This one’s a read for the people who love to explore Sydney’s inner city secrets. 😉
I think it’s actually a pretty funny story about how I found this place. As your typical engineering student, I happen to participate in quite a few drinking ventures and it was in my tipsy state that I stumbled (quite literally) upon this alley.
Central Park is a quite a relatively new addition to the Sydney scene, it’s pretty much your hip, fairly upscale mall mostly targeted as a bit of a shopping and food hub for the university students across the road. What most people don’t notice is Kensington street – which lies perpendicular to Broadway and in the shadows of Central Park. Finished in Sept 2015, I’m actually quite ashamed that I’ve walked past what I thought was construction for many months now!
Once you turn into Kensington, you’ll find the Old Clare Hotel on the right which has boutique accommodation and food for every meal of the day, then a series of many cafes, galleries and artists – all of which match the creative architectural theme of the lane.
Last night, after spending about 9 hours at uni stressing – Chris and I hopped on a bus and hopped off at UTS and turned into Kensington Street. It really is quite an unassuming little lane but with so many unique quirks that I don’t think you could find anywhere else in Sydney.
From what I’ve gathered from little research – Kensington Street is a revival of old, unloved warehouses and cottages. The designer/architect has revitalised and maintained many of the original features of the old terraces, transforming them into the perfect quaint dining area.
Once we walked past the little closed boutique outlets (this was at about 8:30pm), we turned into Spice Alley to find a little piece of Asia in Sydney. It was still fairly crowded at this hour so Chris and I weaved our way through the people to get an idea of what food was offered and what could settle our rumbling bellies. There are 4 “hawker style diners” in this lane way – all displaying different cuisines of South-East Asian street food. I love that they kept the novelty of being able to see your food being cooked in a massive flaming wok, but kept the smoke away with a glass screen so that the entire alley wasn’t full of smoke. We settled on a Thai-fused-Vietnamese place Bang Luck where Chris ordered the holy basil with chicken and I got the pork belly with chilli jam and then went to find a nice place to sit.
I think the most magical part of this dining experience is where you eat. In the alley, there are many fold out tables and chairs you would find while eating street food in say, Vietnam but then there are also the renewed terraces where you could bring your food and eat inside.
While Chris was ordering our food, I walked around looking for a place to eat. First I settled on your standard fold out chair and table, before moving to an indoor setting in one of the open terraces – right by a glass wall that looks out onto Kensington Street. Then, I did a little more wandering and went upstairs onto the terrace balcony that gave us a view of the lane below – the perfect spot.
It was here that we settled down to nhom on our food. Unfortunately, Chris’ holy basil meal was really surprisingly spicy so he didn’t quite enjoy it but my pork belly was pretty delicious – the right amount of spice for me and oh my goodness those vegetables were the best level of crunch I could’ve asked for. Never thought I would like vegetables more than the meat but maybe I’m changing.
The food was not spectacular, but there’s something about having a plate of humble comfort food on a terrace balcony under the lights of street lanterns that makes you feel at home. Just the atmosphere of eating here was amazing, and I could overhear so many people saying that it felt just like being in Asia.
At the very end of Spice Alley is quite a delightful surprise – Reynold Poernomo’s (MasterChef 2015) Koi Dessert Bar. Unfortunately we didn’t get to try his stuff but if anyone has please comment your experience down below!
I would highly recommend visiting Kensington Street and Spice Alley if you’re in the city – if not for food then for artistic design and atmosphere created.