Rydges Sydney Central is handy to lots of restaurants – it’s a walk to some of Sydney’s best Lebanese, Greek, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Korean and, of course, Chinese cuisine… Just head across George Street towards Darling Harbour to the city’s famous Chinatown (the Haymarket end).
Dixon Street is always buzzing with restaurant front-of-house and owners inviting passers-by in to dine, working the tables and whipping their staff into gear. There’s inside and al fresco dining options, a great passing parade and street happenings like massages from mobile ‘therapists’. The pedestrian thoroughfare is framed by two gated arches and, in Chinese, these are known as ‘paifang’. Before deciding on a restaurant, we suggest you do a lap of the street and check out what other diners are enjoying – and before sitting at a table, check if they are only serving yum cha if you prefer to choose from a menu.
The Chinatown location came about through ‘migration’. In the late 19th century, The Rocks area was home to Chinatown and it moved south to relocate near Market Street, Darling Harbour and settled in its current location in the 1920’s. It has also ‘migrated’ from being a home to opium dens and sly gambling to today’s exciting mix of neon lights, restaurants, grocery shops and quirky gift and clothing outlets. While Dixon Street is at the heart of Chinatown, other streets include Factory, Goulburn, Little Hay, Thomas, Kimber Lane and parts of George and Sussex Streets. A quick point of reference it to look at the signs for the street names – within Chinatown they are in both English and Chinese.
Apart from the terrific restaurants, food halls and noodle bars, Chinatown is simply a vibrant, fun place to visit with the atmosphere and buzz of an Asian marketplace. The symbolic entry point is at the eastern end of Chinatown (corner of George and Hay Streets) where there is a sculpture by artist Lin Li called Golden Water Mouth. Standing over 10 metres high the sculpture is made from the trunk of a yellow-box eucalyptus tree, partly covered with gold leaf and mounted on a terracotta base set into the footpath. The sculpture represents positive energy and good fortune and the five natural elements (wood, water, earth, fire and gold) give harmony to the natural and urban environments with the gold also reflecting a link to early Chinese settlers and the gold rush era.
The Chinatown streets are busy day and night, especially on Fridays when the Chinatown Night Markets on Dixon Street swing into action (from 4:00pm to 11:00pm). The market is an opportunity for Asian students, artists and designers to sell clothing, jewellery, candles, lanterns, smart phone accessories and street food with a very multicultural mix.
And, of course, the best time of year to visit Chinatown is for the Lunar New Year celebrations. The annual event (February) is more than a one-night celebration – it has become a vibrant arts festival with cultural events, exhibitions, entertainment, Dragon Boat races and, of course, more food!