Flemington as a suburb no longer exists. It’s now called Homebush West. And the market known to most as Flemington is really the Sydney Markets. That said, I alight at Flemington Station to begin my adventure for the day.
Two young women carrying bunches of flowers walk past in the opposite direction. They’ve already been to the flower market. I walk along a fence lined pathway following yellow Pedestrian signs. It is noisy. Forklift trucks laden with boxes of produce whiz past. I have a vague plan. The produce market first, then the flower market and then Paddy’s. There’s also the Market Plaza, the hotel and the craft brewery.
I turn into an area buzzing with activity, a little unsure of myself. Am I even allowed to be here? Everyone else seems to know where they are and what they are doing. They are all wearing high viz vests. I watch out for spinning forklifts. A few men nod in greeting. I take a couple of photos. A security person walks over. He politely but firmly tells me that I need permission to take photos aand must put my camera away. He makes sure I do so.
Dodging forklifts and making a few wrong turns, I find the reception area of Sydney Markets. Helpfully, Mio gives me a permission form to complete and loans me a brand new orange high vis vest. She is going my way and offers to show me around. She explains how the large shed in front of us is used by the Growers Market from 6am to 10am and then Paddy’s moves in.
Food trucks and other suppliers are already lining up to drive in when the Growers Market vacates. Apparently the busy area I had wandered into earlier is the wholesale Produce Market. No wonder I looked out of place. I should have been in the Growers Market (Building D). Mio leaves me to take photos.
I’m late for the flower market. Officially it opens at 5am, and by now most of the good flowers will be sold. I can’t find how to get in. A woman whose station wagon is stuffed with flowers points me in the general direction behind some trucks.
A grand display of colour greets me. Obviously not everything has sold. The variety is almost overwhelming. Buckets of flowers are jammed together on the floor and raised up on stands.
A man in a bibbed leather apron counts his takings. An older man walks past, his apron worn with age. There’s a story behind the apron. Given to him by a carrier, he has worn it since 1966 when the markets were still in Haymarket. He jokes that the deep pockets used to overflow with money but not these days. He tells me where to get a good coffee.
My high viz vest helps me blend in with other customers at the Italian Deli where I sit down for a decent cup of coffee. When I return with friends (I’m already planning to come back), we’ll breakfast here.
Suitably refreshed, I make my way to Paddy’s via the wholesale market which is already all but closed. A truck pulling trailers overflowing with empty packaging drives past. The Growers Market is over and Paddy’s has moved in. Quite efficient.
Shoppers with granny trolleys inspect the fruit and veggies displayed at outside stalls. A man greets me and offers me some sugar snap peas. A father of four, he economises by shopping here each Friday. Inside, it is quieter. A strong fishy smell greets me. I didn’t realise you can buy fresh fish here.
And meat, chicken, cheese, nuts and small goods. There are socks, toiletries, clothes and luggage. A spicy aroma reaches me from a stall displaying pyramids of brightly coloured spices, herbs and teas.
After a quick walk through the Sydney Markets Plaza, I drop into the Market’s Hotel and Paddy’s Brewery. It’s a surprising find. A beer connoisseur could finish a market visit with a craft beer. Update March 2021: the Brewery doesn’t appear to be operating any longer.
Lunch at Rams Indian & Sri Lankan Food
I leave the market and cross the railway line, looking for Rams, a Sri Lankan restaurant that’s had good reviews. The entrance is tucked away in the parking area behind Henley Road. I join the queue. I discover that these days it’s take away only. Oh well. Women in saris join the queue which isn’t moving. Do I stay and wait or go to one of the many Vietnamese places nearby?
I decide to wait it out and watch the queue growing behind me. More saris and a couple of NSW trains employees. Mat, who ordered before me, returns to pick up his order. We chat for at least ten minutes before his order is ready.
I chat with a Sri Lankan man until he too leaves with his order. Finally, my masala dosai is ready and I head for the nearby park. Sitting on the ground against the broad trunk of a palm tree, it’s a challenge eating this large tasty crispy rice and lentil pancake and sambal on my knee. The wait was almost worth it.
The local streets of Flemington
After lunch, I wander through the built up local streets. Rows of two and three storey brick unit blocks dominate. A few small cottages survive here and there. The many Vietnamese eateries in the small shopping strip are full. I bet their service is quicker than at Rams.
There’s a butcher, and Indian clothes shop and another selling spices. There’s and acupuncturist and an Asian grocery and a corner shop selling what looks like everything including the kitchen sink. But no supermarket.
Flemington may no longer exist as a suburb, but the market and village shops are definitely worth a visit.