By Julie Earle-Levine
After years of swaggering self-promotion, the dream is finally coming true: Sydney really is on the verge of joining the ranks of the world’s great cities. Sydneysiders are starting to rise to the top of the fashion, art, architecture, and food worlds. (Not to mention the city’s Hollywood connection: Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, and Nicole Kidman call the city home.) With success comes prosperity—apartment prices have doubled in the past five years and the stock market just broke the magical 5,000 mark—and there is no end in sight. The country is primed to become America’s gateway to China: This year, the Opera House introduced guided tours in Mandarin, Qantas started flying direct from Sydney to Beijing, and Prime Minister John Howard started negotiating a free-trade agreement with the Chinese premier. Of course, big successes also bring problems—big-city problems. The riots that exploded in the southern suburb of Cronulla in December divided the town along ugly ethnic lines. Sydneysiders were forced to take a long, hard look at themselves. Then Howard announced, “I do not believe Australians are racist.” That nasty business over, they’ve gone back to wining, dining, beaching, and generally enjoying a quality of life—hyperbole alert—unmatched in the world. - J.E.
If you like the City Club’s oversize glass showers, you’ll love the soaking tubs at Establishment.
If you like the historic feel of The Library, you’ll love the Chelsea Guest House.
If you like the harbor views from the Ritz Carlton Battery Park, you’ll love looking out over the Opera House at Park Hyatt Sydney.
Glossary: Sydneysider Slang
Bottle-O: Liquor store, where you load up on a “slab of amber fluid” (a case of beer).
Budgie smugglers: Speedos, also called “dick pointers.”
Crack a coldie: Open a beer, quite possibly over a barbie.
Dinkum: Real, genuine.
Dog’s eye: A flaky meat pie.
Fancy a cheeky shampoo?: Want to get a drink?
Good on ya, mate: Thanks a lot.
Pacific peso: A$1; i.e., 70 cents.
Pom: A Brit (“bloody Poms”).
Root rat: Sex addict.
Shark biscuit: Surfing novice, a kook.
Spunk: A hottie, especially a male (“what a hunk of spunk”).
Westies: From the Western suburbs; i.e., the bridge-and-tunnel crowd.
Step Into Liquid
The city has 40 beaches to choose from, and each has its own style, from its most famous, Bondi, to Palm Beach, Sydney’s version of the Hamptons. Surf lessons are a cliché, but one you should indulge in wholeheartedly. And if you’re gonna learn to shred, it ought to be with Tony Morley, one of a team of mostly blond-haired, tan pros at Lets Go Surfing, a school at North Bondi known for its small classes and highly trained instructors. Morley, 26, has been surfing since he was 10 and specializes in teaching beginners to stand up on Bondi waves, which look tame but can have gnarly rips (A$69 for two-hour group classes; 61-2-9365-1800).
BONDI - Yes, it can be a tourist trap—expect busloads of Japanese visitors and swarming British backpackers—but without the crowds, it can be truly gorgeous. To experience the quiet, beautiful Bondi, go at 6 a.m. for laps with the locals along Campbell Parade; after, have an espresso at the Bondi Tratt (61-2-9365-4303), serving “brekkie” from 7 a.m.
TAMARAMA - Barely-there bikinis rule at Tamarama, a tiny beach around the cliff from Bondi that’s big on attitude and style. Prime flaunting hours are weekends, from noon to 4 p.m. Stop by the Beach Café (61-2-9130-2419) for a fresh mango smoothie. Don’t miss the regular surf lifesavers’ drill, when good-looking, athletic bodies scramble into the surf and power through the waves. If you feel like you might need to be rescued, this is the place to do it.
MANLY - Families go to Manly Beach, on Sydney’s northern shores, for laid-back surf breaks. Leave the city from Circular Quay; it’s a quick trip by ferry. If you miss the boat back, wait for the next one at the Manly Wharf Hotel (61-2-9977-1266), a good spot for a Carlton Cold and a bird’s-eye view of the dock.
PALM - An hour’s drive from the city, Palm Beach is a glamorous day trip, especially in a ragtop—or even better, by private seaplane (Sydney Harbor Seaplanes, 61-2-9388-1978). Aussie film types, financiers, and other movers and shakers own mansions at “Palmie” and lunch at the Beach Road Restaurant (61-2-9974-1159). Try the roasted blue-eyed cod.
BALMORAL - Balmoral Beach is like its own small island, with lovely swimming beaches: no surf and no rips to worry about. Don’t drive here—parking is impossible—just catch the ferry or bus from Circular Quay. Every weekend in summer, there is free Shakespeare in the Rotunda. Go to the Bathers’ Pavilion (61-2-9969-5050), a changing shed from the twenties that’s now a chic light-filled café and restaurant: the perfect spot for sundowners right on the beach. -J.E.
PLACE TO BUY FISH YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF -
Christie’s SeafoodsSydney Fish Market (61-2-9552-3333) Go at ten on a weekday to avoid the early-morning rush. Christie’s, the first shop on the left-hand side as you walk into the New Arcade, sells the sea: from sweet, pink king prawns to black-lip abalone. Select your fish, and have it cut for sashimi or cooked to order at the grill counter. Christie’s has tables, but sitting by the docks with screeching seagulls is more fun.
WAY TO GET PIPES LIKE RUSSELL CROWE’S - Kayak Touring, The Spit Bridge, Mosman (61-2-9960-4389) On a half-day guided kayak tour of Sydney’s Middle Harbor, you’ll work your way past waterfront mansions with megayachts and the serene Garigal National Park with its bush vistas and stunning sandstone formations. Expect to see bandicoot below and white-bellied sea eagles soaring overhead. (A$99 for three and a half hours).
SHITKICKERS YOU CAN’T GET AT HOME - R.M. Williams389 George St. (61-2-9262-2228) Now that the whole Ugg debacle is more or less behind us, go for what Australia does best: leather boots (cowboy and others). Guys should buy the Comfort Craftsman in chestnut, black, or the new must-have tone, whiskey. Sheilas (that’s Aussie for fair-dinkum women) should snare the black suede Aberfeldy boot with white stitching. Neither is available yet at R.M.’s Manhattan store.
PLAN FOR NOT GETTING RIPPED OFF - Hogarth Galleries7 Walker Lane, Paddington (61-2- 9360-6839) Dodging the tourist traps of Sydney’s Aboriginal art scene is a bit like unguided shopping for diamonds on 47th Street. Stick to Hogarth, the oldest commercial dealer in Australia with the hottest painter around: Rosella Namok, a 26-year-old abstract artist who paints with her fingers. -J.E.
THE TOP FIVE Seafood Restaurant
1. If you can’t score a beach-view table at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, hit nearby Swell for plump Sydney rock oysters and crispy skinned salmon (61-2-9386-5001).
2. For four-star fare to rival Eric Ripert’s, there’s only one option: Tetsuya’s. A confit of trout served with daikon and fennel is chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s signature dish (61-2-9267-2900).
3. At Glass Brasserie, demand a table close to the open kitchen to watch (if you’re lucky) chef Luke Mangan prepare your line-caught barramundi, served whole (61-2-9265-6068).
4. Foodies hang out at Flying Fish, in inner-city Pyrmont. Ask for a table on the outside deck and try chef Peter Kuruvita’s spicy Sri Lankan snapper curry with basmati rice (61-2-9518-6677).
5. Golden Century is as crowded, noisy—and delicious—as Joe’s Shanghai. Fish and crabs are brought wriggling to your table before being dispatched to the kitchen (61-2-9212-3901). -J.E.
TREND -D.O.M. Pubs“Dirty old man pubs” are making a comeback—especially those that haven’t been renovated and therefore still have charming features like spittoons underneath the bar. Try the Darlo in Darlinghurst, the historic Cooper’s Arms in Newtown, the Nelson in Bondi Junction, the Shakespeare (a.k.a. “the Shakey”) in Surry Hills, or the Beauchamp, which just reopened in Paddington. -J.E.
Antiques Road Map - The new neighborhood for old things.
Sydney is the oldest city in Australia, settled in 1788, so the antiquing is fabulous. Not only are there treasures still to be found, but the favorable exchange rate makes shopping here a much better deal than in, say, London. Start at Anne Schofield Antiques, known for its stunning South Sea pearl earrings, then make your way along Queen Street; stop for lunch at Bistro Moncur before venturing toward nearby Oxford Street for the grand finale: the Woollahra Antique Centre, with 50 shops. Avoid Sundays, when many stores are closed.
1. Anne Schofield Antiques36 Queen St. Jewelry—Georgian neoclassical cameos, French Deco baubles—from the eighteenth century to the fiffties.
2. Simon Johnson55 Queen St. Not antiques but a gourmet store worth a stop: Buy the preserved lemons and satay paste to bring home; salt caramels for the walk.
3. The Art of Wine & Food80 Queen St. Everything from absinthe glasses to hippopotamus-tooth corkscrews.
4. Howell & Howell84 Queen St. Antique mirrors, lamps, and stools from France, Italy, and Spain.
5. Tim McCormick’s 92 Queen St. Rare books, prints, and maps; ask to see the Colonial manuscripts.
6. Three Antiques stores in a row 104-108 Queen St. Tortoiseshell brushes and vintage pens at Michael A. Greene, early-Victorian dining tables and chairs at Gaslight, and unusual pieces like a Charles X cherrywood birdcage at Martyn Cook’s.
7. Bistro Moncur116 Queen St. Break for a bistro lunch: Order the grilled sea scallops or the popular pure pork sausages with potato mash.
8. Woollahra Antique Centre160 Oxford St. The three best specialty shops: Cast, Tin and Other Toys; Art Nouveau; English and Continental Glass. -J.E.
WHERE TO DRINK NOW - Kings Cross
Acclimate at the Crest Hotel’s Goldfish Bowl bar, right above Kings Cross station, where all the Westies arrive by train. Watch the world outside through greasy windows, with a chilled, A$3 schmiddy in hand.
Dine across the street at Bayswater Brasserie. It’s a bit like Balthazar and caters to a young, savvy fashion-and-art crowd. Bartender Naren Young serves stiff drinks: Try his Shanghai Charlie.
Move on to LadyLux, just off Darlinghurst Road. The best nights, Fridays and Saturdays, tend to be packed with a model-gorgeous crowd. Secure a spot on the guest list by e-mailing mailto:Rochelle@ladylux.com.au.
End the night at the Bourbon, formerly the Bourbon and Beefsteak. The place has great history: Originally it catered to GIs on R&R leave from Vietnam.
DOWN UNDER FASHION DECODER
There’s a parallel universe Down Under: The fashion looks familiar, but the names (and the prices) are not. Right now the Sydney boutiques are putting deep discounts on their remaining summer stock. To take advantage of the seasonal flop, start at the Centennial Park end of Oxford Street, and shop your way north.-J.E.
From left to right:Jayson Brunsdon = a young Yves Saint Laurent
Lisa Ho = Vera Wang
Josh Goot = Helmut Lang
Lover = Marc Jacobs
Kirrily Johnston = Proenza Schouler + Jil Sander
The hookers are out in full force after 2 a.m. (Prostitution is legal here.) Time to call it a night. -J.E.