Sydney’s Hidden Gems
In Sydney, you never know what treasure you will chance upon especially when you aren’t looking out for something in particular. Every nook and cranny hides a treasure just waiting to be discovered, and only a local would know about these special gems. We had the absolute privilege to visit Sydney recently and after much sleuthing, we are proud to bring you this list of 10 hidden (literally) hangouts in Sydney to impress your friends with.
1. Savour sweet treats at Gelato Messina Dessert Bar
Everyone knows about the amazing ice-cream they have at Messina, but few people know about the swanky little dessert bar they have at their Darlinghurst outlet.
What’s particularly interesting about Messina Dessert Bar is that they have frequent collaborations with notable names in the F&B industry like the current big name on the menu: former Hartsyard pastry chef Andy Bowdy. The result is a tantalizing concoction of sweet treats that are unique to the name behind the creation.
Visitors can expect to savour delectable sweet treats like the Maddison ice-cream sandwich - think choc fudge cake soft serve with mint slice clusters, choc mint ganache, mint marshmallows and chocolate cookie sandwich.
If ice-cream sandwiches aren’t your thing, you can opt for a cone like the Damo which is essentially a banana cake (!!!) soft serve sundae with passionfruit curd, peanut butter cookie, dulce de leche, peanut butter crunch and milk choc caramel dip.
The menu changes frequently so do be sure to check out their website to find out what is currently on offer.
Address: 243 Victoria St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday 12noon to 11pm | Friday to Saturday 12noon to 11.30pm | Sunday 12noon to 11pm
2. Savour one of Sydney’s best burgers at Mary’s
Mary’s by far is one of the most unique places I’ve visited in Sydney. Housed in a discreet building just off the main road in Newtown, there’s no indication the building even houses a restaurant barring the single red light bulb hanging above the doorway.
The first thing that hits you when you step inside is the decor. Dimly lit with motifs of the grim reaper and metal music blasting in the background, you might think you’ve just stepped into the midst of a cult ritual. Then, you catch a whiff of the delicious aroma of fried chicken and burgers and you know you’re in the right place.
The chicken is succulent and flavourful and the burgers absolutely divine. I attribute it all to the magic aioli, but in truth all elements came together beautifully. No chicken and burger meal is complete without some beer and with a beer menu that is at least five times bigger than their food menu you know you just have to.
Address: 6 Mary St, Newtown NSW 2042
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday 4pm to 12am | Friday to Saturday 12noon to 12am | Sundays 12pm to 10pm
3. Delight your tastebuds with Cafe Cre Asions’s Japanese-themed desserts
Situated just outside the bustling Sydney CBD lies the unassuming Cafe Cre Asion, home of Asian-inspired sandwiches, desserts and beverages. The decor itself is quintessentially Japanese with its minimalist design and wooden accents.
Many have hailed this as the best matcha cafe in Sydney. Must-try items include the matcha fondant and the matcha latte as well as the many Asian-inspired macaron flavours like yuzu, hojicha and black sesame.
If sweets don’t tickle your fancy Cafe Cre Asion also offers savoury sandwiches like the braised pork neck sandwich amongst other flavours that are also worth trying. Do also remember to pick up a bag of their matcha & macadamia cookies before you leave!
Address: 21 Alberta St, Sydney NSW 2000
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm | Saturdays 9am to 4pm | Closed on Sundays
4. Go back in time at The Soda Factory
This iconic sign reminiscent of the 1950s will greet you when you arrive at The Soda Factory. Best known for their gourmet hot dogs and American-style food and not to mention delicious cocktails, The Soda Factory is fast becoming a popular chill out space amongst the locals.
The plush arm chairs and retro decor give this place an other-worldly vibe, almost like a speakeasy from the past.
With live music, good food and ambience, this is a good place to kickback and have good fun with some friends, but owing to the noise probably not ideal for dates. While the entrance itself warrants a visit, you’ll definitely want to make a trip down to The Soda Factory for a unique Sydney dining experience.
Address: 16 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday 5pm to 12am | Thursdays 5pm to 2am | Fridays 5pm to 3am | Saturdays 6pm to 3am | Sundays 6pm to 12am
5. Grab a schooner (or two) of hand crafted beer at Young Henrys
There is no place more perfect for your afternoon pint than this one-of-a-kind brewery in the heart of Newtown. From its first brew in 2012, Young Henrys has stuck to their mission of brewing local beer that the local community would be proud to call their own.
When in Newtown you definitely have to try the Newtowner, a summer ale first curated in celebration of the town’s sesquicentenary that is now a permanent brew on their menu. Fruity and with just the right amount of bitterness on your palate, I don’t drink much beer but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Apart from beer, Young Henrys is also famous for their cloudy ciders, different from your usual cider which is typically clear. The reason for the cloudiness is because the people at Young Henrys try to keep their cider as natural as possible. Juice from a mixture of Royal Gala and Pink Lady apples is fermented and then mixed with light carbonation with no other additives or preservatives.
Young Henrys is also a popular presence at festivals, gigs and sold at a variety of restaurants, so be sure to look out for it wherever you are!
