When I tell a friend at the station that I am exploring Marrickville today, she asks if I am going to the Cooks River. That wasn’t part of the plan but it is now. I turn left out of Marrickville station into Illawarra Road. There are plenty of Vietnamese Restaurants to choose from. A few tables at the Hellenic Bakery are occupied. Two men sit chatting under an umbrella on the street front. I hear snatches of Greek. Over the road is the larger outlet of the renowned Marrickville Pork Roll. The nearby Illawarra Road Meat Market is known for its souvlaki. I wonder what the cuisine at the Lao restaurant is like. I turn left away from the strip of shops into a local street. A black and white dog seems nervous as I approach. He has one brown eye. The other is white. His owner, tells me that Toby is a European Collie and his eye is a ‘blue’ eye, quite normal when the eye is in a white patch.
The fig and olive trees line the sidewalk of Ruby Street. A woman watches me from the balcony of her two-story house. My camera and backpack do make me rather conspicuous. Large sandstone blocks provide seating in a pretty, narrow park on the high side of road. The community are engaged in keeping this park beautiful.
People from nearby workplaces get their caffeine fix from Old Garage Espresso which is located in a beautiful art deco building. In Carrington Road, I peek through the door of The Sydney Prop Specialists. Huge ten pin bowling skittles tower over metre high toy soldiers. A pair of enormous fake elephant tusks form an arch big enough for a small horse to walk through. I would love to spend some time poking around this warehouse.
At the end of the street, I join a cycle path that will take me back to Illawarra Road. The pleasant scent of freshly mown grass greets me. Aerial roots of the mangroves reach up like muddy fingers accompanied by a faint but distinctive mangrove smell. Many of the houses lining the river have been stylishly renovated. A heron sits on a branch in the shadows. Three ‘story poles’ are part of an Aboriginal Interpretation Project’. They were created by local students. The nearby circular sandstone seating includes Aboriginal design elements as a reminder of the strong Aboriginal presence and connection to the river.
Hidden underneath a sandstone overhang a plaque explains that this is the site of Thomas Holt’s Burial Vaults. At home, I read that the Mother Superior of the Carmelite order rested here in peace briefly. There is not much more information readily available about this site, so I don’t know where her body was moved to.
Walking back up Illawarra Road, towards the strip shops, small brick cottages give way to low rise unit blocks. I pass Athena cakes, Namaste Spices and a sign in a shop window telling customers that they speak Vietnamese.
I must have walked right past where Cornersmith makes and sells pickles and runs workshops. Instead I stop at their café for lunch. A sign on the wall offers to trade for backyard produce. They are looking for lemons, limes, quince and more. A great community initiative. My autumn toast is beautifully presented and tasty, but not quite sufficient. I would have done better to pay $2 more for the ploughman’s lunch.
After lunch, I continue towards Marrickville Road. I hadn’t expected such a strong Vietnamese presence here. Three older Vietnamese women sit chatting on a bench. Another walks past me wearing a typical conical straw hat. My eye is drawn to colourful metal figures decorating shop awnings in Marrickville Road. The work of Ces Camilleri, they are one of many reasons to visit this suburb.
A lift in the Paesanella Pizza Bar takes me up to their Food Emporium. Gourmet products including chocolates, olive oils, and vinegars fill the shelves. The deli and cheese room have a great selection. The cheeses are made here behind the store. Further down Marrickville Road, an aeroplane seems to skim the rooftops. I wonder what it’s like living under the flightpath. I recognise “Dress for Success” an organisation that helps interview candidates choose an interview outfit and provides guidance and support for the upcoming interview.
The Camelot Lounge is one of a number of live entertainment venues in Marrickville. The large, attractive artwork on the outside wall is a product of the Perfect Match initiative of the Inner West Council. The project brings artists and property owners together to create street art.
Close by are small manufacturers who sell direct to the public. There are small goods, The Epicurean Kitchen with cakes and savouries direct and the Pasta Factory which besides pasta and sauces, surprisingly sells frozen berries. A sweet aroma leads me to the Batch Brewery which looks like a comfortable place for an after-work craft beer. Nearby, the Hop and Grain Brew Store runs classes on making beer, wine, kombucha, cheese and more, and sells the necessities for these hobbies.
I pass another example of the Perfect Match program on the wall of the bowling club on my way to, Lilian Fowler Place where the air is filled with more cooking smells. Here I find Pasta Jiuliano which also sells direct to the public. Opposite Wicks Park is a café of the same name whose house ginger and mint tea I am keen to sample. The cool drink is refreshing, but be warned. The ginger is powerful. Then, I find Bourke St Bakery and the Black Forest Smokehouse. They have a small shopfront, but without an esky, I can’t buy anything today.
You don’t have to go far to find good coffee in Marrickville. “Two Chaps” is in Chapel Street, but who would know? Besides a street number, there is no signage. I think I am out of touch. My daughter tells me it is via word of mouth (or word of Instagram and Facebook) that people find out about these hidden secrets.
I pass more Perfect Match art outside The Factory Theatre on my way to TIM products which sells Greek sweets and desserts. I climb the stairs and call out to a man in the glass office behind the counter. He offers me a sample of the almond shortbread telling me that customers say they are the best in Sydney. I buy a box.
Over the road in the beautifully treed Elmore park a sign advertises Thai Chi. I pass “That Vintage Shop” with its eclectic mix of new and old on my way to Serendipity Ice Cream factory shop. I am definitely coming back to Marrickville with my friends and an esky.
With the unplanned side trip to Cooks River, today has turned out to be a long day. There is one more place I must go to. I have known about Reverse Garbage forever, but never been there. It is in the Addison Road Centre. Once at the Addison Road Centre, I realise that this place deserves a post of its own. There is history here, community and so much more. So that will be my next post.
Oh…. and if I were you, I would split a visit to Marrickville into two parts – the first being the loop to Cooks River and the second the loop down Marrickville Road, Victoria Road and back.
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Next stop: Addison Road Centre Marrickville
Click here to plan your trip.
Sometimes you have to go. I use any or all of the following: pubs or hotels, train stations (not always open or clean) and I always use the facilities when I have lunch. This map may be of use.
Please note that the manufacturers who sell to the public may not be open on weekends. Check their website for details of opening times.
Please note that some of the manufacturers may be cash only.
Bourke Street Bakery: 2 Mitchell Street (off Victoria Rd on the way to Addison Road)
Two Chaps: 122 Chapel Street heading in the same direction.
The Factory Theatre: 105 Victoria Road.
And two maps to assist you: (If you would like a pdf of the map, email me via the contact page, and I will send one to you).
(NOTE that the time indicated on the map does not allow for any stops. I take an average of 4-5 hours when I explore):
Firstly the Cooks River Loop:
And then the Marrickville Road loop: