Which tiny suburb is fast becoming Sydney’s arts and dining epicentre?

Which tiny suburb is fast becoming Sydney’s arts and dining epicentre?

Chip off the old block

Site: Yeong Sassall

Hailed by Destination NSW as a 2015 hotspot, Chippendale has exploded into one of Sydney’s trendiest postcodes. Ros Brennan charts Chippendale’s transformation from destitute drug den to cultural mecca

Chippendale or 'Chippo' as it's affectionately known by the locals, is a Sydney micro-burb wedged between the CBD and the inner west. The area has experienced a rapid cultural renaissance in the past ten years, shaking off its seedy past as a haven for drugs and prostitution and transforming into a hip artistic enclave, drawing parallels with the gentrification of Chelsea, New York in the 1970s. Warehouses, factories and derelict buildings have been replaced with galleries, designer stores, boutique small bars and high-end restaurants.

Curator Nicky Ginsberg discovered Chippendale in 2007 and immediately sensed the potential of this overlooked pocket of the inner city. She stumbled across an old Victorian Gothic revival hall dating back to 1886, which became home to her former businesses NG Art Gallery and Mission Restaurant & Bar (now closed and home to wine bar Arco). "We walked into the building and fell in love with it," says Ginsberg. "Within minutes we said, 'This is it', and within four days we owned our business.  The area felt very quiet when we moved in, but we had a gut feeling it would work."

Sure enough, that gut feeling was spot on. Arts philanthropist and developer Dr Stanley Quek bought Kensington Street in its entirety in 2007, appointing Ginsberg as Creative Director. The pair has grand ambitions to revitalise the strip into a world class shopping, arts and dining precinct. Ginsberg went on to found the non-profit Chippendale Creative Precinct (CCP) in 2010, which galvanises the area's booming creative economy, as well as being the creative force behind the BEAMS Art Festival.

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Billionaire philanthropist and Australia's second wealthiest woman Judith Neilson put Chippendale on the map in 2009, nabbing a large warehouse space and opening White Rabbit Gallery, which holds the largest collection of contemporary Chinese art outside of China. Neilson's next move is a $32 million dollar gallery, performance and artist residency space called Phoenix at O'Connor Street, Chippendale, said to be Sydney's answer to MONA.

The recently refurbished Old Clare Hotel on Kensington Street has secured itself as the place to be seen among Sydney foodie royalty, with two big ticket dining venues to boot - Silvereye headed up by ex-Noma chef Sam Miller and Automata, with Clayton Wells (one of the senior kitchen crew to depart Momofuku Seiobo) in charge. Singapore-based restaurateur and hotelier Loh Lik Peng (Restaurant Andre, Singapore and Viajante, London) is also set to open his trademark Unlisted Collection with UK superstar Jason Atherton (Pollen Street Social, Esquina) in Chippendale.

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Despite the apparent invasion of the high roller table, it's heartening to see Chippendale hasn't quite lost its edge, with smaller underground events such as the Chippo Film Festival going from strength to strength. Started by a few locals in their backyard adjacent to a Chippendale laneway, 25-year-old Patrick Ewing hosts the annual Chippo Film Festival. A collation of about 30 very short films, the festival attracted about 100 guests at its 2013 debut, but that grew to more than 400 this year. The suburb has no shortage of small laidback bars and eateries reminiscent of its grungier roots, notably Zigi's Wine and Cheese Bar, Freda's and LP's Quality Meats.

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Keen to explore what Chippendale has to offer? Check out Kensington Street's Creative Director Nicky Ginsberg perfect day out.

Breakfast: Hit up Glider Cafe on Kensington street. They have the best coffee and tea and a delicious Thai version of an omelette.

Walking art tour: At 11am, when Chippendale's 22 galleries open, I would set off on foot and visit as many as I can. Some must-sees are White Rabbit Gallery, aMBUSH Gallery, The Japan Foundation, Kensington Contemporary, Carlton Project Space, Galerie Pompom and The Commercial.

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Lunch: Brickfields on Cleveland Street, for their signature sandwiches made from house-baked breads, or for something more upmarket Ester is a great option.

Walking art tour: Spend the afternoon exploring the more bohemian and grungy side to Chippendale. There's plenty of smaller, artist run galleries hidden in unexpected nooks and crannies, for example the Goodspace Gallery on the upper floor of the Lord Gladstone Hotel.

Dinner: Start the evening with a drink in the Old Clare Hotel, which has been beautifully restored and recently re-opened to the public. They have two fantastic hatted restaurants in the venue - Automata and Silverye. For something a bit more casual, you can't go past the Spice Alley for Asian-style hawker food, BYO wine and live music on the weekends. 

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