Address: D & E, 76 Wilford St, Newtown NSW 2042
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 10am to 7pm | Sundays 12noon to 7pm
6. Grab a lobster roll from Waterman’s Lobster Co
Tucked away in an alley at Potts Point, Waterman's Lobster Co. has become a new hangout spot for many locals and tourists alike. While it is only about 4 months old, this bistro and bar has garnered a following for its two signature lobster rolls.
Whether you prefer your roll 'Maine-Style' or 'Connecticut-Style’ doesn’t really matter because both variations make use of the sweet and tender flesh of the American Lobster to perfection.
Waterman’s is still relatively new to the scene and that’s why many people aren’t too familiar with it yet. I also have to admit that it isn’t the easiest place to find or get to. But if you’re willing to put in the effort, Waterman’s is a quiet place to have a lobster roll, some fries and a glass of wine. Now, if you ask me, that combination sounds heavenly.
Address: 5/29-31 Orwell St, Potts Point NSW
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 12noon to 12am | Sundays 12noon to 6pm
7. Laze your afternoon away with coffee and cakes at Bourke Street Bakery
This chill bakery is located in one of the quieter parts of Surry Hills and makes it the perfect place for a lazy afternoon with a book or chatting the afternoon away in the company of friends.
Bourke Street Bakery is, as its name suggests, a bakery, but it also offers savoury sandwiches and other hot food like pies for a fuller meal. In winter, Bourke Street Bakery also serves some amazing soups in the winter so be sure to look out for those.
My favourite is the pork and fennel sausage roll, an iconic Australian snack that Bourke Street Bakery executes to perfection. Pair that with an iced coffee or iced chai on a warm day and you have the ideal midday meal.
Bourke Street Bakery has many outlets around Sydney but we recommend going to their outlet in Surry Hills. Visit their website to find a Bourke Street Bakery closest to you.
Address: 633 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Opening Hours: Weekdays 7am to 6pm | Weekends 7am to 5pm
8. Satisfy your midnight munchies at Chat Thai
When all the shops have closed, your stomach is grumbling and you’re wandering aimlessly in the city, Chat Thai is just the place you need. Serving authentic and affordable Thai fare and desserts, one will find all their cravings satisfied here.
Chat Thai reputedly does a wicked mango sticky rice that some say is even better than the ones found in Thailand. Another popular dish is also the dough fritters with pandan custard that seems plain but is extremely addictive.
Another great perk is that they have a supper menu with dishes like Thai wanton noodles going for a mere $5! Based on personal experience, going in a group and ordering a bunch of stuff to share is the best way to have a Chat Thai experience.
Chat Thai has several outlets across Sydney. Do check out their website for a list of locations!
Address: 20 Campbell St, Haymarket NSW 2000
Opening Hours: Daily 10am to 2am
9. Join the Emperor’s puffs queue at Chinatown
If you’re ever in Chinatown and wondering why there’s a long queue outside a seemingly nondescript bakery, I suggest you join the queue yourself to find out why.
Served piping hot and practically bursting with warm custard, these puffs are definitely worth the wait, especially in winter.
At 35 cents per piece and $5 for 20 pieces, it’s really a no brainer for how many you should get. They also sell cold puffs at the shop next door, but I strongly advise you to just wait in line because they taste amazing warm.
Address: 75 Dixon St, Haymarket NSW 2000
Opening Hours: Daily 7am to 11pm
10. Taste one of the heartiest ramen broths in Sydney at Gumshara
Hidden at the very corner of the Eating World food court at Sydney’s Chinatown lies the the king of all ramen in Sydney and my personal favourite: Gumshara.
What is unique about Gumshara is the fact that their soups are all thick and hearty, unlike your typical ramen soup that tends to be a bit thinner. Gumshara also prides itself on being MSG-free, with all flavour from the soup coming from 120kg of pork bones and water cooked over 7 days. They also have a variety of soup bases to choose from including Tonkotsu, Shoyu and interestingly a fish-based soup as well!
Aside from their very affordable prices, they also offer free-flow pickles and other condiments to go with your noodles. I highly recommend ordering the ramen with the pork sparerib. After trying a bowl of noodles from Gumshara you’ll never want to have ramen elsewhere again.
Address: Eating World, 25-29 Dixon Street, Haymarket Sydney, NSW 2000
Opening Hours: Mondays 11.30am to 8.30pm | Tuesday to Saturday 11.30am to 9pm | Sundays 11.30am to 8.30pm
Bonus: End your day with the spectacular Darling Harbour fireworks
Nothing beats the sight of fireworks lighting up the night sky above Darling Harbour. This weekly event is an attraction on its own and has been enthralling locals and visitors alike. Do be sure to head down to the harbour early to secure spots with the best views. My personal favourite is the steps just in front of the IMAX.
There aren’t many signs or boards telling people about the fireworks so it’s easy to miss this spectacle if you didn’t already know it was happening. Do check out their website here for a detailed schedule.
Address: Darling Harbour, Sydney NSW 2000
Hidden Hangouts Waiting To Be Explored
Sydney is so much more than just the Opera House -- many treasures await if only you know where to look! The next time you’re thinking of hitting the town for a night (or day) out, be sure to check out one of these hidden hangouts for a true blue Aussie experience.
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