Surry Hills - Sydney, NSW

Surry Hills lies over sloping topography just outside the Chinatown, Paddington and Redfern districts of the southern side of Sydney CBD.  Just as young Aussies first have overseas stints in Bali or Phuket, Surry Hills is one of those lifestyle hubs that attract  twenty somethings from outside the city when they need to relocate because of a job, love, music or commuting necessity.

The suburb offers heritage and old terrace constructions, innovative concept cafes and restaurants, plus the accessibility to a night lifestyle.

There is, as usual, a price for all this - higher rents, not suburban building conditions, lack of street parking and a Big Smoke atmosphere.  The other side of the coin can balance out any perceived disadvantages for the resident - lanes with character, some greenery away from the George Street profile, choice of transport, like-minded networks and proximity of big city events and venues.

Designer and retro clothing, fabrics, furniture and collectibles definitely add to the tone from the retail outlets. At the same time, this chic and why not perspective echo in the wardrobe of its residents.

There are markets on the first Saturday of each month on the Shannon Reserve.  Pets are more than welcome and pooches feature prominently in the Surry Hills Festival held at Prince Alfred Park on the last weekend of each October.

There is  a melange of various cultures, food and lifestyles as echoing the relative liberty of the Australian demographic, legislative and social landscape.  If Sydney is seen as cosmopolitan and varied by the world, then Surry Hills is a good representation of this image and reality.

The cycling sub culture is strong as well as the recycling mindset.  Surry Hill denizens may not exude the blonde surfer look one anticipates at nearby Bondi, but they do go out and head for the sun and water on summery days.  The importance of the pub gathering is accentuated when people live in smaller spaces and that means the penchant to go out for good, emerging and radical gigs.

Would outsiders view Surry Hills as having a component of transients - professional, artistic or migrant - as opposed to the core group that truly call the precinct home? The place is steeped in history, that bordered by Elizabeth, , Cleveland, South Dowling, Chalmers and Oxford Streets.

Foveaux Street is named in honour of Joseph, who received a land grant and who named the place after Surrey in the UK.  Originally an essentially working class suburb focusing on the rag trade, Surry Hills would witness the gentrification of its residents before changes to the current population mix.

A fascinating feature of the Surry Hills area for many years was the presence and operation of the steam trams until 1961.  Most of the architecture today still remains Victorian.  The number of well established churches is also above average for a Sydney suburb.

Eating experiences of note can be found at Four Ate Five ( recommended are the juices, pulled pork sandwiches and coffee);  Spice I Am ( basil and garlic deep fried fish, papaya salads and the pad thai stir fry noodles are must trys); the Cricketers Arms Hotel ( offering a mix of informal Mexican and modern Aussie fare); and the Black Penny along Bourke Street (for cocktails).

Everyone else seems to running towards Porteno, Madam Nhu's, Marque, Longrain and Tio's.  A gem may be discovered at the Bangbang for an interpretation of UK food at reasonable prices, a cosy atmosphere and something like lightly crumbed fish fillet doused with aioli on sourdough, or the Wagyu beef burger.

Window shoppers may want to spend time in Somedays for Swedish design clothes, the Spring Court for shoes, the Zoo Emporium, Holy Kitsch!, Pop Shop, Paper2 and Music Film Books.

Is Surry Hills an oasis in the modern dry landscape of the Big Smoke of Sydney?  It houses the Australian headquarters of Readers Digest Publications and has a scattering of business offices, but it also offers couples and families a semblance of true suburban routine and feel.  We walked around the park and surprisingly found young families. So Surry Hills is not just occupied by the perceived stereotypes of DINKS, SINKS and single party goer types.  Trees are allowed to grow old. It may serve as the prototype of a model suburb which has charisma and character despite being so near to central city opportunities and challenges.


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