Monday, February 28, 2011

Across the Border: Kings Cross: People: Tom

If you live in the Darlinghurst-Kings Cross area you will have no doubt encountered Tom on your travels. I never knew his name until recently and had always just thought of him as ''The Some Like It Hot Chap''. 
Tom's trademark look is his sloppy-joe (sweater to American readers) and hat. The hat always looks sharp, but it is his sloppy-joe for which he takes the utmost care.
When I first encountered Tom on the street many moons ago, his sloppy-joe was embroidered with, ''Some Like It Hot'', while on the back it said, ''But I Just Like It''.
I soon realised that he had sloppy-joes specially embroidered to match the news of the day. If Kylie Minogue or Madonna were in the media say, the embroidery on his shirt would reference them in the most witty way. 
For example, on the front it would read, ''I Did It With Kylie'' and on the back: ''I Should Be So Lucky'', or some-such clever line.
I even remember seeing Tom once on the cover of the Sydney Morning Herald. He was wearing his usual attire and standing among a crowd of people that were in the background of an Anzac Day parade photograph. I was so excited to see him there because it meant I could finally show my non-Darlinghurst friends exactly who the Some Like It Hot chap was.
I wonder how many sloppy-joes he owns and where he gets them made. They must cost quite a bit.
Anyway, now that American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey's Australian episodes have recently been broadcast on television, Tom has tuned-in by claiming, ''I Did It With Oprah'' and . . .

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Darlinghurst: Books: Villas of Darlinghurst, by the State Library of NSW: Adelaide Cottage

Now that I am allowed back in to the Kings Cross Library, I can learn so much more about the neighbourhood's history. The City of Sydney library network has hundreds of local history titles, including many obscure and niche publications such as this one. 
Villas of Darlinghurst was published by the State Library of NSW in 2002 to coincide with a free exhibition of the same name, which ran from January to June of that year. The show was curated by Avryl Whitnall and featured illustrations, paintings and short histories of the original 17 gentleman's villas of Darlinghurst.
In the late 1820s most of Australia's European population of about 12,000 was closely settled around The Rocks and Sydney Cove region and there was increased demand for better living conditions for the city's elite. In 1828 Governor Ralph Darling (who governed from 1825 to 1831) offered up what was then called Woolloomooloo Hill - the ridge extending inland from what is now known as Potts Point, back to Darlinghurst.
The area was named Darlinghurst, apparently after the Governor's wife, Eliza Darling, and was subdivided into allotments for large residences and extensive gardens. Seven deeds of grant were issued to select members of colonial society in 1828 and a further nine were granted in 1831.
The development of the allotments had to meet certain conditions imposed by the Governor and were overseen by Eliza, who had architectural skills. Only one residence could be built on each allotment and they had to be designed to an ''approved standard'' as well as set within a generous amount of landscaped garden.
Seventeen grand villas or mansions were built during the 1830s and the new area of Darlinghurst quickly became a ''haven for wealthy and influential people''. But by 1843 those same citizens were affected by a serious financial collapse in the colony and pushed for permission to subdivide their land. So Darlinghurst was finally opened up to investors. 
Only five of the 17 villas remain today. Many were demolished from the 1890s on,  to make way for terrace housing and apartment buildings. Even as recently as 1983 there were plans to demolish one of the remaining villas, Tusculum, which was saved from the wrecking ball when it was purchased by the NSW State Government. 
I took a walk around the neighbourhood to see the remaining villas and also to see exactly what buildings replaced the residences that were demolished. I have written a little piece about each villa and the owner who commissioned it, but because the stories combined are quite lengthy, I will publish them one at a time, in alphabetical order as they appear in the book, over the coming weeks and months. But to begin with, here is a little piece about Adelaide Cottage.


1844: Adelaide Cottage, artist unknown.
Adelaide Cottage: built on an allotment of over 8 acres granted to Henry Grattan Douglass in 1828.

Dublin-born Henry Douglass moved to Sydney in 1821 following a distinguished medical career in England and Ireland but within a decade, his behaviour led him to be described by Sir Darling as ''too mischievous for public office''. 
Douglass's exploits allegedly included behaving improperly with a convict girl, Anne Rumsby, public drunkenness, torture of prisoners and other ''disreputable'' conduct.
Life in Sydney had begun well for Douglass, who was initially made head of the colony's General Hospital and superintendent of the Female Factory - both at Parramatta, in Sydney's west. He was later appointed as a magistrate. 
Douglass embraced his new hometown, becoming a member of the Agricultural Society, vice-president of the Benevolent Society and the first secretary of the Philosophical Society. 
But it began to unravel when he became a regular visitor to the home of Governor Thomas Brisbane (who was Darling's predecessor from 1821 to 1825), which brought him in to conflict with senior colleagues on the Parramatta bench.
Governor Brisbane intervened when Douglass was accused of improper behaviour with Rumsby and complained to London of a conspiracy against his friend.
Douglass was forced to resign as a magistrate in either 1824 or 1825 after being told a ''considerable proportion of the community'' did not like him.
Still, in 1828, new Governor Darling granted an 8 acre allotment to Douglass, who then employed architect Edward Hallen to design Adelaide Cottage.  But the same year, Governor Darling became tired of Douglass's intrigues, with the final straw being some ''injudicious remarks'' he made at a Turf Club function. Governor Darling suspended Douglass from his duties in Parramatta and sent him back to England on half-pay. 
The building of Adelaide Cottage continued, but Douglass never lived there. Back in the UK he worked as an ''extraordinary physician'' attached to the King's household and later went to Paris where his knowledge of infectious disease was valuable during a cholera epidemic.
Douglas sold Adelaide Cottage and part of his land grant to Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Shadforth, and by 1858 the residence was owned by merchant John Henry Challis.

The cottage was demolished in 1899 and blocks of four-storey flats now cover the site. The cottage's Macleay Street frontage is home to a group of ten terrace houses, which were built in the late 1890s. One of the terraces was known in the early 1970s as The Yellow House and was home to an artists's collective, which included painters Martin Sharp, Brett Whiteley and Peter Kingston, as well as photographers George Gittoes and Greg Weight and filmmaker Albie Thoms. 
Today the Yellow House, at 57-59 Macleay Street, is home to the Yellow Bistro and Food Store and the Martin Browne Fine Art gallery.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Darlinghurst: Houses: 40A Caldwell Street

I received a message last week from a Darlinghurst resident and reader who was concerned about the ''nasty development planned for the little lane with the beautiful historic sandstone wall that runs behind the terraces at the bottom of Beare's Stairs.'' 
I had seen the development application for 40A Caldwell Street, but had no idea where that address was and assumed it was a development planned for a site with an existing house. I knew nothing about a laneway or an historic sandstone wall, so set out to investigate.
Even if you walk along Surrey Street or use Beare's Stairs regularly, you may never have noticed a large wooden gate tucked away in the eastern corner of this Caldwell Street laneway. I certainly hadn't noticed it. But here it is:

Behind the wooden gate is a landscaped area that backs on to three Surrey Street terraces. It was difficult to see the landscaping, even when I looked over the gate, and under it:

This is the laneway, which was once a ''dunny lane'' that the reader mentioned and you can see the sandstone foundation wall on the right side of the right photograph. The area is about 2.6m wide and runs the length of three terraces at 79, 77 and 75 Surrey Street and has kind of been requisitioned by them to add an extra third of space to their back gardens. So the laneway is actually a private garden now and it is very difficult for anyone who doesn't live in these three terraces (below) to appreciate the sandstone foundation wall. 

The land - just 48m2 of it - is actually a separate Torrens title that dates back to the original 1800s subdivision of this area, now known as the Barcom Conservation Area. Perhaps because of its small size and obscure location, it was never developed. But now, the owners of 40 Caldwell Street (the blue terrace below right) have bought the title and want to develop the space. 

The terrace at 40 Caldwell Street is owned by a company called Specialist Advocates, whose sole directors are Federal Court judge Dennis Cowdroy and his wife, Jennifer. Specialist Advocates purchased the title for 40A Caldwell Street in November last year for a token $1 from grazier John Robison, who had inherited the title. 
There was a well-researched story in Tuesday's The Australian newspaper by Jodie Minus, which details the history of how the grazier came to have the title, which you can read here.
On February 2 architect Stafford Watts submitted a development application to the City of Sydney  council to build a $200,000 four-storey house with three bedrooms for the little site. The house will literally be wedged in to the site, right up against 40 Caldwell Street, which will act as a support wall:

If you look in the above illustration, you can also see how the front of the house will have a 4m high   ''sparrow-pecked'' sandstone ''plinth . . . to complement the sandstone base of No 40 Caldwell Street and provide a suitable backdrop to Beare's Stairs,'' according to the Statement of Environmental Effects submitted to the council. 
By law, there are also no windows on the side facing the backyards of 75, 77 and 79 Surrey Street, so their privacy isn't an issue. The only issue for those three terraces is sunlight and shadow, which is minutely detailed in the SOEE - but I won't bore you with that. And, of course, the loss of some of their garden.
I understand the reader's concerns about the disappearance of the historic sandstone foundation wall, but I frankly did not know about it anyway; it is only accessible and visible to the residents of those three Surrey Street terraces; and finally, there are loads of historic sandstone walls and foundations around Darlinghurst and I doubt the suburb will suffer for the loss of this one. 

Having said that, I really don't think the development application will be approved by the council because it is just seems far too daring and a little bit crazy to want to build a house on this tiny block. Access to the site for builders and scaffolding is also likely to be a major issue and just imagine if a bulldozer or grader or whatever accidentally bumped in to Beare's Stairs and damaged them. The spot would hardly get any sun and would just be a mosquito infested swamp. 
I also think it is a good idea to keep these heritage dunny-lanes as they are a rather peculiar relic of the past. What do you think? 

Interestingly, Mr Robison the grazier also inherited ''dunny lanes'' at 8A Nimrod Street (above left) and 24A Nimrod Street (above right, reclaimed by property owners years ago), which he has so far left unclaimed. 
The Griffin Theatre Company has applied to the NSW Land and Property Management Authority for possession of the title at 8A. The title apparently runs all the way along the backs of houses on Craigend and Caldwell streets, right past the theatre to the kerb. The theatre want the title so they can use the wide footpath area (below - apologies for the grainy night pic) for an alfresco day cafe and night bar. They will add another entrance to the theatre in the wall on the right.

To view the development application for 40A Caldwell Street, Darlinghurst, visit the council's site here.
The exhibition period closes on Thursday March 3. 
UPDATE: The exhibition period has been extended to March 25.

While on the topic of heritage, the submission period for the council's proposed redevelopment of Fitzroy Gardens was extended until February 25 - that's tomorrow! Be quick! 
Visit the Save Fitzroy Gardens website, which has an easy one-click-wonder-way to lodge your submission. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Darlinghurst: Food: Grill'd Healthy Burgers

A friend of mine has been constantly raving about the burgers he has had at Grill'd on Victoria Street. Once he even texted me, ''Yum, Grill'd'', while he was eating his burger there. I was quietly surprised by this new obsession as he is one of the pickiest eaters I know. 
Still, I had sworn off burgers for a while after eating the most disgusting burger from Burger Fuel a few months ago. I had always liked their burgers but there was something seriously wrong with this one. Interestingly, about two days after I ate that unusually horrible burger, Burger Fuel, which was under the Coca-Cola sign in Kings Cross, closed down and a sign taped to the door referred customers to its existing store in Newtown, in the inner-west. I guess that bad burger signalled that they had given up in the Cross and this was the end. 
But that was a while ago, and I was now ready to eat burgers again. So last week I set off for Grill'd.

Grill'd was established by a former Fosters brand manager, Simon Crowe, in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn in 2004. Success came quickly and there are now about 35 franchise burger joints across Australia, including two in Darlinghurst (there is also one on Crown Street on the Surry Hills border). The one on Victoria Street has been around for no more than six months and seems to be very popular every time I go by. 

I visited long after the lunch-rush and it was actually quite empty, except for about three other people and  a couple of others who were getting take-out. The music was loud and utterly dreadful, some techno-music hum that sounded like a dentist's drill and not particularly conducive to lingering around eating.

The menu is rather expansive and offers seven different types of beef burgers, six chicken burgers, two lamb burgers and three vegie burgers, which range in price from $8.90 to $12.50 for the works. There are also two steak sandwiches ($14.90), two snack burgers ($6.90), four salads ($11.50-$12.90) and hot chips sprinkled in rosemary. 
The burger fillings are rather full-on and include the Grill'd Bird and Brie, which has chicken breast, brie cheese, cranberry sauce, salad and herbed mayo. Or how about the Kung Fu Fighter, which includes lean beef, shredded carrot, coriander, satay sauce, salad and herbed mayo. 
I went for the basic, Simply Grill'd ($8.90), the least expensive burger on the menu, which includes lean beef, salad, relish and herbed mayo. I payed a buck extra for tasty cheese and also ordered the smallest serve of hot chips ($3.30), so the bill came to $13.20, which is pretty pricey for a burger and chips.

The chips had that lovely hand-cut, home-made taste, but I could only eat about a third of the bag. It would be good if you could just pay $2 for a handful to go with your burger, rather than having to buy enough for three people. 
The burger - after all that expectation - was yummy. Yes, it tasted good, but it's just a burger after all. Nothing to text home about. Perhaps next time I should try something more exotic - but there is so many to choose from and that day I just couldn't decide.

Grill'd Healthy Burgers
314 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9331 6562

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Darlinghurst: Street Art: Bogans

''Bogan: a person who takes little pride in his appearance, spends his days slacking and drinking beer.''

Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make these posters about male Bogans. I spotted this one on the hoarding of the Darlinghurst Court House on Forbes Street.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Darlinghurst: Bars: Pocket

My friend Ruby Molteno and I still pine for Barons, that fabulous late night haunt with comfortable lounges, an intelligent and artistic crowd, and the best jukebox in Sydney. We spent many memorable nights at Barons, which was tucked away at 5 Roslyn Street in Kings Cross, and met so many interesting people there, including the late American musician Jeff Buckley. 
The best thing about Barons though, was that it seemed to never close, so you could rock up at 3am and not have a problem buying a drink. But Barons closed in 2007 when the building was demolished and nothing has ever filled its gap. 
New, relaxed liquor laws introduced in Sydney in late 2009 have seen a proliferation of new bars opening up, but they all seem to close at midnight. Boring. 
Still, if there was any bar that has come close to filling the hole in my heart left by Barons, it would have to be Pocket.

As its name suggests, Pocket is a little pocket of loveliness tucked away on the hilly corner of Burton and Crown streets, just down from Oxford Street. It's not huge, but cosy, with enough space for about 65 people.
Pocket, owned by Karl Schlothauer and Christophe Lehoux, was one of the first bars to embrace the new liquor laws and opened in late 2009. (Interestingly, Schlothauer was a Cleo Bachelor of the Year finalist in 2010 - haha.)
Pocket's walls are covered in street-art style murals by Steve Gorrow and the room is kitted out in a mish-mash of vintage furniture purchased on Ebay. 

And while this old upright lounge (below) doesn't look all that comfortable, the sofa that Ruby and I found was heavenly and we kind of sunk in to it and were lost in the music. 

The music is excellent too and not too loud. In the hour or so that we were there we heard David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, The Pixies, The Smiths and Gorillaz. Any bar that plays The Pixies has a place in my heart.

Obviously with the new liquor laws you don't actually need to order food to have a drink. I remember at Barons - when the liquor laws meant you had to order food - the doorman would often ask, whether or not you would be dining. ''Yes, of course,'' we would reply. ''We're just going to have a drink first''. And then of course we would never eat. The doormen knew this, but because of the strict laws, they had to ask. 
Pocket's Euro food menu ranges in price from $4 for a bowl of olives to $21 for a cheese plate. Within that range are their signature dish of Crepes - either savoury or sweet - as well as Tuscan-style pate ($16), Chorizo sausage with white beans ($18), skewers, bruschetta and lots of meaty-sounding dishes, such as a Salami Plate ($18) and Ham Hock ($14).
Ruby ordered the Savoury Crepe with aged proscuitto, bocconcini, cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh tomato sauce ($14.50):

I pigged out and had the Garden Bruschetta of peas, Meredith feta, lemon oil and fine herbs ($14), which was so yummy, I nearly forgot to photograph it:

And I also had the Chicken Skewers marinated in chili and lime soy sauce, served with chili mayo ($12). I couldn't taste any chili at all and it would have been better if the chicken was marinated for longer for a stronger flavour, and cooked for longer, as I can not eat pink chicken:

But that is only a small complaint, and it could have just been a result of the dim lighting. As usual, I checked out the bathrooms, which has walls covered in pages torn from old magazines:

If only they stayed open after midnight.

13 Burton Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9380 7002

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Darlinghurst: Lost and Found: Missing Finger

Oh, no! A missing finger.

''Missing Finger. Please help me!! 
Recently lost my pinky. About 37mm long, manicured nail, no visible scars. If you find this valued limb reward may be given if returned in working order. Contact . . .''

This sad poster was taped to a telegraph pole on Burton Street, near Oxford Square yesterday. Poor little Pinky. It is so cute. I wonder where it is? I hope it is just having a short adventure and returns home soon. If you live in Darlinghurst, please keep an eye out for it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Darlinghurst: Bars: Oxford Art Factory

This time last week I was fortunate enough to see Los Angeles-based duo, Jenny and Johnny, in Darlinghurst, with a ticket that my friend Ruby Molteno very kindly gave to me as a gift. Ruby also gave me a copy of Jenny and Johnny's first album together, I'm Having Fun Now (cover art pictured above).
I love Jenny Lewis and her work with the Watson Twins and Rilo Kiley. I'm an alternative-country-music girl at heart and I particularly like female singers and Lewis has that yee-ha kind of twang to her voice. Johnathan Rice played the role of Roy Orbison in the Johnny Cash bio-pic Walk The Line and has a 50s-style voice.

The gig was at the Oxford Art Factory, which must have opened at least five years ago on Oxford Street, near Oxford Square, and is one of the few good-sized live music venues in the area for local and international acts.
The space was inspired by Andy Warhol's New York studio in the 1960s, known as The Factory, which became a hang-out for artists who would create films, music and paintings and take lots of drugs. The only problem with the Oxford Art Factory's goal to be a legendary creative space, is that they haven't got Warhol.

The gigs take place in the downstairs basement area, known as the Live Art Space, which holds about 400 people. Another space off to the side, known as The Gallery, holds about 100 people and has walls covered in art. There is also a big glass box, called The Cube, for art installations and performances. 

For a Monday night, and with tickets costing $60, the space was nicely packed. I recently saw a gig at the Sydney Festival Becks Bar and while the band, Beach House, was amazing, the crowd was incredibly dull and lifeless. The crowd at the Oxford Art Factory was great, so the place was buzzing. It helped that Jenny and Johnny were really engaging and played up to the audience. American musicians, especially those from California, really know how to entertain. 

The Oxford Art Factory also offers regular free gigs in The Gallery space. This Thursday, young Alstonville band, Glass Towers, is performing for free, while over the next few Fridays you can see Sydney hip-hop artists Phatchance and Coptic Soldier, for absolutely zero dollars. 

