Sydney sensations: the best of what's new

From shopping and art to clubs and juice bars, Helen O'Neill squeezes the last drop out of a city that knows how to enjoy itself
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The Independent Travel

1 Design classic

1 Design classic

The hottest new take on a city obsessed with style begins halfway between Sydney airport and the city, in the heart of warehouse-land. Iconic design house Signature Prints, whose handmade wallpapers adorn the homes of the chic and famous across the globe, has opened a print gallery beside its factory in Rosebery (00 61 2 8338 8400; www.signatureprints.com.au). Tour it and get the lowdown on Florence Broadhurst, one of Australia's greatest and most enigmatic designers whose images defined the 1960s and 1970s before she was murdered in 1977. Some of Sydney's grooviest venues have redesigned their interiors around Broadhurst's eclectic wallpapers. Start with cocktails from award-winning drinks maestro Marco Faraone at the sexily elegant Lotus (22 Challis Ave Potts Point, 00 61 2 9326 9000), dinner under the chandeliers at Will & Tobys Bar and Bistro (Level 1, 294 Victoria St Darlinghurst, 00 61 2 9356 3255; www.willandtobys.com.au) and party on into the small hours at the new Ladylux nightclub (2 Roslyn St, Kings Cross), where the red and silver metallic wallpaper has Florence Broadhurst prints all over it.

2 The name's Bondi...

Quite apart from the fact that the coolest skate park on this side of the planet is about to open overlooking Bondi Beach, Gould Street - once a forgotten Bondi lane running parallel to the most famous patch of sand in Australia - has morphed into trend central. Sure, Paddington's rambling Oxford Street houses a broader range of designer outlets and Bondi Junction's new A$680m (£294m) Westfield retail precinct covers the mainstream, but Gould Street is on the crest of a very special wave. The short one-way lane offers everything from Ayurvedic tongue scrapers (Natural Progression Nutrition, 81 Gould Street, 00 61 2 9130 2080) to the free surfer's bible Tide Guide (Krack Surf & Skate, 87a Gould Street, 00 61 2 9130 6349). Clotheswise, there's everything from itsy bitsy bikinis and Bonds undies (Pluto's Bodywear, 96 Gould St, 00 61 2 9130 5506 ) to a rack of designer boutiques, one so achingly trendy that it doesn't even put its name on the outside of its store. The others, such as Oneteaspoon (86 Gould St, Bondi Beach, 00 61 2 365 1290; www.oneteaspoon.com.au) have their finger firmly on the groove. Literally, in the case of Electric Monkeys (80 Gould Street, 00 61 2 9365 6955; www.electricmonkeys.com), where vinyl records, CDs and tickets for gigs nestle beside the T-shirts. Tuchuzy (90 Gould Street, 00 61 2 9365 5371) carries Moppett, a range of infantwear for tiny beach babes with logos such as "Spit Happens" and "Mothersucker".

3 Festival fever

This summer's Sydney Festival has New Zealand sculptural conjurer Neil Dawson punching through the darkness with Aurora Australia, designed to light Sydney's Bridge and Harbour from 31 December to 30 January with a shimmering canopy of spectral awe. Elsewhere the festival takes on an epic quality, both in event and location as it roams from Sydney's inner-city venues to theatres in the western suburb of Parramatta and the criminally under-used open spaces of Sydney Olympic Stadium. Dance, film, music and theatre combine in an eclectic line-up - the last by festival director Brett Sheehy - which pulls in local and international talent. Highlights include French celestial art specialists Transe Express with what promises to be the largest aerially-rigged display ever erected in Australia; Marianne Faithfull in the dark, avant-garde musical theatre of The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets (a collaboration between Robert Wilson, William Burroughs and Tom Waits), the soulful croonings of Grammy-winning jazz diva Dianne Reeves, and the first major survey of Australian photographer Bill Henson's powerful work. Many of the events are free, for ticketing and location information call 00 61 2 8248 6500 or go to www.sydneyfestival.org.au.

4 Night vision

When the sun goes down after a hot Sydney day, the stars come out in force - never have so many movies been screened to such a large number of people so determined to sit outdoors. Next month, the Moonlight Cinema, which is opening up in Perth and Brisbane for the first time this year, takes over the lush, tropical groves of Sydney's sprawling Centennial Park. The line-up: a mix of old favourites (Clockwork Orange, Dirty Dancing) and recent releases (11 November - 28 March, www.moonlight.com.au). The prize for best location, however, goes to the Open Air Cinema in the Royal Botanical Gardens 10 Jan - 19 Feb, www.stgeorge.com.au/openair). As the sun goes down behind the Opera House and fruitbats flap lazily overhead, a 350sq m screen emerges from Sydney Harbour and it is there that you watch the latest films. The season wraps up with Tropfest, once a tiny collaboration of film-makers wanting to screen a short film in a café, now the world's largest short film festival. It's free, runs on the last Sunday in February, and boasts audiences of more than 120,000 thanks to simultaneous screenings in the state capitals. Sydney is where it's at, though, particularly in terms of the red carpet. Former judges include John Woo, Keanu Reeves, Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. The latter two are due to be filming in Australia so don't be too surprised if they find themselves wrangled into the event again ( www.tropfest.com).

5 The big squeeze

Sydney is in the grip of a juice bar battle that began back in 2000 when mother-of-three Janine Allis decided that there was nowhere to buy a healthy drink. She launched Boost Juice ( www.boostjuice.com.au) in Adelaide and hasn't looked back. Allis now has more than 140 stores across Australia, 1,600 employees, a projected 2004-5 turnover of A$75m and an ever-growing range of competitors - mango-squeezing wannabes who are sliding into side streets and shopping centres across the country. The main players are Pulp, Kick! and Viva Juice and while the fruity war is a national one, Sydney - time poor, health conscious and body beautiful - is the main battleground. This summer, expect a city awash with juice bars sprouting wheatgrass from tiny pots on the counters. A bewildering range of drinks is on offer - juice cocktails, smoothies (fruit, dairy and crushed ice) as well as "medicinal" drinks laced with the likes of camomile, passion flower and lemon balm. Allis has just been named Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year.

6 Market mania

Be it flea, fish or farmers', Sydney's market scene has never been stronger. The latest addition is a Market by Moonlight, running every Friday in November at The Rocks, a short stroll from Circular Quay along George Street ( www.therocks.com). Expect the well-made arts, crafts and collectibles available here in The Rocks' Saturday and Sunday markets. For general bargains there's no beating the city's biggest market - Paddy's ( www.paddysmarkets.com.au), located under Market City on the corner of Hay and Thomas Streets and open 10am-6pm Thursday; 9am-4pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The best of the rest include the trendy Paddington Markets on Oxford Street, which showcases young local designers (Saturdays, 10am-4pm, www.paddingtonmarket.com.au); the antique and craft-orientated Balmain Market in the grounds of the local church on the corner of Darling and Curtis Road (Saturday 8.30am-4pm); and the Bondi Markets (Sunday 10am-4pm, Bondi Beach Public School, Campbell Parade) where, if you are lucky, you might find some of the retro jewellery so beloved by this season's hip designers. And don't forget Sydney Fish Market (Blackwattle Bay, Pyrmont, www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au) - open 7am-4pm every day except Christmas. A feast for the eyes as well as the table.

7 Food with attitude

For a city that prides itself on being one of the world's great food centres, the high-end restaurant closures of the past 24 months have been hard to stomach. But belts are loosening once more, as some of the top chefs turn to bars, bistros and renovated pubs as venues for quality grub.

Up at the top of the list is Moog Wine & Food (412 Bourke Street, Surry Hills, 00 61 2 8353 8201), a slick, sexy venue which more than makes up in quality what it lacks in size thanks to the guiding hand of much-awarded chef Mark Best. Omega (161 King St, Sydney, 00 61 2 9223 0242) catapulted in as best new restaurant in this year's Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, is a funkily decked-out basement with a seductively classy modern Greek menu from Peter Conistis.

If Sydney's winter was all about pork belly, this summer's hard-to-escape dish is hiramasa kingfish, a beautifully succulent dish. Eat it and weep.

8 Party on down

As the weather heats up, Sin City starts partying like there's no tomorrow. Oxford Street, the City and Darling Harbour now host the hottest clubs, including Cargo, 52-60, The Promenade, King St Wharf (00 61 2 9 262 1777), and the three-level Home, Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour (00 61 2 9266 0600). Elsewhere, expect the biggest events to hog the best-known venues with Bondi Beach hosting Sunlove! 2004 on Christmas Day (10am-10pm). Here there are likely to be scorching temperatures and burnt skin as well as a red-hot line-up featuring the likes of Judge Jules, Jumping Jack, Nik Fish and Amber Savage ( www.beatdivision.com.au/site2/index.html). The Coney Island-style funfair Luna Park takes care of the New Year's Eve Harbour Party but more people than ever before are expected to turn out on and around the Harbour that night to view what has turned into a national event - the challenge to out-do the previous year's fireworks. Summer's end is heralded by the Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras on 5 March, with a parade and party that turns flimsy dressing into an art form ( www.mardigras.org.au).

9 Lager goes upmarket

Sydneysiders love their pubs, never more so than when the sun is beating down. Hence the recent spate of refurbs and refits, turning down-at-heel boozers into desirable drinking holes. Top of the water-view list is Doyle's Palace Hotel in the peaceful retreat of Watsons Bay, ( www.doyles.com.au/palace.html), which after a multi-million dollar face-lift now has, as one local journalist put it, "more kitchens than the QE2". Another traditional pub that's been given a major makeover is Woolwich Pier Hotel (2 Gale Street, Woolwich, 00 61 2 9817 2204), which sits on a finger of land poking into the harbour. A new niche market has opened up for Belgian beer in cafés such as Brabo in Bondi (100 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, 00 61 2 9300 0969) - lots of mussels, chips, mayonnaise and more than 40 varieties of brew. But wherever you choose to drink, the one big change is the emergence of a thriving boutique beer industry. Brews such as James Squire Amber Ale, Beez Neez, Little Creatures and Redback are just a few of the beers (both bottled and draught) which have hauled Aussie brewing out of the doldrum era of ice-cold lagers. Bottoms up.

10... and there's a glut of red wine

In a city where BYO is king - the peculiar institution of bringing your own wine to a restaurant - news of a wine glut has brought a smile to the face of every wine-lover. The national oversupply of cabernet sauvignon and merlot in particular means that you can get a rather more than decent vin rouge for less than A$10. Some bottleshops (off-licences) have even taken to selling off the excess wine cheaply in cleanskin bottles (buying these by the dozen can drive the price down to as little as A$3 a bottle). For once cheap doesn't necessarily mean nasty. Wine aficionados visiting Sydney in November could do worse than drop into Wine Australia 2004, the biggest wine festival in the southern hemisphere and the local industry's national showcase. Organisers of the four-day grapefest are expecting 25,000 people through the door (26-29 November at Sydney's Darling Harbour, www.wineaustralia.com.au).

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