I almost didn’t visit Haberfield. You may well ask why. Well, research showed me that many food tours go there and every food blogger seems to have written about it.
However, a café (not mentioned in the food blogs) that I am keen to revisit is just over the border with Leichhardt and there’s a non-foody side of Haberfield to be explored.
The Garden Suburb
I leave the train at Summer Hill, with an air of anticipation, wondering what today will bring. Haberfield, besides being called “Little Italy”, is also called “The Garden Suburb”. Before exploring the residential side of this small triangular shaped suburb I am off to an unusual café.
On the Leichhardt side of the Hawthorne canal is an off-leash park for dogs. I came here many years ago before it was fenced and the Light Rail was built. As I enter the fenced area, immediately a large, old dog lollops (yes there is such a word) towards me, greets me and moves on. I continue along the path. A small schnauzer chases pigeons. People and their dogs sit at tables scattered on the grass opposite a small kiosk.
This is Café Bones, where dog owners can get their coffee hit, while their dogs wander around, rest under the tables or greet new comers. I order a coffee and watch the passing parade.
Haberfield, a heritage listed suburb
I continue along the canal and cross back into Haberfield. The suburb was developed in the early 1900s. It was to be “slum-less, lane-less and pub-less”. With wide tree lined streets, houses were built according to strict guidelines. They were to be single story, set back from the road with low front and side fences to promote a sense of community.
The entire suburb is heritage-listed as a Conservation Area and is part of the Register of the National Estate of Australia.
I make my way down Dudley and then Dalhousie Street, stopping occasionally to admire the beautifully manicured gardens behind low walls. Roses are in abundance. Hedges are neatly trimmed and the sound of lawn mowing fills the air. Tiled paths gently curve from garden gates to front doors.
I look up. Roofs, often sporting tall working chimneys, are mostly terracotta or slate, complementing the brick walls and wooden features of verandas. Leadlight windows are in abundance. Unlike other suburbs, people seem to be at home. Windows and front doors are open.
There are no pubs in Haberfield. Nor is there any light industry. The well-known and much written about shopping strip of Haberfield is in Ramsay Street. I walk up and down appreciating the two storey streetscape. I step behind a parked car to take a photo of a wall mural.
The sound of a car horn blasts nearby. I look around wondering who is hooting at whom. Oops. I’m blocking the car. I apologise with a smile and a wave. The driver is not amused.
I am keen to check for myself the hype about the Italian Providores. And so I visit the small but popular Peppes Pasta. At Paesanella, I ask them to keep some burrata for me. I’ve been called “love”, “mate” and even “darl”, but today, I’m called “bella”. I rather like it.
Outside Dolcissimo, a group of men chat away in Italian. I wander the aisles of the Zanetti Deli. Papas Pasticceria is full and there is a queue. Perhaps fortunately for me, the chocolatier is closed.
While photographing the bakery, a man stylishly dressed in hat and tie adorned with pins asks that I take his photo. He lists his heritage. Surprisingly it doesn’t include Italian.
The local Lamonica IGA is housed in the old Haberfield Cinema and the food bloggers aren’t wrong. It’s busy even though today is Thursday. People queue up at the deli counter. There are even seats provided for the older folk.
The old Post Office is now a pizzeria and the old Salvation Army Hall a Fruit Market. Gojak meats, besides the usual fare, smokes their own meat. I soon realise that the small businesses featured most often on the food tours of Haberfield and in food blogs are not the only shops selling gourmet product. I wonder a bit about the fairness of mentioning one place over another.
I walk to Wattle Street at the end of Ramsay Street and wander back through suburban streets to the shopping strip. The anti-pasta I choose for lunch doesn’t quite fill the hole, so I make my way to Papas for a coffee and ricotta cannoli. Yummm.
While savouring my treat, I decide to buy prosciutto and rocket to go with the burrata. So, it’s back to the deli, the cheese shop and a fruit market before the short walk to the station.
Final thoughts on Haberfield
I’m glad I visited Haberfield. I now have a good feel for the Garden Suburb, I understand more about the Federation style of architecture, and know where to come when I host an Italian themed dinner party.