The zest in the west: Sydney’s sizzling centre

It’s an Aboriginal word that means “where the eels lie down”. Now Parramatta is transforming its main drag from a place where hoons drive down into a vehicle-free European-style piazza where diners sit down.

 

A stroll down Church Street from its picturesque Lennox Bridge, built in 1836, in the “Paris end of Parra” down to the pedestrian-only Church Street Mall, reveals the city has positioned itself as a new dining and arts hub, especially for the under-25 set.

 

Known locally as ”Eat Street” for its 35 restaurants in three city blocks, the cuisine ranges from modern Australian to gourmet gluten-free pizza, from high-end Greek and Italian to Turkish pide and Spanish churros.

 

For late-night diners, Harry’s Cafe de Wheels opened a Church Street branch this month.

 

Plans for Church Street include blocking the street to traffic on Friday and Saturday nights for alfresco dining, turning the heritage-listed St Peter’s Uniting Church into a bar and restaurant, a ban on public smoking, and extending its Saturday farmers market to a Thursday gourmet “grape and grill” weekly wine and food fair.

 

It’s a far cry from a few decades back when fine dining on Church Street meant a counter meal at the White Horse Inn, or the dark confines of the street’s only high-end restaurant, the Copper Canyon – noted more for its dinner suit-wearing waiters known as “the fastest cigarette lighters in the west” than for its cuisine.

 

“We’re trying to create new ways of getting more people to come to our CBD for [the] social life, and show that culture and art are not the exclusive domain of inner Sydney,” said the acting lord mayor, Chiang Lim, who believes Church Street’s dining precinct rivals Toorak Road in Melbourne.

 

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