Glittering Bondi and gritty Chippendale might seem like polar opposites yet both of these Sydney neighbourhoods promise cool eateries, an always-on atmosphere and plenty of surprises. Discover the best of both.
The best of Bondi
It’s home to one of the most iconic stretches of shoreline but there’s more to Bondi than the beach. The backpackers are absent for now but the seaside enclave is alive with locals and visitors enjoying its cafés, restaurants, bars and designer shops to a soundtrack of waves and the scent of salt water and sunscreen.
With its name borrowed from the Hebrew word for “marketplace”, Shuk stands out among Bondi’s many popular brunch destinations for its vibrant Israeli and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Falafel, hummus, baba ganoush and an excellent shakshuka all make an appearance, as do favourites like avocado on toast and housemade granola.
Enjoy a frosty one
The fine-diner upstairs may garner the accolades but the more casual Icebergs Club Bistro (pictured top) below offers classic Aussie bistro fare (think burgers, parmies, pots of mussels) and beer on tap. Cool off after finishing your seafood platter with a few laps in the iconic Icebergs pool, named for swimmers who brave the water every morning, even in chilly conditions.
Walk on water
Tracing the sandstone cliffs that frame the coastline between two of Sydney’s best beaches, traversing the six-kilometre Bondi to Coogee Walk is a local rite of passage. Take in the ocean vistas, seasonal whale watching or the annual Sculpture by the Sea and refuel with a coffee at Sea Salt Clovelly on the beach.
Sample seaside fare
At Sean’s, seasonality is key to the ever- changing menu, with many of the eatery’s ingredients sourced from chef Sean Moran’s farm in Bilpin, outside Sydney. Whether it’s hand-rolled chestnut gnocchi, fresh, fried and fermented vegetables or the signature roast chicken bathed in gravy, a meal here is both unassuming and unforgettable.
Where to stay: QT Bondi
QT Bondi is the ultimate beach pad: there’s surf-inspired artwork in the lobby and its minibars are stocked with thongs, dominoes and a beard-grooming kit, along with the obligatory refreshments. Borrow a QT surfboard to hit the waves just two minutes away or take a bike for a spin.
The best of Chippendale
Once a warehouse-filled commercial district, inner-city Chippendale has been transformed into a thriving, cosmopolitan precinct. Wander its tree-lined streets with their heritage buildings and green spaces to uncover striking street art and galleries, historic pubs and lauded restaurants. On the fringe of the CBD and bordered by two university campuses, the neighbourhood buzzes day and night.
Take a culinary journey
A collection of nine casual eateries with alfresco tables arranged under red lanterns, Spice Alley is the last word in Asian-style street food in Sydney. If you’re in the mood for something more intimate and gourmet, book a table at Automata, where head chef Clayton Wells’s set menu showcases clever spins on seasonal ingredients and deft culinary techniques. Dishes change often but the lighter-than-air angasi oyster cream with caviar is a consistent and memorable opening mouthful. Go all-out with the drinks pairing.
Head down the rabbit hole
Among neat residences on a tree-lined backstreet, White Rabbit Gallery specialises in 21st-century Chinese art. Founded by collector and philanthropist Judith Neilson, the four-storey space stages themed exhibitions of sculpture, painting, prints, video and installations that are thought-provoking – and free. The gallery’s street- level teahouse provides the ideal place to debrief post-exploration. Opening 6 March, Lumen features an artwork that produces actual cracks of lightning.
Visit a gin joint
Despite being tucked inside one of Kensington Street’s diminutive 19th-century terrace houses and named for a bleak but beloved 1750s English artwork, Gin Lane offers a contemporary take on the titular spirit. Choose from one of the dozens of gins on offer, gathered from Australia and abroad, and sip a G&T. Alternatively, let the house mixologists craft you something a bit more creative, such as the Lightbulb Moment, served in a fog of liquid nitrogen.
Make room for dessert
It’s all about the sweet finale at KOI Dessert Bar. The downstairs counter is filled with fruity creations, while the upstairs dining room offers a set four-course dessert menu (with some savoury snacks) that includes co-owner and MasterChef Australia alumni Reynold Poernomo’s pistachio, matcha and yoghurt Moss.
Where to stay: The Old Clare Hotel
The respectful makeover of The Old Clare Hotel, a former boozer and brewery HQ, has boosted Chippendale to the top of the short-stay hit parade. The guestrooms are filled with heritage accents and the rambling complex also features a stunning rooftop pool and bar and the noteworthy Automata restaurant.