Neither of my twin daughters — who despite being as close as two bugs in a rug, live adult lives in the near-antipodean cities of Melbourne and Manchester — nor my long-suffering friends, will be surprised that I’ve just spent a beery couple of days in Sydney.
They might be a bit surprised that it happened in Chippendale and surrounds, though they shouldn’t really be.
The inner-city suburb was, after all, where my first "serious" girlfriend lived and where I later honed my journalistic skills. It was also just across Broadway from Glebe and Ultimo, where I lived for many years and worked in menial, student-type jobs.
The main difference between then and now lay in the standard of beer, food and digs.
This time I was staying at the Four Points Sheraton, a hotel so new that even cabbies hadn’t yet entered its location into their sat navs, and I had to direct them through the substantial and quite impressive concrete gateway of the old Tooths brewery and into the confines of Central Park Avenue.
There, GM Bernhard Langer and his team are running one of Sydney’s finest properties. Its restaurants and rooms will suit all but the most fastidious.
My suite on the 18th floor looks straight down Broadway to where it bends slightly at Central Station just before it becomes George St and heads down to Circular Quay. The view is outstanding … as are the appointments and facilities.
Even being on the top floor doesn’t dull the hot-water pressure and I get down to desk-top lighting before I find fault.
One of my first tasks at Four Points is to try its new beer, named Chippend-ale.
I can vouch for its quality and for its compatibility with the casual fare in the hotel’s bar, named appropriately in light of the area’s history as Malt.
Later in my stay I also try out the hotel’s more formal Central Quarter grill, which has started to already build a reputation for the quality of its meat. That’s hardly surprising given the quality of the eye fillet I’m devouring.
It’s a good match for the Teusner Barossa shiraz I’m drinking. Take some advice, though, and do order a side dish or two. Even some chips can stop the steak from looking a bit lonely.
The opening of Four Points constitutes one of last pieces of the jigsaw that has seen the transformation of a very working-class suburb into something very trendy.
Chippendale — a near-rectangle bounded by Regent St, Broadway, City Rd and Cleveland St — has since the mid-1830s been absolutely dominated by the Kent Brewery, whose initials I surmise provided the name for Tooths’ most popular beer.
The brewery is still a key ingredient of the suburb, but these days in the form of the Central Park redevelopment, which houses the completely revamped Old Clare Hotel, a myriad of accommodation options, a vast platter of restaurants and many artistic endeavours.
Many of the suburb’s old houses have emerged as trendy accommodation, but many have been transformed into the edgiest of art spaces, which on their own form the basis for rewarding tourist visits.
The Chippend-ale is made by another Jerry-Schwartz venture, the nearby Sydney Brewery, which operates as an adjunct to the Rydges Central Sydney Hotel in Albion St.
My lunch there with Sydney Brewery’s Richard Feyn turns into a massive beer-and-food matching exercise.
A couple of the bar’s old favourites — the battered flathead with Glamarama Summer Ale and slow-cooked beef ribs with Potts Point Porter — are naturals, but we also come up with some new combinations.
Richard notices, for instance, that the parmesan-and-rocket component of one of the salads goes particularly well with his Glama Ale.
And you certainly can’t beat — for a catchy name, anyway — Richard’s "Poppers and Pils" for serving the restaurant’s jalapino-and-haloumi poppers with Surry Hills Pils.
Anyway, we collectively decide that anyone who thinks that beer-and-food matching is a wank obviously has too much VB in their glass.
Also, one of my favourite Sydney eateries, Somer Sivrioglu’s relatively new Turkish restaurant Anason in Barangaroo, has added a couple of modern takes on traditional dishes to its menu.
Among the new entrées is pasa meze — made from a combination of ricotta and fetta cheese, served with macadamias, walnuts and melon shavings.
New among the delicious salads is gavurdagi — a mix of treats such as cubed tomato, cucumber, red and green capsicums, and strawberries.
It’s also known to the Turks as ‘spoon salad’ because of how it can be eaten and features a dressing based on pomegranate molasses.
For a devout meat-lover, it’s the best 'til last — a new main course known as kulbasti and comprised of 270-days-grass-fed scotch fillet, grilled medium and sliced, then served with pilav (rice) and fried white onions.
All the more reason to head back there.
IF YOU GO
- Four Points Sheraton: 4 Central Park Ave, Chippendale NSW; phone (02) 8288 8888; visit www.marriott.com
- Sydney Brewery: 28 Albion St, Surry Hills NSW; phone (02) 9289 0028; visit www.sydneybrewery.com
- NSW: Visit www.visitnsw.com
- Anason: 5/23 Barangaroo Ave, Barangaroo NSW; phone (02) 9188 1581; visit www.anason.com.au