By George, it’s George Street!

Where are all the hip Sydneysiders eating these days? Why, according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Brittany Ruppert, it’s George Street:

For years George Street epitomised grungy downtown dining. Seedy bars lined the windy street and fast food restaurants more or less held the monopoly on eateries.

Skip forward to 2012 and locals are looking at a brand new dining hot spot.

Over the past year several new eateries have been established along George Street, with more than 1000 new seats opening up around the main strip. Among some of the most notable new additions are China Lane, O Bar & Dining and Gowings Bar & Grill in the new QT hotel.

”George Street used to be a no-go zone when it came to serious dining,” writes food critic Terry Durack, ”But all that’s changed”.

”I’m a big believer in the more people around you, the better,” says Luke Mangan, owner and head chef at the elegant Glass Brasserie at the Hilton, where they are celebrating the restaurant’s most successful November in seven years.

”All these new restaurants opening up aren’t taking customers away from us they’re just bringing more great people in to the area.”

One is tempted to say “half their luck” and leave it at that, but the Prick senses this story being part of a greater editorial narrative. The SMH has been nothing if not positively boosterish about plans to run light rail up George Street, especially now that it will run straight up into Surry Hills, thus allowing Terry Durack and the rest of the remaining Herald staff to tread that much more gently on this fragile planet as they make their way from the office to Crown Street to sip jelly-jar cocktails and pick over the latest peasant food fad of the month. But for the plan to come off, it will require some shoring up of George Street’s rather, shall we say, dubious position in the consciousness of Sydneysiders. Thus last week the paper even ran, with a straight face and without rebuttal, Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s claim that “World-class retailers such as Apple, Louis Vuitton and Topshop have recently established flagship stores on George Street in anticipation of light rail.”

Ahem. This sort of statement makes Moore look like the Iraqi Information Minister of urban planning.

But hey, since we are now in the business of inverting history and demographics (the Apple shop has been open for years and years and Louis Vuitton’s customers aren’t going to arrive by light rail, unless it is via some as-yet-unplanned stop at the Cathay Pacific first class arrivals lounge), why not mess with geography as well? Without being persnickity, it is a slightly long bow to say all the various restaurants mentioned by Ruppert are on George Street: plenty sit on tributaries like Market Street, and Pendolino and La Rosa, anchoring as they do opposite poles of the Strand Arcade, can’t both be on George.

And whether on George or a side street, all of the above are concentrated along a very narrow band of the strip. The rest of the street remains a seedy dump dominated by bridge-and-tunnel bloodhouses like the Three Wise Monkeys and Scruffy Murphy’s and their associated businesses, from seedy sex shops to KFC. Mrs Prick and I were recently ejected onto George Street at around 11pm on a recent Saturday following a wedding reception; it was all stumbling slatterns and amped-up bogans crossing their forearms in front of their chests, yelling EX-TREME! at one another in some form of tribal greeting. Light rail, it can pretty safely be said, won’t solve this problem.

No wonder the Pricks are so much more keen to entertain at home, and so defensive of attempts to make that a more expensive business.  

Incidentally Brittany Ruppert, alert Herald readers will recall, is the young intern who a couple of weeks ago was given several hundred words in the paper to complain that young people totally worry about the economy and the environment but, like, totally sit there apathetic instead of getting out the on the streets and protesting like their parents. Ah well, Brittany, with so many fine and fine-ish diners opening on George, at least the economy can’t be that bad. Can it?

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4 Responses to By George, it’s George Street!

  1. Dr Duck says:

    Good luck revitalizing George St while it is dominated by beer barns full of belligerent bogans. As the Prick observes, the human effluvia of these places makes it very unpleasant to be out and about any time after 10:00 pm. A light rail would only facilitate the more efficient flow into and around the precinct of these thoroughly unpleasant specimens.

  2. Whoa Bullock! I detect a fellow publican experiencing (unjustified) reputational fallout! Three Wise Monkeys gets a bit of a backhander above.
    It comes as rather a shock to see the clientele being sneered at as low-brow. I’d always thought it somewhat genteel & upmarket.
    The joint is impressively well run.

    I’m loosely acquainted with the owners of both Three Wise Monkeys & Scruffy Murphy’s and would never in a million years have slung off at either place. They face quite a range of operational issues there, plus more than their fair measure of regulatory scrutiny. It isn’t all counting washing baskets full of cash!

  3. ftgwhelan@gmail.com says:

    Clover Moore is correct, no fashionable businessman should be seen dead on a tram without his Louis Vuitton man bag.

  4. Dear Prick,

    Interesting read.

    The fine and fine-ish diners on George are mostly bank-rolled by investors, some of whom invest as a hobby so they can say at parties “Hey, I own a restaurant too ..”

    I have found the food at these restaurants to be generally very good albeit relatively more expensive. These establishments are generally frequented by 2 types of customers – 1. Boomers who can well afford the occasional cash splash 2. Gen X & Y who credit splash because they don’t and can’t afford a mortgage, might as well splash on food and booze.

    It can only get more expensive to do business in the city and I foresee more honest cafes and restaurants appearing in the suburbs. To me, this is a far more accurate proxy for the economy than 20 somethings knocking back tequilas with $30 entrees on credit.

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