A street­car named sour­dough

Sick of los­ing out to Mel­bourne on life­style, Sydney has em­braced the food precinct

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - PENNY DURHAM

When Tramsheds opened in Septem­ber, you couldn’t get a seat in any of its dozen restau­rants with­out a 45-minute wait. The frenzy sub­sided into a re­laxed bus­tle af­ter a few weeks, but it’s fair to say Sydney was very ex­cited about this new in­ner-west food precinct, part of Mir­vac’s Harold Park de­vel­op­ment in For­est Lodge.

Af­ter so many decades of leav­ing the so­phis­ti­cated Euro­pean stuff to Mel­bourne, Sydney is em­brac­ing the cos­mopoli­tan life­style hard enough to crack a rib.

Tramsheds, in the re­stored 1904 Rozelle Tramway De­pot build­ing, is not just a new shop­ping cen­tre or a clutch of restau­rants. It’s more of a foodie’s play­ground with its in­dus­trial-chic looks, her­itage and com­mu­nity feel, with­out be­ing too over­whelm­ingly hip­ster or worthily or­ganic.

Last month it won Con­crete Play­ground’s Best of 2016 award and the Peo­ple’s Choice award for Sydney’s Best Precinct — a cat­e­gory the on­line guide had to add this year af­ter an ex­plo­sion in new food-fo­cused devel­op­ments in the har­bour­side city. Tramsheds’ ri­vals were the water­front dis­trict Streets of Baranga­roo; the Kens­ing­ton Street noo­dle al­ley in Chip­pen­dale, de­vel­oped by Stan­ley Quek along­side the Old Clare Ho­tel and Carl­ton & United Brew­eries; The Can­nery at the old Rosella site in Rose­bery, re­de­vel­oped by Wil­low Frank, with its Sa­po­r­ium hall of provi­dores and weekly mar­kets; Cir­cu­lar Quay’s new din­ing zone Gate­way Sydney; and the Cam­per­down Com­mons ur­ban farm.

The Tramsheds lineup is so di­verse, the only com­mon thread is the qual­ity, and the fact most of the restau­ra­teurs have runs on the board. There’s Deep South-in­spired fare at Belle’s Hot Chicken; cooked and fresh seafood (sus­tain­ably caught) at Fish & Co.; Egyp­tian fu­sion from Bekya’s Mid­dle Eastern Kitchen; pasta at Flour Eggs Wa­ter (by A Tavola’s Eu­ge­nio Ma­iale); pizza and good bread from Dust; Brazil­ian ta­pas at Bodega (from the Porteno peo­ple); qual­ity lo­cal meat at Butcher & The Farmer (by Jared Inger­soll ex-Danks Street De­pot); stylish Ja­panese at Osaka Trad­ing Co. (from the Tokyo Bird crew); burg­ers and beers at Sir Chapel; and Viet­namese at Mama’s Buoi.

You have Gar­con for spe­cial­ity cof­fee and espresso mar­ti­nis at night (from roast­ers The Lit­tle Mar­i­onette); gelato prodigy Messina; and an Ar­ti­san Lane with pop-up stalls where it’s Sri Lankan hop­pers one week and Saigon street food the next. I’ve yet to see sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa or Scan­di­navia rep­re­sented in the mix, but it can only be a mat­ter of time.

To serve the thou­sands of new Harold Park res­i­dents there’s a vast su­per­mar­ket with posh as well as run-ofthe-mill gro­ceries, and a Naked Foods bulk health goods store. The cav­ernous com­plex also has a 500sq m com­mu­nity space for events and work­shops as var­ied as bread­mak­ing by Dust and French lessons by Gar­con.

“We wanted to cre­ate a unique desti­na­tion for the in­ner west, a food precinct that the lo­cal com­mu­nity were proud to bring their friends and fam­ily to,” says Manuela De Rossi, na­tional man­ager of leas­ing strat­egy for Mir­vac Re­tail. “We were never about just fill­ing space — the cu­rat­ing process from start to fin­ish took around 18 months. Tramsheds is cen­tred around con­nect­ing peo­ple to provi­dores, and that meant bring­ing to­gether a fam­ily of re­tail­ers who are not only pas­sion­ate about what they do, but also share our vi­sion for food, ed­u­ca­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity.

“Tramsheds is such an iconic build­ing and the open de­sign, in­spired by the grand food halls of Europe, gives jus­tice to its her­itage and charm. It also de­liv­ers a real sense of com­mu­nity and this is not only re­spected by our provi­dores, it’s ac­tively prac­tised by them — from shar­ing pro­duce to host­ing joint work­shops.”

Like The Can­nery and Kens­ing­ton Street, Tramsheds has trans­formed a piece of in­dus­trial or util­i­tar­ian ar­chi­tec­ture into a leisure space that of­fers what a spank­ingnew build­ing can­not: a sense of depth and tra­di­tion that re­flects the way we now want our food to be. That they may be brought to us by be­he­moth de­vel­op­ers seems not to mat­ter.

They also re­flect the shift to de­fined precincts away from re­tail strips of mainly fash­ion bou­tiques in­ter­spersed with cafes, which sent the pop­u­lar­ity of Sydney’s Ox­ford Street and Mel­bourne’s Chapel Street down the chute. Both of those have since come back fight­ing as foodie des­ti­na­tions — eat­ing and drink­ing are, af­ter all, two things you can’t yet do more ef­fi­ciently on­line.

Gar­con, one of a host of restau­rants at Tramsheds in Glebe, above; Jean-Luc Tan and Julien Vasseur (Vive Cook­ing School), butcher Joel Houghton (Kingsmore Meats) and Eliot Rickards (Whole­foods House) at Sa­po­r­ium at The Can­nery, right; Bek­tas Oz­can cooks simit at Ana­son, Streets of Baranga­roo, far right; Spice Al­ley at Chip­pen­dale, be­low

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