16 September 2013
Falling in love with Newtown - again
Shawn and I have lived in and around Newtown and Enmore for the last 12 years. I first moved to Newtown in 1992 and Shawn has fond memories of driving through as he came up from Canberra on some misadventure. While I revoked my inner westie title for a while, it was always the first place I dreamed of coming back to.
After every trip away we have a ritual of walking up King Street and checking everything out, what's new, what's closed and what's changed. Even after a short trip we always love coming back to our 'bubble'.
We've seen Newtown go through some cycles of change over that time, and lately we've really felt the change to be an interesting one. In the mid part of the last decade Newtown was starting to look and feel a little tired. Most of the pubs were not too friendly (dark and even a little dreary), the Newtown Hotel closed taking with it a hunk of the gay scene, there were lots of uninspiring clothes stores and even fewer great places to eat. The migrant community that made the place more lively was mostly gone and King St felt like an endless strip of Thai restaurants. It sort of just felt a little bit too regular and well, suburban.
The redevelopment of pubs, the rise of small bars, hipster cool and vintage flash sustaining second hand shops, a few fine diners and the just hanging in there book shops are all making Newtown a far more desirable neighbourhood to hang out in. The strip of original store fronts from the late 1800's along King Street gives this street an unmistakable look, a visual treat for architecture nerds.
With change there is loss. We mourn some of the places changed or closed. The Enmore Hotel (now Sly Fox) Saturday afternoon BBQs gave a good free feed to the local old guys who we don't see around anywhere any more. Singapore Gourmet, possibly the oiliest food we have ever experienced is long gone. We also miss So Music, Books on King, Splash Records, the AIDS Charity store, the square centre bar at the Sando, Old Saigon with the tin helicopters, Cordobes pizza place with the painted cockatoos, the bird whistling man, Chico the chihuahua with Dave on his scooter, the Marcia Brady mural, the accordion girl busker, Notes, Oliver the orange pussycat, our two closest corner stores, the old RSL, the old guy who fed logs onto the fire at the Duke, and the gigs and markets held at Burlington Community Hall (tragically closed as a public space and now a restaurant).
The Newtown Festival is a huge affair. King Street traffic hasn't improved. Yoghurt shops have invaded. The Hub still hasn't reopened.
But with loss, there is also life. Bloodwood, Mary's, Midnight Special, the renovated Newtown Hotel, controversial closure of the Sandringham into the Northcote Social Club (still waiting on live music), the renovated train station, Repressed Records, Neighbourhood Centre markets, craft beers at the Union, Young Henrys Brewery, Hartsyard, Black Star Pastry, Suzy Spoon Vegetarian Butcher, Shenkin Cafe everywhere and more new interesting places opening all the time. We've never seen so much coverage of Newtown and Enmore in the SMH and other food mags.
Some things we love have stayed the same: Goulds, Rowda Ya Habibi, Eastern Flair, Fiji Market, much of the graffiti on the walls in Camperdown Park, Sarays, Enmore Theatre, Stacks of Wax, University of Sydney students trying out life, Tamana's, Modern Times Bookshop, Happy Chef, Clem's Chickens, Green and Left activists, endless dogs paraded up and down the strip, downstairs at the Townie. It's these places that provide a balance against the flasher more expensive places popping up, more everyday than special occasion.
While the property prices are driving even more change, we hope Newtown can maintain the spirit of difference it has held on to. Support small independent retailers, have a local beer and avoid the chain stores and Newtown might just well avoid the fate of Paddington and other declining retail strips.
Always was, always will be the best roast chicken on King Street.
210 King St Newtown
Cool tunes seep out of this great small bar, all dark and very groovy.
44 Enmore Rd, Enmore
We liked sitting by the window with a beer, a wine and a plate of cold meats and pickles.
416 King St Newtown
Grab one of their celebrated burgers and a beer, the most expensive serve of Young Henry's around at $7.50 a schooner. Always a great soundtrack playing.
6 Mary St Newtown.
We've never seen this place empty, except on the nights it is closed.
33 Enmore Rd
We love the morning shift for a cheeky beer, sitting looking out at the King St parade.
King St, Newtown