I’m going to Little Portugal, as Petersham is affectionately called and I can hardly wait for my Portuguese tart. My first stop will be Sweet Belem Cake Shop for coffee and a ‘pastel de nata’.
After only ten minutes on the train from Central, I walk along Terminus Street towards Audley Street. Ahead is a brightly coloured tiled wall. Portugal and tiles (azulejos in Portuguese) go hand in hand and this wall was created by a Portuguese Australian artist. The colourful wall cheers up an otherwise unremarkable streetscape.
In Audley Street the Portuguese flavour of Petersham emerges with signs for a couple of Portuguese restaurants. In the cake shop (in New Canterbury Road) I eagerly search the rows of sweet offerings. It is not quite 10am but only two Portuguese tarts remain. Phew. One has my name on it. I later learn that as quickly as they are sold they are replenished. I sit at a small round tiled table. Scenes of Lisbon adorn the walls. Soon I am savouring the delicious flaky pastry with creamy custard filling of my Portuguese tart.
I explore New Canterbury Road further. Walking past Charly’s Deli something draws me in. My excitement rises as I realise this is where locals shop for goods from their old country. Boxes of bacalhau, the dried salted cod used in many a Portuguese dish greet me. Shelves are lined with tins of sardines, peri peri sauce, dried herbs and spices. The fridge offers a selection of cheeses and small goods. Leaving with her bag of goodies, an older woman asks her companion “Quieres café?” Sounds Spanish but it’s good enough for me.
I find Portuguese wine in the bottle shop, and The Majestic Gourmet Grocers housed in a converted cinema. If I wasn’t exploring, I’d be shopping up big. In the Portuguese/Spanish butcher, hams hang from the ceiling. The sign “Tahlo Portugues Habla español” indicates that staff are bilingual. At each intersection, the pavement becomes an artwork of cobblestone tiles. There’s a rooster and a coat of arms. Another reminder of Portugal.
Now I leave Little Portugal in search of other treasures. Walking down Audley Street, I enjoy the sunshine and looking at houses built in times gone by. There are small free standing cottages, terraces and larger houses, some converted into smaller dwellings. Many homes seem to have been freshly painted in colours in keeping with their heritage. A man sits outside his home enjoying the pleasant autumn weather. He migrated from Lebanon many years ago. Petersham may be ‘Little Portugal’ but like everywhere in Sydney it is a melting pot of people from all over the world.
My plan is to walk more or less in a rectangle visiting places unearthed in my research. I zig zag along side streets to Albert Street where I stumble across Marr Park. Here I discover a lovely stonewalled garden of lavender and rosemary. And a fruiting olive tree, a reminder of the olive groves I walked past last year in Portugal. I relax on a bench in the shade before continuing to New Canterbury Road. There the Public House Petersham boasts graffiti by ‘Phibs’ who I learnt about on a recent walking tour of Newtown. Apart from two young men playing pool, the pub is empty but I’ll return for lunch another day. And have a go on one of the pin ball machines.
My next stop on New Canterbury Road is Daisy’s, a 1950’s retro Milkbar complete with red and white gingham curtains and pastel décor. I have my first thick shake in many years – boring banana. You are likely to be more adventurous.
Petersham is home to a 1965 heritage-listed water tower. Not far from Daisy’s, it looms large over neighbouring houses. After a closer look at this welded steel reservoir on a concrete tower I turn down Crystal Street towards the railway line passing the art deco Town Hall, another local landmark.
I walk across the 1883 iron pedestrian bridge at the railway station noting the now fenced off old, but with heritage significance, unused station. I pass cottages and larger houses, some lovingly restored, others less so on my way to Petersham Park. There is a lot of history here. The grandstand overlooks the cricket pitch where Donald Bradman scored his 1st grade century as a young eighteen-year-old. It looks all very English with its white picket fence.
The ANZAC gate posts and gates saved from the old town hall provide a grand entrance to a tree lined memorial avenue. The outdoor aquatic centre, named after Fanny Durack, the first Australian woman to win a swimming Olympic Gold, is closed for winter.
I return to Little Portugal for a few purchases. I get Jamon from the butcher, Vinho Verde from the bottle shop and hot peri peri sauce from Charly’s deli. I return home pretty pleased with my day and keen to share my experiences.
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Next stop: Palm Beach
- Sweet Belem is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- By train take the Inner West & South Line Towards Ashfield or use Trip Planner
A map to give you an idea:
(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):
More Random Photos: