Don’t panic, Eden Caceda and Whitney Duan are here to show you the way outside of the university walls.
There are numerous perks a University of Sydney student is privileged with while studying on the Camperdown and Darlington campuses: close proximity to Central Station, the Hogwarts-esque beauty of the Quadrangle and the archives of Fisher Library – to name a few. However, the biggest benefit is most probably the location.
The uni’s surrounding suburbs host a kaleidoscope of culturally diverse restaurants, quaint cafes and great social arenas that are all too often given up for lazy pide and Manning chips on campus.
As a fresher, the sites are too numerous to know where to start, and as a returning veteran, it all seems to have blurred into a vague memory as you visit the same place every time. Expeditions to the exciting terrain beyond campus borders, you will find, often teach you more than the lectures will. Between and after classes, venturing beyond the gates with or without company will certainly cure any hunger, ennui or writer’s block uni throws your way.
So without much further ado, a USYD student’s guide to, more or less, the galaxy.
The first thing you need to know about USYD student cultural life: Access will always be your best friend. At Teru, you get 10% off when you flash that piece of orange plastic. The mosaic of retro posters, mounted on brightly coloured walls, black and white tiled floors, and the oriental wooden partition give this pizza-turned-burger joint an ethnic feel that just you can’t seem to put your finger on. Its large seating area towards the back caters to big groups, making this café a great place to come with a group of friends. Oh, and they do an incredible lamb burger.
Wedged into a small alleyway, this hidden gem is too often bypassed by students. The narrow strip that is The Wedge accommodates one of the most astonishingly original cafes Glebe has to offer. The quirky and quaint bar serves up a truly unique menu of Australian inspired healthy light meals and beverages that far outshines food you’ll find on campus.
Sappho Books Café & Wine Bar
The rich aromas of fresh coffee waft through the dusty aisles of this second-hand bookstore that hides a lively wine bar boasting a variety of tasty snacks. Behind the shelves, the rustic and run-down courtyard being inhabited by tropical ferns is the perfect venue for book lovers to eat and enjoy some Charlotte Bronte. With specialty tapas at affordable prices, Sappho’s is a relaxing place to go with a friend for a quick lunch, read a book or to cuddle with the shop’s resident kitten.
As a main thoroughfare for students bitterly trudging to their lectures, Victoria Park is easily overlooked as a social space. Framed by busy main roads, it’s hard to find a getaway from concrete confines as beautiful and as ambient as this. Whether you’re just looking for a sunbathed picnic on the grass, or feel like getting a breath of fresh air via the scenic route, or feeling adventurous enough to kayak the pond waters, Victoria Park is a student’s Mecca for unwinding from the stresses of tertiary education.
White Rabbit Gallery
Housed modestly in a four-story warehouse, White Rabbit Gallery exhibits an internationally recognized collection of artworks without the pretentiousness or elitism too often associated with the art world. The contemporary Chinese gallery delivers a thought-provoking chorus of political and cultural messages about China, its inhabitants and diaspora post Mao. The vastly diverse and ever-changing collection never fails to astound while their ambient Tea Room provides the perfect climate to vent your awe over dumplings.
Gould’s Book Arcade
From its fading and peeling paint to its postered windows, the tired exterior of Gould’s looks more like a ramshackle news agency than the enormous treasure cave it holds. Every corner of this two-storey labyrinth is stuffed with an impressive collection of second hand books, records, DVDs, magazines, CDs and anything out-of-print. In the lavish chaos of this bookworm’s dream, there’s no promise you’ll find what you’re looking for; it has everything and nothing.
The Pie Tin
The staling pies under the polished cabinet at Pie Face frown bitterly across the road at the mouth of the innocent lane where Newtown’s pie magnate-in-residence dwells. Infamous for its heavenly dessert pies, the café seduces hoards into her chic setting, lusting for a slice of the Oreo pie. Alternatively, for those with a savoury tooth, The Pie Tin’s freshly baked artisan pies come in delightfully generous servings.
The resident theatre for the University crowd is close to all the great offerings of King Street. Hosting an array of foreign and independent films, the interior of the Dendy is refreshing and far from the archetypes of other chain cinemas. If you have a big gap in a timetable or want to take another student on a date after class, the Dendy is a good place to visit.
Newtown dwellers are infamous for living off a toxic diet of local Thai, froyo and beer that dominate King Street. The bustling street alone, before it even splits into Enmore Road, is home to 16 Thai restaurants, 6 frozen yoghurt stores and 21 bars and pubs. Here we collected the top few for each category:
Thai (N.B. Always bring cash, card is rarely accepted)
Experience – ThaiRiffic – Housed in a chic modern casual dining space, ThaiRiffic prevails in all categories – quality of food, atmosphere, service and value.
Value – Thai-la Ong – As a hungry student with a shallow hip pocket, Thai-La Ong’s extensive $7 lunch specials menu will be the answer all your prayers.
Venue – Chedi Thai – Unlike the run down, sticky-walled take-out shops of most Thai places, Chedi Thai fuses Australian dining experience with Thai cultural aesthetics to deliver a tasteful and intimate restaurant appropriate for dinner dates.
Experience – Yogurtland – With self-serve machines, sixteen available flavours, 33 toppings and large seating spaces, Yogurtland offers the best social froyo experience in Newtown.
Value – Zwirl – This tiny froyo shop compensates for its variety and venue shortcomings by being super cheap, being closest to uni, and having $2 happy hours.
Venue – Mooberry – Without doubt the trendiest looking froyo joint in Newtown, Mooberry’s walls are donned with a thick carpet of grass, porcelain stag heads and framed posters and mirrors.
Bars and Pubs
Experience – The Corridor – This easy to pass bar is a really quaint venue to drink at and easy to get to. Nonetheless, the small bar does get crowded very (indeed, it really is a corridor), so try and get in there early with a few friends.
Value – Kuleto’s Cocktail Bar – Throughout the most part of their opening hours, cocktails at Kuleto’s are no differently priced to the same mixed drinks served around Sydney. During their Monday-Saturday happy hour (5:30-7:30pm), however, you can enjoy two cocktails for the price of one. And that’s all you need sometimes.
Venue – Zanzibar – The three levels of this pub on the corner near the cross of King Street caters to all species of drinkers: the bottom pub floor, a more social second floor and a rooftop bar with tables and chairs.
Originally published in BULL Magazine, February 26, 2014.