Peerless perch | Monocle

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The Crows Nest neighbourhood might be just 5km from the skyscrapers of Sydney’s financial centre but it has its own distinct identity. The 19th-century property that gave the area its moniker is long gone; instead, you’ll find a low-rise neighbourhood huddled around Willoughby Road, a bustling high street.

If things are livelier here than elsewhere on the Lower North Shore, it’s probably because of its youthful population: the median age is 36. You’ll see young professionals (and those who are well heeled enough to snap up the remaining Federation-era cottages) making the most of independent businesses such as gourmet grocer The Essential Ingredient and thrift shops stocking designer hand-me-downs. When it comes to food, you’ll find it all, from cheap-and-cheerful Italian restaurants to Vietnamese joints and superb Japanese and Chinese options. The best watering holes include The Hayberry, The Captain’s Balcony and wine bar Knird. Our pick of the cafés is Only Coffee Project. Let’s take a swoop.



1. To read
Pick up a copy of quarterly magazine Northsider at Italian barber shop Antica Barberia and read it over a flat white at Double Cross Dining Room.


2. To stay
You’ll find the Crows Nest Hotel (or “The Crowie”) at the top of Willoughby Road. Its rooftop bistro is the place to go for a chicken parmigiana and a drink or two. Then head down to its venue space for a dance later on.


3. To see
Amble along Burlington and Alexander Streets to take in their charming Federation-style cottages and terraces. Tempted to buy one? These properties sell like hotcakes when they become available and even a two-bedroom cottage will set you back about AU$2.3m (€1.29m).


4. To taste
Chef Josh Niland has made a name for himself as a seafood specialist. Sample his abalone-schnitzel sandwich at his restaurant, Petermen.



5. …and to buy
Your meal will inspire you to raise your fish-cooking game. Pick up a pair of bone pliers at Petermen – they’re essential for any kitchen arsenal.



6. To read
The Constant Reader bookshop is well stocked with Aussie titles. Buy Possabilities by Victoria Alexander, the late Bill Granger’s Australian Food and children’s classic Alphabetical Sydney by Hilary Bell and Antonia Pesenti.


7. Book this
Opened in 1973 by brothers Rudi and Max Dietz, who still run the floor, German restaurant Stuyvesant’s House is a Sydney institution. Expect old-school service, hearty dishes including pork knuckle and a stein. Sehr gut!


8. Perch here
Picnic under the fig trees at St Leonards Park, a popular jogging spot. It hosts a sunset cinema in summer and there are cricket and football matches at the oval year-round.


9. To meet
Peter and Kathy Xenos started Xenos Cafe in 1969 as a milk bar. Order the spanakopita (savoury spinach pastry) or the slow-cooked Greek lamb. You can still spot Peter, who is now 80, on the floor every day. “I love it,” he tells Monocle. “Regulars are now friends. They have come here for 30 or 40 years.”



10. Don’t miss
The brutalist Oxley Business Centre was designed by architect Geoff Malone shortly after he graduated from the University of Sydney and completed in 1972. It is now expected to be refurbished, with the possible addition of apartments. One to watch.

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