Have you discovered these semi-hidden holes in the wall in The Rocks?
Hundreds of years ago The Rocks had a rough reputation. The way the area was built helped the unsavoury side of the community thrive away from prying eyes - down narrow cobbled laneways, in subterranean sandstone basements.
Today, The Rocks has changed completely. Think cocktail bars and fine dining instead of opium dens. But the hideaways and the holes in the wall still remain, and they’re now filled with semi-hidden restaurants, bars and cafes to discover - if you know where to look.
If you’ve ever come to The Rocks Markets or strolled down George Street, you may have noticed Firestone - a modern Australian restaurant tucked into a compact heritage terraced house. But what you probably didn’t notice was the expansive sandstone courtyard hiding at the back of the restaurant.
Our advice? Show up for brunch at the weekend, grab a table in the sunny courtyard and order the French toast with mascarpone, salted caramel and pistachio crumble. You won’t regret it.
La Renaissance Pâtisserie and Cafe
La Renaissance is the only patisserie in the southern hemisphere to be admitted to Relais Desserts - an organisation that recognises the world’s best pastry chefs.
While most people know about the little place that serves the best croissants and cakes in Sydney, the courtyard out back is still something of a secret. The airy, semi-secret space features pink pastel walls and creeping vines - plus it’s relatively private so nobody you know will catch you eating copious amounts of gateaux.
Kameya Ramen Bar & Dining
Kameya is hiding halfway down a back street near the Australian Heritage Hotel. And while it may not look like much from the street, their authentic ramen is amongst the best in Sydney.
Grab a seat in the shade outside and go straight for their signature dish - the Kameya ramen. This delicious umami bomb is packed with pork chashu, seasoned egg and seaweed.
If you didn’t know it was there, you could easily miss Tayim, an excellent modern Middle Eastern restaurant tucked away down Nurses Walk in The Rocks. And it’d be a shame if you did.
This compact little bar and restaurant is hiding in the ground floor of a lovingly restored heritage sandstone building, serving comforting but refined Middle Eastern cuisine that’s made it a firm favourite among locals. Come for dishes like the melt in your mouth like wagyu beef cheek with zaalouk, and stay for the innovative cocktail menu and bustling atmosphere.
On Playfair St, one of The Rocks most historic areas, you’ll find a little Italian restaurant called Caminetto (if you look hard enough). It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but out back, it’s hiding a giant courtyard tucked away under a massive sandstone wall.
It’s also hiding some of the city’s best pizza and homemade pasta prepared by hand using 100% Australian produce.
The Doss House
There’s a secret underneath George Street - The Doss House. This subterranean cocktail bar is hidden away in the basement of a centuries old heritage building built in the 1840s. The space recaptures the convivial spirit of Sydney’s early years, with original fireplaces, a whiskey menu that’s several pages long and a full complement of house cocktails.
Its stylish, vintage interior hints at its long and colourful history, with previous tenants including an opium den, a boarding house and a doctor’s surgery.