North Sydney on the cusp of becoming a must-visit dining destination

22/05/2024 | Mosman Daily

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The new Metro is set to reinvigorate North Sydney. Meet the local businesses who plan to turn the commercial district into a must-visit dining precinct.


North Sydney has never been a place people want to hang out, but the new Metro station could change that.


It’s set to be a catalyst for change. Greater accessibility from the CBD plus an influx of commercial and residential buildings will bring a lot more people to the area.


A Sydney Metro spokesperson said that by 2036 more than 15,150 people are expected to pass through the new Victoria Cross Metro Station in North Sydney during the morning peak hour. For Crows Nest Metro Station, it’s estimated to be 10,250 people.


A Metro will run every four minutes during peak hour. It will take five minutes to travel from Crows Nest to Barangaroo or seven minutes to Martin Place. From Victoria Cross to Martin Place it will be five minutes and to Central nine minutes. That’s a lot faster, and cheaper, than an Uber.


“The sites of the new Crows Nest and Victoria Cross stations were selected as they create new rail public transport catchments and will grow overall public transport user numbers,” a Sydney Metro spokesperson says.


“A Metro station at Victoria Cross will support the continued growth of the North Sydney CBD and provide access to the North Sydney business district, and surrounding recreational, education and residential areas. The Victoria Cross Station precinct will deliver new retail opportunities, improved pedestrian connections and high-quality outdoor spaces, adding to the vibrancy of the area.


“The new Crows Nest station will provide a catalyst for increased public transport use, and improve connections to local schools, businesses and Crows Nest village.


“The station creates a new transport focus on the southern side of St Leonards and includes new retail space, public domain upgrades, separated cycle link, and improved pedestrian crossings on the Pacific Highway.”


Local businesses hope that connecting these northern hubs to the CBD will encourage more people to explore the area.


In order to make it a place that people want to visit, it needs to offer something patrons can’t get elsewhere. It’s one of the reasons Lendlease, developer of the Metro and the 42-storey commercial building Victoria Cross Tower above it, created the North Sydney CBD Community Improvement District (CID).


The formal collaboration between significant businesses – spanning commercial property owners, developers, agents, retailers and hospitality operators – is aimed at turning it into a precinct people want to hang out in.


The district operates as a key stakeholder group for North Sydney Council to realise its strategic plans for arts and culture, economic development and sustainability in North Sydney, leading to a more vibrant, desirable and activated community.


Lendlease project director, Victoria Cross, and general manager of the North Sydney CBD CID, Alex Frankl is excited about the area’s potential.


“We’re already seeing an influx of progressive businesses and retailers choosing North Sydney as their new home,” he says.


“Through the CID forum, we’re taking a collaborative approach to leverage the significant developments under way in North Sydney to create a thriving precinct for workers, locals and visitors to enjoy from day to night.”


The stations are expected to open mid-year.


The precinct around Victoria Cross will be home to 20 casual restaurants including Mary’s and Marrickville Pork Roll, previously only available in the Sydney CBD and inner west. Other outlets include Dopa, Only Coffee, Sushi Hub, Top Impressions Bakery and Machi Machi.


The Metro precinct will also be home to Miller House, which will offer more drinking and dining options. It’s set to open next year.


Modern Italian restaurant Bar Lettera opened in April, at the Citadines Walker North Sydney hotel.


For more finer-dining options, head 50m up the road to the new Aura by Aqualand development on Walker St. Etymon Projects is about to open four new venues – Sol is a bakery, cafe and wine bar; Una is an artisanal providore; Soluna is an LA-inspired all-day diner and bar; and Genzo is Japanese dining. That’s in addition to Poetica restaurant, which Etymon opened late last year just 800m away.


Etymon Projects chief executive Lisa Hobbs says the company has invested heavily in the area.


“We knew the Metro was coming, it was part of our strategy,” she says.


“North Sydney is a huge opportunity for us because there’s not enough hospitality there.”


Etymon is part of the North Sydney CBD CID because it believes that strong precincts attract crowds.


“Collaboration is better than competition,” Hobbs says.


“It’s about increased visitation and people wanting to come to the precinct.”


Hobbs says the group has been working on the restaurants in the Aura by Aqualand development for three years.


“We looked at what the area lacked. At that point we’d almost launched Loulou (in Milsons Point) and were getting to know the community quite well. Even when we opened Poetica, it vindicated what we were doing at Aura,” she says.


“The hope is that the precinct will make people travel to the north side by giving them a product they want. If you provide the product, they will come.”


The appetite for hospitality venues in the area is a strong one. Glorietta, a sunny Italian eatery, led the charge in 2020 and Rafi followed suit in 2022, a sprawling 300-seat rooftop venue serving modern Australian cuisine.


One of the area’s original destination venues is the Greenwood Hotel. It’s been going strong since the early ’90s and attracts crowds from all over the city. General manager David Monaghan hopes the Metro will bring increased evening and weekend trade, attracting new patrons or former ones who used to visit when they were younger.


For those who have aged out of the Greenwood, there is neighbouring sister venue Four Hundred Mexican Bar & Kitchen, which opened earlier this year.


“With the number of great venues already available in the area I feel North Sydney is well and truly on its way to becoming a new hub for dining,” Monaghan says.


“Four Hundred was opened as we noticed an opportunity to add to the current dining options in North Sydney. Elevated Mexican lends itself so well to our goal of creating an exciting, accessible experience.


“New bars, cafes and restaurants are starting to pop up across the CBD, and we love to see so many great operators getting around the chance to be part of the next wave of hospitality on the North Shore.”


While Victoria Cross will be the northern hub, Knird wine bar owner Andrew Day is excited about what the Metro means for Crows Nest.


“I can see a plethora of benefits for myself and others,” he says.


“I live in the east and people think Crows Nest is a million miles away, but the Metro knocks that on the head. If customers can access me without the cost of getting an Uber, it has to be beneficial.


“Crows Nest is a little hub, I think it’s being left behind at the moment. If it becomes more convenient to get here, it’s beneficial to everyone.”


For those who want to explore the area, Day recommends the Hayberry for American-style burgers, new whisky bar Captain’s Balcony and the award-winning Petermen seafood restaurant in St Leonards, just around the corner.