Marrickville’s Industrial Bones is a Blank Canvas for Restaurants and Breweries

marrickville sydney
Photo: @meetmeinmarrickville

Welcome to Neighbourhood Eats— a monthly column where we explore diverse suburban pockets where specific cultural communities thrive. From Surry Hills to Penrith, take a stroll through the grocers and the family-run restaurants, and hear from the people who keep their traditions alive through food. The past two years have been hard on small businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, so each month, we hope you will be inspired to venture out to these neighbourhoods for an authentic taste of Korea, Italy, Turkey, Greece, and more. Bon Apetit!

Marrickville is the Williamsburg of Sydney. You have the 30-year-old corner shops and storefronts slinging dumplings and pizza, but there are also some upscale dining rooms with humble dishes being cooked in the kitchen. 

Then there are the manufacturers. These are bagels, coming out fresh and hot from a garage roller door, bread being made in a small industrial space, and an Australian beer hall—reimagined. Say what you will about Marrickville, but don’t deny it is Sydney’s premier cultural food hub—and one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world.

READ MORE: The Best Pubs in Sydney Right Now

Tucked into the bustling streets of Marrickville is Hello Auntie, a traditional Vietnamese restaurant with a modern twist. You won’t find any fusions here, but you won’t see, Owner and Chef Cuong Nguyen’s mother’s recipes either. Instead, diners will discover barbeque at the centre of the menu, with pork, beef, and seafood as the show stars.

marrickville sydney
Photo: @adrianwilliam_realestate

Another aspect that differs from other Vietnamese restaurants in the area is the decor. Steel pipes, exposed brick walls, moody lighting and a stylish interior make up the dining room.

“Back in the day, I studied at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, and now I’m in restaurants, but to me, it’s the same. Food and fashion are the same. I wanted a beautiful dining room, with the industrial vibe and luxury touches here and there, and that’s what I got,” said Nguyen.

“I’ve lived in Marrickville since 1994 and have watched it evolve. Yes, it’s quite gentrified now, but even before we opened, we had a sign on the front window. I watched people snark at it and say, not another Asian restaurant, but when we opened, we were booked out for six months,” he said.

According to Nguyen, Marrickville’s institutions have changed over the years, with Greek places which have stood in the same spot for several years now being run by the children.

“20 years before being a Greek bakery, it was a coffee roaster, then a Lebanese Deli, and before that, a hardware shop,” said Nguyen.

If there’s one thing Marrickville is known for, it’s the food—and the beer. Simon Cancio, the owner of the popular cafe and bakery Brickfields, fell in love with Marrickville later in his life.

“I’m a Bondi Boy, but I moved to Marrickville because it’s famous for food manufacturing,” said Cancio.

“The original nationalities and families brought staples such as olive oils, feta cheese, and bread. The same families set up businesses here in Marrickville, distributing the food of their homes. Although, since the 80s, when TV became a thing, people saw Woolworths and Coles, leaving behind the more minor, artisans.

Although, this new generation is thriving on specialty coffees and brews. Not only that, these young people are opening up their businesses, making specialty oils and bagels. I believe Marrickville is still providing a sanctuary for that, and we’re very lucky for the opportunity,” said Cancio.

Then there’s beer. Industrial warehouses and breweries go together like hops and yeast. It just so happens that Marrickville had a few warehouses to spare, now becoming a hub for craft brewing.

marrickville bob hawke beer and leisure centre
Photo: @photosbyjessieann

David Gibson, Co-founder of Hawkes Brewing Co., studied around the corner in Enmore but spent most of his days in Marrickville.

“The area is so vibrant and multicultural—it was a hark back to Bob Hawke’s inclusion policies. It was also the perfect place to open The Bob Hawke Beer and Leisure Centre,” said Gibson.

The beer and leisure centre is more than your average craft beer hall. Inside, there is a leisure centre with a bar, Chinese restaurants and a pool room—not to mention the Bob Hawke memorabilia hanging on every wall.

The Chinese restaurant, Lucky Prawn, is an ode to the kitschy Chinese restaurants of the 80s, with the lazy Susan tables, paper menus, and classic dishes such as prawn toast and steamed dumplings.

“Nathan (the other founder) and I were children of the eighties, and it was a rite of passage for Australian kids at the time to go to a Chinese restaurant. So to us, it was a nostalgic thing, but Bob Hawke actually loved China. He loved Chinese people and drove multiculturalism in this country, so a Chinese restaurant in the centre was a must,” he said.

marrickville sydney
Photo: @babasplace_

“I remember you could only ever find a smash repair, but now there are restaurants, young couples, and families. The demographic is changing, and similar to Brooklyn, NY, where the industrial scene is changing to become more about breweries and restaurants, then that’s the perfect place to open up your own centre or business.

You still have the smash repairs, but next door, you could have a Wog restaurant, like Baba’s Place, or a Bagel shop, like Brooklyn Boy Bagels. It has an excellent combination. I hope Marrickville doesn’t lose its industrial vibe—it has been there since the beginning.”

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