Oxford Art Factory
38-46 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9332 3711

Friday, February 11, 2011

Across the Border: Paddington: Retailers: Mrs Press

Marriage and cohabitation are not for me, but I have to admit I am an incurable romantic. I love roses, silk lingerie and perfume, moon-gazing, music on old record-players, drinking Champagne from old-fashioned glasses and reading poetry aloud. I love dressing-up and having parties and making my apartment as pretty as can be. And I really, really love the Mrs Press Dressing Room in neighbouring Paddington.
Sorry readers, this is a girly post, but I figured with Valentine's Day coming up (on Monday), Mrs Press would be an ideal place to purchase pretty pleasures for the lover-girl or girls in your life. And I do like to talk about fancy frocks. And silk. Oh, how I love silk.

Former Vogue writer Clare Press opened her first clothing store in a shopfront at 136 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, in late 2009. I was an early visitor to her store, drawn in at first by a striking, hand-printed dress in the window and then lost for a long time perusing the clothes and accessories within. It was like a gorgeous dress-up box with all the things I love. I spent quite a bit of money that first time and thought it was best to avoid the place for a while if I wanted to continue paying the rent. But then all of a sudden in June last year, Mrs Press was gone! Apparently the Darlinghurst building, Kurrajong, is suffering from concrete cancer, which is why it is now covered in scaffolding:

It's unlucky for the building, but luckily for us, Mrs Press moved up the road, to a shop in Paddington. 

And what a gorgeous job she has done decorating the new shop. There is a marvellous black cast iron spiral staircase at the back and other black highlights throughout the mostly creamy, luxurious room. I recently saw the film, Coco and Igor, about the romance between the French fashion designer and the Russian composer. There were many great sets of Chanel's country home, which was decorated in black and white, and the Mrs Press Dressing Room is quite similar. It looks so good, like a box of Chanel perfume and I now want to paint the trimmings in my apartment a glossy black. 

The shop is housed in an 1880s terrace on the northern side of Oxford Street, on the slope that leads up to Woollahra. The building must have originally been home to a confectioner as in December 1889, J.B. Taylor and Co held an auction on site to sell off the ''stock in trade of a confectioner''. In the 1920s the building was home to Webster and Foley Real Estate and then the next newspaper reference I can find for the building is a blunt job advertisement from January 1953: ''Delicatessen. Wanted: Experienced woman with references''. Before Mrs Press moved in, the site was home to Mimco fashion accessories.

Anyway, back to the clothes and potential Valentine's Day treasures. Mrs Press stocks a little range of soaps, hand creams, body washes and scented candles in beautiful art nouveau packaging. Most women I know would be very happy with any of these pleasant smelling delights. 

The only problem is deciding between the cream (marigold) and the pink (tea rose).

If you want to spend a little more money, Mrs Press's dresses are divine. There are some on sale at the moment for just $60, while others go up to $200 and $400. The dresses are mostly made from silk or a woven wool and are cut with history in mind. There are a few floor-grazing frocks at the moment, which have gorgeous 1940s inspired bodices, so your gal can look like a vintage movie star.  I also love the sexy silk kimono style jacket (only $80), which is great for a gift as it doesn't really need to be tried on to get the size right. Mrs Press will help you anyway. I would recommend buying the kimono top and a matching pair of dusty silk gold knickers (only $30) with sweet-bows on each side. (Model Jerry Hall is a big fan of knickers and keeps hers in colour-coded drawers. Hall has always been a proponent of big knickers and I have to agree: there is nothing more ugly that tight underwear. So take Hall's advice and buy up a size.) 

But please don't purchase your valentine this delicate, sequined bolero (below right), which is so glamorous and looks like fun to wear - because I am saving up to buy it! 
Mrs Press, or one of the lovely shop women will wrap your treasures in tissue paper, ready for presenting to your sweet lover. If you cook her dinner too, she'll love you even more. 
Happy Valentine's Day readers. And if you don't have a lover, don't worry, Valentine's Day is just for fools.

Mrs Press Dressing Room
436 Oxford Street
Paddington NSW 2021
02 9331 7332