16 September 2013

Falling in love with Newtown - again

It often takes some time away to appreciate the things you see everyday. We love living in Newtown and here's our love letter.

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.

Clem's Chickens
Always was, always will be the best roast chicken on King Street.
210 King St Newtown
Clem's Chicken Shop on Urbanspoon

Midnight Special
Cool tunes seep out of this great small bar, all dark and very groovy.
44 Enmore Rd, Enmore
The Midnight Special on Urbanspoon

We liked sitting by the window with a beer, a wine and a plate of cold meats and pickles.
416 King St Newtown
Bloodwood on Urbanspoon

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.
Mary's on Urbanspoon

We've never seen this place empty, except on the nights it is closed.
33 Enmore Rd
Hartsyard on Urbanspoon

Newtown Hotel
We love the morning shift for a cheeky beer, sitting looking out at the King St parade.
King St, Newtown
Newtown Hotel & The Animal on Urbanspoon


  1. The whistling guy! I miss him and his wiry shirtless frame, and the way that he would twirl that stick.

    Whatever happened to Jesus of St Peters? I haven't seen (or smell) him around those parts in years. God bless him and his torn boxer shorts.

  2. I've been living in Newtown for about 18 months and it is pretty amazing... It is what you want it to be more than any other suburb in Sydney. Want food from Thailand, Korea, Japan, Turkey, Lebanon, Italy, etc you have it in spades... Want to hang in cool bars with the hipsters, you got those... want to hang in the pubs with the rockers, you got those... want to check out antique stores, got those... want to get your hair braided at the african hairdressers or go for a 50's retro look at the other joints, got those too... oh maybe I just want a tattoo or a piercing, heaps of places for that too... and I haven't even started on how easy it is to get to Glebe, Marrickville, Enmore, CBD, etc... I could go on and on... I fell into living in Newtown (I was originally looking around Leichardt/Annandale) and for the first year I would usually go out in the CBD, Surry Hills, or Glebe but the last 6 months i've made an effort to get to know my hood. My sister who's lived in Fitzroy Melbourne for over 7 years now when she visited recently couldn't believe how much Newtown had changed (she used to be a regular when she was still a Sydneysider). I don't even go out that much but there is an energy to this suburb that lifts me when I get home.

    1. Wow, now that's a love letter. It has changed a lot in the last few years (and so has Fitzroy, a place I always love visiting in Melbourne) and we love it to bits.

  3. Do the Mary's Burgers worth the hype?


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).