29 Hughes St, Potts Point, NSW
71A Macleay Street, Potts Point, NSW
Phone: (02) 9360 4410
2/117 Macleay St, Potts Point, NSW
I Ate My Way Through toured Potts Point as a guest of City Of Sydney