Thursday, 3 January 2013

Sydney and the Excellent Weekend! (Pt 1)

So, I have this buddy, and we go to lots of live music gigs together. Every other year, we try to find a gig in Sydney, to give us an excuse to go down for a relaxing weekend of food, beer and shopping. Oh, and whatever the gig is. We stay in the CBD, and this time we had a super-fun four days at the beginning of December, to give us strength to face the holiday season.


Charlie and Co. Roadside
Chicken and Bacon Burger
We arrived in the CBD around midday, and checked in to the hotel, etc. Then, the first place we went after that was the new Westfield. Sydney CBD gets hella busy in the weeks before Christmas, and this new shopping centre was no exception. Great burgers in the food court, though.

Itty Bitty Basement Bar Crawl
Saturday evening, around 5pm, we took ourselves out. I had been researching places to drink, and found a bunch within a ten block radius that, coincidentally, were mostly basement bars. Sydney might be having some kind of trend or something, I don't know. Anyway, I don't know if what we did could strictly be called a bar crawl, exactly, but we went to four bars in one evening, and they were all downstairs or in basements, so...

  • The Assembly: Come in off Kent Street, or go downstairs in 501 George Street. Assembly is a great bar, hidden away, with dark timber interior and some nice beers on offer. There's an "outdoor" beer garden in the foyer outside, with astroturf and a tiny picket fence. 
  • Mojo Record Bar is in the basement at 73 York Street; go downstairs, past the record store, and through the door to the underground bar. As a huge music fan, this was possibly the best bar I've ever been to in my entire life. The walls are covered in band and gig posters, and framed cover art from classic LPs. The music they play is awesome; we heard Talking Heads, Nirvana, James Brown, Stone Roses...
  • Stitch Bar is also on downstairs on York Street; keep an eye out for the sewing machines in the tiny front entry way. Once you're through the tiny doors, they've got a surprisingly amount of space, with a great old-time-speakeasy aesthetic and a big old bar as soon as you walk in. The bar serves some amazing drinks, from cocktails to high class whiskey, and while we didn't try the food, the stuff other people had looked (and smelled) really awesome. 
  • Grandma's Bar: Is tiny. And furnished like it's half Tiki bar, half your nana's house. Hence the name, probably. The bar itself is cramped and a little hot, but the cocktails and jaffles (jaffles!*) they serve make it worth it.  
So, we had a fairly glorious start to the weekend, and even though it made it a touch harder to get up on Sunday morning, an itty bitty basement bar crawl is totally worth doing!


The following morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed at a relatively reasonable hour and walked down to Circular Quay to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. Sadly, most of the levels were closed, as they were hanging new exhibits that were about to open (which we would miss out on, bad timing). 

(Photo from (There's some excellent
photos of the exhibit on that blog.))
But what was available was very good. They were showing Volume One: MCA Collection, which is a selection of the gallery's permanent collection, specifically pieces by Australian and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. There were drawings by Vernon Ah Kee, video art and paintings by Richard Bell, sculptural pieces by Ross Manning and Nicholas Folland, photography by Rosemary Laing and Tracey Moffat... I found it a strong and unique collection.

After the gallery visit, we walked around to Opera Kitchen for lunch by the water, and then took a ferry ride around to Darling Harbour, via the Luna Park stop. (Is it just me, or is the fact that the Luna Park clown face thing has eyelashes really creepy?)

We walked around the harbour for a while, then headed up into the CBD again for some shopping. I have a huge weakness for Kinokuniya, the massive bookstore in the Galleries Victoria. I love it, I could stay there for hours. This time, I escaped with only two purchases - very restrained!

We decided to head to a bar for a drink - it was only 3pm in Brisbane, but that meant 4pm Sydney time, so it was a totally appropriate hour for a beer - and we found an old-man bar** on Park Street that was miraculously offering jugs of James Squire for $7.50. So we had a few of those, and sat around listening to Cold Chisel and Crowded House (and oddly Jurassic 5 and a Tribe Called Quest).  

Then: RAMEN. We went to Ichi Ban Boshi for dinner. This place is a favourite, and has been since our very first trip to Sydney. It's almost a tradition to go and eat our weight in delicious fresh ramen noodles; some trips we go more than once, and the extended belly you get from noodles and soup and beer is like a badge of honour. (Unfortunately, the restaurant is next to Kinokuniya. Fortunately, the bookstore was closed by the time we got back there.)

After delicious ramen, we rolled ourselves back home to our hotel room, and collapsed in front of the TV. We wanted to be in good form for the next day - you've got to pace yourself - so we took it easy.

Tune in for Part 2!

*I understand we have some international readers. For those of you who don't know, a jaffle is a grilled sandwich, but more awesome because it's made in a jaffle maker (which is almost like a waffle iron but for sandwiches). They usually contain cheese or some combination of ham, cheese and tomato, but you can also use anything from chicken to tinned spaghetti to bolognese sauce to apple and cinnamon sugar. These sandwiches (and experimenting with fillings for them) are a valuable childhood relic, and exactly the sort of thing your nana made for you because eating would shut you up for five minutes.

**Someone asked me what constitutes an old-man bar. An old man bar is the kind of bar where you get a wave of stale beer smell from the carpet as soon as you walk in. The kind where there's a drunk in the corner discussing things loudly with the bartender, regardless of whether said bartender is listening. The kind where there are TVs showing only sports, and they've always got specials on XXXX or Vic Bitter. The kind where half the exterior walls - and interior walls -  are covered in glazed tiles, the kind where the bathrooms are dodgy. Old-man bars. Good times.


  1. Old man bars are awesome. They usually have the best and cheapest food.

  2. Thanks for posting Jane! I may have to head to some of these places mentioned. I have just booked flights and accomodation for April :).

  3. P.S. Kinokuniya is one of my favourite bookstores too. Hubby loves their huge architecture section too :).


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...