How Sydney just trumped Melbourne when it comes to the laneway scene

The culture wars just got turned up a notch.

By Natasha Lee 22/05/2018

For years, the battle lines between Sydney and Melbourne had been drawn with clear demarcation.

Melbourne’s coffee was better than Sydney’s… debateable.

Sydney had better weather than Melbourne… fact.

Melbourne’s city scene was buoyed by its laneways and eclectic hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants… fact. But that’s all about the change.

Located in Sydney’s trendy inner-city suburb of Chippendale is Kensington Street. It is, for lack of a better description, a Melbourne laneway on steroids. An elegant and newly renovated corridor dotted with eclectic eateries, bars and even gourmet food purveyors.

The exterior of Kensington Street at night. Photo: Supplied

Akin to a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Kensington Street was born out of the massive recent renovation of the nearby Foster’s Brewery and its surrounds. The precinct is the kind of environment that quick-bite couples and late-night revellers can both find solace.

On a recent trip there the team from Robb Report began our night at Gin Lane, a hole-in-the-wall 1920s-style bar whose showstopping cocktail took inspiration from none-other-than Britain’s infamous gunpowder plot. Remember, remember?

In true local neighbourhood style situated beside Gin Lane is the classic, home-style Italian restaurant Olio. Located on the second floor of a warehouse-style abode, the restaurant overlooks the entire precinct and buzzes with a subtle sensuality, heightened by its low lighting and bare walls.

A selection of dishes from Olio. Photo: Supplied

The restaurant’s classic Italian menu features a cornucopia of dishes, including homemade squid ink tonnarelli with Queensland spanner crab and spicy pork ‘ndjua’, charcoal grilled calamari with tomato coulis, fennel salad, roasted corn and lemon vinaigrette. Then there is the restaurant’s signature gattapardo seafood stew.

Each dish somehow manages to carefully straddle the delicate-line between Italian home-style and fine dining, in turn creating a perfectly hearty meal that plays on the senses.

Beside Olio sits dessert bar KOI – the brainchild of acclaimed Masterchef contestant Reynold Poernomo and his brother, Arnold.

Poernomo, who took part in the competition back in 2015, has created an eatery that blends classic French patisserie techniques with subtle Asian flavours such as pandan, yuzu and coconut.

A selection of cakes from Koi. Photo: Supplied

His desserts have fast become known for their aesthetic appeal as well as their taste. And it’s no wonder, with KOI offering a selection of stunning creations, including their Mighty Mango Yuzu – a gentle dome shaped offering that combines the creamy sweetness of mango mousse with a hint of slightly bitter-tasting yuzu curd and almond sable.

Then there’s Poernomo’s signature dish, Moss, a layered creation served in a jam jar that blends green apple, lime, yoghurt, pistachio, matcha, orange blossom, dulce, caramel and fennel.

The precinct is truly an experience unto itself. Besides the eateries, the area also plays home to Handpicked Wines Cellar Door, Kakawa Chocolates and Spice Alley, which features a buzzing collection of Asian eateries.

Your move, Melbourne.

To learn more about Kensington Street visit


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