The neighbourhoods of Redfern and Chippendale that nudge up to the southern end of Sydney's CBD are virtually unrecognisable to how they looked a decade or so ago – warehouses have been converted to chi chi apartments, galleries and trendy workspaces.
As a result, good things to eat are mushrooming in the area, and it's arguably the go-to district for a joint fix of things cultural and culinary. We joined a tour of the area by Culture Scouts (culturescouts.com.au), beginning at Carriageworks in Redfern and moseying on through to Chippendale.
From Redfern station it's a five-minute walk down a leafy street to the Carriageworks Farmers Market, held Saturday mornings in a lofty old railway workshop. Dozens of regular stalls set up here and the best way to begin is by grabbing a coffee at the entrance – you'll be served it in a ceramic cup which you return on your way out.
There's plenty to excite in terms of local produce: cult favourite Pepe Saya butter, dense sourdough and flaky French pastries, an array of cheese, charcuterie, Fish Butchery's delectable smoked seafoods, and depending on the season, interesting fruit and veg such as sweet-sour kumquats, and the new-to-me tropical achacha fruit.
Redfern is littered with cafes, juice bars, and bars serving something a little stronger – we make a mental note to return to local favourite watering hole Arcadia Liquors at a more appropriate time of day. A far more acceptable option at mid-morning, as we cross into Chippendale, is a pastry and coffee from Brickfield Bakery – luckily we're not after a table as the place is fair heaving.
Much of the action in Chippendale is centred around the block or two that was, until very recently, hidden from view by a tall brick wall which enclosed the factory and workers' quarters of Carlton United Brewery. The tasteful, mixed-use development has seen the construction of the sustainability-focused and glintingly modern Central Park precinct, and right next to it, the redevelopment of the brewery quarter's heritage buildings.
On Kensington St, petite workers' cottages now house wine cellars, bars and eateries. Those sweet of tooth make a beeline for dessert restaurant Koi, while the lane tucked in behind is great for a casual lunch or dinner at Spice Alley with its half a dozen hawker-inspired Asian eateries.
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Come evening, the easy option was also the most delicious. Given we were staying at The Old Clare Hotel, the hotel's bar beckoned for an aperitif with some local friends before we nipped next door for dinner at Automata. Our meal there was outstanding – a tightly choreographed tasting menu in an elegant space patrolled by well-versed waitstaff. Chef Clayton Wells' food is beautifully presented and comes packed with pleasant surprises, while managing to feel unpretentious, at a very reasonable price point.
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