In this guide to the popular Australian city, we tapped on former film producer/semi-retired chef Ping to give us the lowdown on its best spots. (While she wished to remain faceless, you can visit her Instagram account @likklepictures, where she regularly documents her travels.)  In early 2004, Ping quit a fourteen-year stint in advertising film production in Singapore and left for Sydney, Australia to go back to school, a culinary college. Ping and her partner finally made the move back to Singapore in 2018 and she is currently working on maintaining the slow-ness of their old life in Sydney.

In this guide, Ping goes into detail on Surry Hills, a Sydney neighbourhood known to be an art and lifestyle enclave.

Bourke Street Bakery

633 Bourke Street, Surry Hills

Start your day with a coffee at this corner bakery like many of the locals do. A hot chocolate or a bottle of their house-made iced Belgian chocolate milk – if, like me, you’re not a coffee-drinker. Finding a seat, inside or outside along the pavement, at this busy spot, can sometimes be difficult but if you get lucky, I urge you to get something sweet – a flaky chocolate croissant, one of their delicious tarts or a slice of their signature carrot cake. We love their pies and their quintessentially-Australian sausage rolls for breakfast too. And their sourdoughs – we always pack loaves in our suitcases to take to Singapore for family and friends.

Brett Whiteley Studio

2 Raper Street, Surry Hills
(Open only on Friday to Sunday from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Free admission)

A very short walk from Bourke Street Bakery into a couple of narrow side streets, you will find, guided by very helpful signs, the former home and studio of the late Australian artist, Brett Whiteley – an old warehouse which he purchased in the 1980s and converted to work and live in. After the passing of the artist, the space is now under the care of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and they have left it pretty much as it was, with unfinished paintings and his tools in the studio, and memorabilia in the living area.Whiteley led a very interesting life and it shows in his works, in various mediums, shown in the changing exhibitions curated by the Gallery.


Navigate your way out of the back streets, when you’re done at the Brett Whiteley Studio, to Crown Street, one of the major streets in Surry Hills, which was also our old street. The experience of browsing and shopping in small and friendly stand-alone shops is so much more enjoyable than in the big malls with all their chain stores.

Start at the corner of Devonshire and Crown at The Standard Store (503 Crown Street, Surry Hills), a multi-(imported)label store that stocks concise collections from the likes of Apiece Apart, Engineered Garments, Henrik Vibskov, Sea New York and YMC, to name a few.

Pop in to Title Music Film Books (501 Crown Street, Surry Hills) and The Architect’s Bookshop (499 Crown Street, Surry Hills) next door if you are still into reading printed books and listening to music on CDs and records.

Further down the street, there’s Nique (483 Crown Street, Surry Hills), a label from Melbourne, in a minimally-decked-out shop full of gender-neutral tailoring-focused basics that are as pared-back as the
shop’s interiors.

A couple of doors down is Mud Australia (477 Crown Street, Surry Hills). Stepping into this ceramics store is like walking into a lolly shop for grown-ups! Porcelain vessels in all the colours, shapes and sizes, made in Sydney from clay imported from Limoges, France. Be prepared to spend some time in there trying to make difficult decisions of which to take home.

At the end of this old row of shops is The Collector Store (473 Crown Street, Surry Hills). If you leave with only one thing from this fashion and homeware store, make it a Gascoigne & King candle. I have never been into scented candles but after I discovered these locally-made-in-Surry-Hills jars-of-goodness, I was hooked. They are the only candles that I would pay good money for.

Now, keep walking down the street, along the row of old terraces, and keep a look out for Sark Studio (431 Crown Street, Surry Hills), my favourite-est shop for the kind of interestingly-oversized made-with-comfort-in-mind clothing that I love wearing. Beautifully handcrafted in Sydney, from the most interesting natural fibres, Sark Studio’s timeless goods are made to weather the ebb and flow of fashion, and to last you a life time.

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New red. New fringing. Slightly in love

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Across the road from Sark is Maloneys Grocer (4/490 Crown Street, Surry Hills), a family-run business. There are loads to be had in there, from fresh seasonal Australian-grown fruit+veg and Australian-made foodstuff to pantry staples to delicious take-away lunches and snacks from their deli.

Crossing back to the other side of the road, you’ll soon see Gelato Messina (389 Crown Street, Surry Hills). Some locals have a love-hate relationship with this house of frozen confections – we love that wedon’t have very far to go when we feel like some delicious icy treats – check their “specials” blackboard for fun flavours before placing your order.

The park across the road, Shannon Reserve, is the site for the monthly Surry Hills Markets. If you are in the neighbourhood on the first Saturday of the month, you’re in for a real treat! There are loads of weekend flea markets in Sydney but this one is our No.1 because it’s truly a community market. Besides the usual stalls with all kinds of cool collectible vintage objects and local makers showing their handmade goods,the organisers have also made provisions for locals to rent a space to sell their unwanted stuff – there’s always a good mix of secondhand designer clothing from the young and hip Surry Hills crowd and cute old biddies trying to get rid of the things that they’ve kept for decades.

A few intersections down, at one corner of Crown and Campbell, there’s the Danish furniture and homeware store, HAY (285A Crown Street, Surry Hills) for some modern design-loving and moving closer to Oxford Street, you’ll find a small cluster of vintage and secondhand clothing shops for some oldschool good feels.

It’s time for a pub stop before crossing Oxford Street to the next ‘hood! You’ve probably, by now, walked past quite a few pubs (Surry Hills is also known as “Slurry Hills” for the high concentration of public drinking houses in a small area), some still retaining their old flavour and some completely hipster-ised.

The Gaslight Inn (278 Crown Street, Surry Hills) at the corner of Oxford and Crown is a non-fancy mix of the two with a dimly-lit pokie (slot machine) parlour on the ground floor and a brighter and quieter lounge + small open air deck one level up. Grab a frosty one, downstairs or up, and get your feet ready for the last few destinations on the walk.

One more stop for locally-made ceramics at Studio Enti (13 Foley Street, Darlinghurst), located in a quiet back alley just behind Oxford Street. We love ceramicist Naomi’s fine porcelain work! In her calming shop space, you will find lampshades so translucent that they emit a soft magical glow when lit, and a range of quietly-beautiful tableware that are as good to look at and to hold as they are functional.

If you are starting to feel a little peckish after all that walking, exit Foley Lane on the Crown Street end, walk downhill and head straight to another friendly neighbourhood favourite of ours, Chaco Bar (238, Crown Street, Darlinghurst), a ramen bar by day and a yakitori diner by night. The Japanese chef’s ramen broths are done in the style that I love – light and clear yet super-flavoursome. The queue for lunch can be long but folks move in and out rather quickly and you’ll find yourself seated in this cool little space pretty soon. If you are thinking about having a fun food-on-sticks dinner here, book in advance – it’s always full because, well, the food is fantastic.

To walk off that ramen (and beer, I hope!) lunch, head further downhill towards William Street to the penultimate destination of this walk – The Australian Design Centre (101/113-115 William Street, Darlinghurst). There are always really interesting design exhibitions up in there and then there’s the Object Shop! In there, the works of contemporary designers and makers are well-represented, making it a great one-stop shop for locally-designed-and-crafted gifts, souvenirs and keepsakes.

And finally, to end the day the way we started, walk along William Street down to Riley Street in Woolloomoolo for some well-deserved afternoon tea treats at Flour and Stone (53 Riley Street, Woolloomoolo), another one of Sydney’s favourite bakeries. A serve of their lamington or vanilla slice would be a befitting (Australian) cherry on top of a cracker-of-a-day.

Cover image courtesy of Ping @likklepictures.