The rumble and clang of construction still dominates Darling Square, but the precinct’s Steam Mill Lane is open and there are so many good places to eat it’s worth putting up with the noise for.
Located between Haymarket, Paddy’s Markets, the International Convention Centre and right near the Chinese Garden of Friendship, the laneway is like the CBD’s answer to Spice Alley, but rather than focusing on the cuisine of a particular region, the lane offers food from across the globe.
The tour starts in America with Belles Hot Chicken, which is now serving Belles’ own brand of natural wine, Little Darling. This is the Nashville-style chicken joint’s third Sydney outpost, but it’s originally from Melbourne, and is joined by another venue from south of the border: 8bit Burger, an arcade-game-themed burger brand.
“We looked at Sydney years ago and there wasn’t that much going on for burgers, but now it’s gone fucking berserk,” says 8bit chef Shayne McCallum. “I think it was a good time to come up, and Darling Square is going to be awesome. We’re really excited to open a big store in an up-and-coming area.”
Tina Plessas, owner of Il Bacio, believes the retail, food and residential formula works in Sydney. “Traffic is terrible coming from the suburbs,” she says. “People like the convenience of living in the city and having all this at their doorstep. I think Darling Square is exactly what Sydney needs.”
Il Bacio is the laneway’s only Italian eatery and the dishes are fresh and authentic. Pasta is made in-house daily, and pizza is made in the Roman style; bases are crisp on the bottom. Try the Gustosa topped with mushrooms, salami, gorgonzola and basil.
Across from 8bit, the team behind Two Sticks (which specialises in Yunnan Chinese food) and also from Haymarket Bun Gallery (serving Chinese buns and dumplings) brings regional Sichuan food via its new joint, Ricefields. In May, its neighbour Bang Bang will open. It’s a ramen, whisky and karaoke-centric spot led by ex-Toyko Nobu chef Kokubo Yuji.
There’s also Surry Hills’ The Sandwich Shop serving dishes such as the New York Reuben and barbeque beef brisket with Dijon and caramelised onion. And still to come is Gyradiko, which, when it opens its third store, will bring its pork gyros with it. And the much-loved Marrickville Pork Roll is opening in May, too.
“We’re building a community here,” says The Sandwich Shop owner Serena Kostas. “This is a small family business and being part of a brand-new precinct with a new community feels right for us.” Beyond food, there’s a small collection of lifestyle stores selling clothing, shoes and accessories at streetwear boutique Pict; glasses at sustainable optometrist Dresden Optics; customised luggage at travel and lifestyle store Alifehaus; and grooming services at Men’s Culture Barber.
Colourful light installations by Adelaide artist Peta Kruger are suspended across the laneway from building to building, and in the coming months there will be street artists and DJs playing music to celebrate the precinct’s opening.
Darling Square is a $3.4 billion project by the NSW Government to revitalise the Darling Harbour precinct, with Lendlease commissioned to do the building. When completed next year, Steam Mill Lane will be joined by more bars, cafes and retail shops.
Steam Mill Lane’s Bang Bang Izakaya, Gyradiko, Fishbowl and Marrickville Pork Roll are slated to open in May.