Back in Marrickville in Sydney’s Inner West, this time with a guide, I’m hoping Caite Adamek of Walk This Way Tours will surprise me.
Walk this Way Tour
After my exploratory walk through Marrickville almost two years ago now, I wrote two blog posts (Marrickville and Addison Road) as there was so much to see. Today the tour today has a driving element followed by a leisurely walk. It’s called the ‘Mixed Bag Tour’ with a couple of added extras.
Vietnamese Street Food
I spy Caite checking her phone while sitting on a low wooden stool at our meeting place, VN Street Foods. Two friends, JD and M have joined me and we quickly introduce ourselves. The customers are mostly Vietnamese, and I’m looking forward to an authentic Vietnamese lunch.
We each order an inexpensive customized bento box. Mine arrives with cubes of beetroot floating in a clear beetroot soup alongside steamed rice, Chinese broccoli with garlic and caramelized salmon. The tasty meal is far more than I can manage.
A Diverse Inner City Suburb
Surprisingly, Caite isn’t a Marrickville local. She became familiar with the area through frequent visits to enjoy the live music scene. She lists the music venues including Gasoline Pony, Lazy Bones, The Factory, Camelot Lounge and the recently opened Great Club.
Greek and Vietnamese Presence
“I love this suburb for its amenity and diversity” says Caite as she explains that Greek migrants moved into Marrickville in the 50s and 60s. While the area has gentrified and fewer Greeks live here now, their influence remains.
The Vietnamese community also has a strong presence. They settled here in the 80s opening Restaurants and small businesses. Other cuisines include Thai and Japanese as well as Pepitos, “a Peruvian dive bar, it’s fun to visit” says Caite.
A Drive Through Marrickville
Walking to the car, she points to a large bright yellow banana relaxing in a hammock suspended between two palm trees on a shop awning. The metal sculpture by Ces Camilleri was installed around the time of the Sydney Olympics. Banana Joe’s, the shop originally beneath it has been replaced by a supermarket chain.
We drive along streets and past places I recognise from my Marrickville exploration. “There’s a pasta place” I point out excitedly also noting the dim sum factories and artwork on the Bowling Club wall. We drive through a light industrial area and park in front of Feather and Bone.
Feather and Bone
Planes roaring overhead stop Laura Dalrymple mid-sentence as she explains the philosophy behind the business. “Welcome to Marrickville” says Laura, “the planes are starting to come back”.
Her partner, Grant Hilliard made the journey from aspiring film maker to sommelier to owning a specialty butcher. It was an “organic process born from natural curiosity” says Laura.
Feather and Bone aims to provide a market place for farmers to connect with consumers who have the same values around regenerative farming, sustainability and biodiversity. Their book “The Ethical Omnivore”, blog and newsletter explain more.
Of course, you pay for what you get, and my wallet is decidedly lighter after the visit. We’ve spent far too long at Feather and Bone and I’m disappointed that there’s no time to visit Paesanella Cheese Emporium.
Background to Marrickville
With parking at a premium, we struggle to find parking near Marrickville Library. This is where the walking part of the tour begins with a coffee and an introduction to Marrickville and its recent history.
Caite hands out maps of the area which show the Gumbramorra Swamp, an area now drained and developed with mostly light industry.
The Sydenham Drainage Pit, built with program that provided work for the unemployed during the great depression, drains the area of floodwater. Sid Tapia’s “Let It Shine” mural decorates the pump station wall. I’ve often seen it from the train.
The old dairy has gone as has the main industry of brick-making using clay sourced from local quarries. Some parks in Marrickville were formed when the old clay quarries were filled in after “children drowned in water which collected in the quarry” explains Caite.
The Metro Shopping Centre was built within the walls of the old Vicars Woollen Mill. Closed in the 1970s, the mill supplied the armed forces during the World Wars and Fletcher Jones was a big customer.
We’re sitting on another part of Marrickville’s history. The relatively new library incorporates parts of the Old Hospital into the eye-catching design. It aimed to have the least impact possible on the environment. Some of the wood used in the construction was sourced from old railway bridges in the Taree area.
Recently, the Inner West Council renamed the section of Marrickville Road between Livingstone and Victoria Streets “Little Greece” to recognise the Greek contribution to the suburb. At the town hall, a Greek flag flutters alongside the Australian and Aboriginal flags.
A bronze sculpture, “Winged Victory 2015” by Darien Pullen and Peter Corlett, decorates the Soldiers Memorial. Representing Nike, the winged Greek goddess of victory, this sculpture differs subtly from the one it replaced.
In “Winged Victory 1919” by Gilbert Doble the sword pointed up to the sky. It was removed when stability became an issue. The lowered sword of the newer sculpture no longer acts as a lightning rod, a problem with the earlier sculpture, and is a gesture of peace.
We stroll down Marrickville Road noting the colourful mosaics decorating the pavement and people lined up outside Marrickville Pork Roll. We peer into the window of Where’s Nick, a wine bar Caite recommends.
More Sculptures by Ces Camilleri
More of Ces Camilleri’s distinctive steel artworks decorate the streetscape. There’s a hairdresser (the shop itself is long gone), a fisherman in a tinny hauling in a huge shark above a fish shop and people standing at a bar above the Royal Exchange Hotel.
Greek Deli and Other Shops
Not on our itinerary, we nevertheless traipse into the family run Lamia Supa Deli. Greek music surrounds us and a deep male voice sings gently along to the music. Surprised, I look around. I hadn’t noticed the man behind the counter.
He serves us. M spends up big on falafel (“delicious” he declares), baklava (sweet and packed with nuts) and fresh dolmades. I get a box of kourabiedes, the crescent shaped Greek biscuits covered in icing sugar.
We pass RPM, a shop selling Records, Posters and Memorabilia and Made590, an Australian-made women and children’s clothing store that prides itself on paying a fair wage.
We’re running late again, and promise to be quick at Antico Pasta. It’s after the 4pm closing time and the door is locked. JD presses the doorbell anyway. She hears movement behind the door and a woman dressed in a pale blue dressing gown opens the door.
Miss Donna, blonde hair perfectly coiffed Ivana Trump style, greets us warmly and ushers us into her shop. She explains her accent – she’s Croatian, with an Italian father. Aware that we only have a few minutes, Miss Donna condenses her spiel about the pasta into a few sentences.
We leave with packets of pasta, but don’t have time for the skin care products. Saying “I’m 65 and look at my skin” Miss Donna encourages us to return to learn more about her skin care.
Flights of Beer ….. and Gin
Sauce Brewing Company is next. Not normally a beer drinker, I nevertheless settle on a flight of beer. The four glasses wobble dangerously in the paddle as I settle them on the table. As the sun is hot and we choose to sit inside to enjoy our refreshing beer.
JD comments on the name of one of the beers. “It takes a bit of courage to call your beer Piss Poor” she says, adding “I like Piss Poor”. It turns out the beer is actually called Piss Weak.
Our last stop is Poor Tom’s gin distillery. Is this a good idea? I still have to drive home. Fortunately, delicious roast vegetable and hummus toasties accompany our drinks.
M and I settle on a simple Sydney Dry G&T while JD goes all out with a Negroni and a flight of gin. She requests more tonic for her strong Negroni and after sipping her gin flight proceeds to empty the almost full thimbles into M and my drinks. Oops.
It’s been a Fun Afternoon
It’s been a fun afternoon exploring Marrickville with Caite. I’ve enjoyed having someone else do the work for me and Caite not only increased my knowledge of the inner west suburb, she also introduced me to some hidden secrets. M and JD had a great day too.
Find Caite and her Walk this Way Tours here.