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  • Writer's pictureTina Brand

Downtown Sydney: laneways & food courts to explore.

The laneways of Melbourne get a lot of hype in their tourism ads, but I'm not sure we fully appreciate the various laneways scattered across Sydney. The back streets and alleyways with fun little bakeries, pintxos bars, taverns and lunch spots are hidden in plain sight if you're interested.

For a start, let's check out Loftus Lane in the heart of Circular Quay. Loftus Lane developed by renown SJB Architects is tucked in the back of the buildings which line Young, Loftus and Bridge Streets.

A brilliant redevelopment means the laneway firstly pays respect to the first owners of the land through the interpretation of a Wiradjuri artist's discreet installations. The scene is then set on the wide and attractive alley with clever landscaping to include pretty plantings of shade loving greenery, and a variety of eateries on either side.

We were three mouths, my exploring partner-in-crime photographer extraordinaire, Lorrie, and dear but unsuspecting American friend Steve, taking a couple of hours out of his research and writing to join us on this wander.

Here's what we encountered in Loftus Lane;

Skittle Lane Coffee: curated blends and single origin coffees in fully compostable packaging.

Side Room Warm Bowls: Calling themselves a health food shop, pick up salads, smoothies and açai bowls. It also looks like they change over their menus regularly.

Bubble Nini:there are lots of bubble tea places all over Sydney, and Bubble Nini's point of departure is that their bubbles are hand made. Try some wonderful flavour combos that come with cute 'punny' names. Like a grape and aloe vera smoothie with a cheese milk foam is called the Grape Gatsby. Try an iced tea with tiramisu foam, Barbie themed pink drinks and more!

Besuto Sydney: Fine dining Japanese with a specialty whiskey list. Not open for lunch.

Buillion L'Entrecōte: the absolute French classic of old. Serving dishes like lobster Thermidor, escargots, foie gras, and charcuterie. Not my lunch choice, but a good steak and a glass of wine for dinner ...?

Londres 126: a dazzling, beautifully appointed Mexican destination, perfect for a date or if you're out to impress. This is the real thing- you could very well be eating out in style in Mexico city, with international flavours complementing regional recipes.

The trio of Grana, Lana and Bar Mammoni: while Grana is street facing (Young Street) one can also slip in a side door from Loftus Lane. Enter the heritage listed Hincliffe House doors and be bowled over by the exposed beams, polished floors and sense of light and space, surrounding the open kitchen where chefs bustle about making bread and pasta and pastries of the highest order.

Head upstairs to Lana, where the space is moody and chic, and here chef Alex Wong cleverly combines the flavours of Italy and SE Asia. Check out the set lunch.

Downstairs and spilling out onto Loftus lane is Mammoni, all at once a patisserie, pizza=by-the-slice lunch spot and tapas and cocktail bar when the sun goes down. The atmosphere is buzzy and friendly, pastries are to die for and I'll definitely be heading back one evening to try their tapas.

Marrickville Pork Roll: what is a beloved Marrickville institution has landed with a pounce (the large neon tiger keeps an eye on the queue from behind the service counter.). Banh Mi at its absolute best. This is the golden standard of Vietnamese mega sandwiches.

This is just a little tip-of-the-iceberg delve into so much on offer in the city alleyways and foothills, also at Wynyard, at the MLC Center in Martin Place, and around Shell House. So many hip and hot spots in the outer reaches of Sydney like Humble Bakery, Papparich, Messina and Belle's Hot Chicken have found second homes downtown so no one misses out.

If all the hustle of the big city is wearing you out, I'd recommend stepping in to the hotel Capella Sydney right on Loftus Street. Graceful and hushed, with soaring ceilings and masses of floral arrangements to swoon over, excellent indigenous art on the walls and an array of cosy corners to cool your city weary heels.

Head over to Lorrie's blog too for her atmospheric pictures of our foray captured both at night and during the day. Thanks darling Steve for coming along, being a good sport and helping us EAT.


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