Arts & Entertainment

Pacing Through Pyrmont

Sydney Fish Markets. 19/3/2015 Photo credit James Horan

By Rita Bratovich

The unique shape of the Pyrmont Ultimo peninsula, coupled with an idyllic outlook, rich history, and proximity to the City of Sydney make it one of the most desirable precincts in which to live and work, and one of the most fascinating to explore. Its lively character is the result of a past steeped in industry, progress, and burgeoning society. Shipping, wool, manufacturing, and power helped build a thriving economy. That spirit of entrepreneurship lives as Pyrmont Ultimo leads the country in technology and urban growth. There is a lot to enjoy in this precinct: sandstone cliff walls and hundred-year-old fig trees; state of the art buildings and heritage cottages; museums and malls; fine dining, unique entertainment, good old-fashioned pubs. There is always something new to discover when you visit Pyrmont Ultimo. 

ABC Ultimo Centre 

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is the Government funded national broadcaster. Its head office in Ultimo houses two digital television production studios, an on-air radio studio, a news studio, control room, rehearsal space, and café. You can book in for a guided tour of the studios on Mondays or Wednesdays or register online to be part of a studio audience. The modern sandy-coloured building has hints of Art Deco in its design.
700 Harris Street, Ultimo. Info: www.abc.net.au

ANMM

Overlooking Pyrmont Bay, this museum has an impressive collection of sea-related artefacts, historical items, and objects of interest, as well as one of the world’s largest historical vessels fleet featuring replica tall ships, submarine, navy boats, and more – many on which you can book a harbour cruise. ANMM hosts internationally renowned exhibitions regularly and has great eating options. Outside is the Welcome Wall, inscribed with the names of immigrants dating back decades.  

2 Murray St, Darling Harbour. Info: www.sea.museum

Anzac Bridge

Opened in 1995, this Sydney landmark spans Johnstons Bay and connects the city to Balmain and the Inner West as part of the Western Distributor. It replaced the heritage listed Glebe Island Bridge, a swing bridge which still sits dwarfed below the new bridge, with its gates permanently swung open. The eight-lane, cable-stayed Anzac Bridge services vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists. At the Western end, across the road from each other, are bronze statues of an Australian and a New Zealand Anzac soldier. 

The Apprentice

This training restaurant is operated and staffed by advanced Sydney TAFE hospitality students and is open to the public for lunch and dinner. With an emphasis on quality service and excellent food, the restaurant offers a fine dining experience at an affordable price. The 3-course set menu is created and cooked by students under supervision.  The menu varies regularly and they often host guest chefs. Great city views and special events throughout the year.

Level 7, Building E, Ultimo TAFE,  731-695 Harris Street. Info: www.sydneytafe.edu.au

Bar Clementine

One of the newest establishments in Pyrmont, this cosy wine bar sits next to its sister café, Clementines at the harbour end of Harris St. It has a European, up-market hole-in-the-wall feel, nestled in among an enclave of workers cottages in a quieter part of town. Inside, the décor is old world and pleasing. The wine list includes unique selections from around the country, complemented by a charcuterie, tasting plate, or a la carte menu. 

1/52 Harris St, Pyrmont. Info: www.barclementine.com

Bendigo Bank

Built in 1901 using surplus sandstone from the GPO and Customs House buildings in the city, this beautiful heritage listed Federation Free Style building was the official home of Pyrmont Post Office for over 100 years. Standing dominant at the top of  Union Square, the two storey building has a well preserved, virtually faultless exterior. In 2009, Pyrmont Community Bank Branch of Bendigo Bank leased the site, modernising the interior only. The bank services many local residents and businesses and participates actively in the community. 

148 Harris Street, Pyrmont. Info: www.bendigobank.com.au

Biaggio Café

With views across Sydney Harbour, this waterfront cafe offers a fusion of classic Mediterranean and modern Italian cuisine, using a selection of fresh ingredients and seasonal produce and emphasising individual flavour.  Its focus on sustainability is in harmony with the building in which it is located – the first in NSW to gain a 6-star environmental design rating. With open deck all the way around the wharf, Biaggio is a great spot for coffee and a stroll.  

48 Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont. Info: www.biaggio.com.au

Broadway Shopping Centre

English brothers, Joseph and Albert Grace opened their five-storey department store in 1904, and a twin building a few years later. It became the flagship for Grace Bros. which became a very successful retail chain. The site was vacated by the company in 1992 and after extensive interior renovations, was reopened in 1998 as Broadway Shopping Centre. The entire facade, including the two iconic clock towers topped with green glass/metal globes, was preserved. The centre includes major retail, department, specialty stores, supermarkets, cinema. 

1 Bay Street, Ultimo. Info: www.broadwaysydney.com.au

Café Morso

One of the many establishments occupying ideal spots along Pyrmont’s reclaimed wharves, Cafe Morso has long been a favourite among locals. Its north-westerly aspect affords views to Sydney’s northern shores and the Balmain peninsula. It offers an upscale menu for breakfast and lunch with unique, mixed cuisine items. Outdoor seating allows diners to enjoy the historic features of the wharf. Also available for private evening events. 

108 Lower Deck, West Side Jones Bay Wharf, 26-32 Pirrama Road Pyrmont. Info: www.cafemorso.com.au

Dr Chau Chak Wing Building / UTS Business School

It looks like a giant hand crushed it, but the Gaudi-like distorted shape of this University of Technology, Sydney building is the work of the world-renowned architect, Frank Gehry. It’s Gehry’s first design in Australia and is named after an Australian-Chinese businessman and philanthropist who donated to the project. Much of the exterior is glass, but it’s the wavy-walls with exposed brick detail and protruding window frames that fascinate people. A walk along the Goods Line takes you right past. 

Corner Omnibus Lane & Ultimo Road, Ultimo

Chuuka (opening in July 2019)

Adding to the superb choice of restaurants and cuisines in the precinct is this new venture by two renowned chefs who have combined their talent and experience in high-end Chinese and Japanese cooking. The dual level restaurant includes a dining area, wine room, and an outdoor bar downstairs and a private dining space upstairs. Its location at the outer edge of Jones Bay Wharf allows for panoramic views of the city and harbour. 

Jones Bay Wharf

Crust Gourmet Pizza

While most of their orders are pick-up or delivery, they do have a small, open space with a few tables and chairs for passers-by who’d like to stop for a bite while exploring the neighbourhood.  Crust prides itself on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, being generous with toppings, and finding unique, tasty combinations. Select from the menu or build your own. 

208 Harris St, Pyrmont. Info: www.crust.com.au

Darling Harbour

The land around Cockle Bay used to be a major shipping port and railway goods yard. Large warehouses and woolstores were built around its shores (some are still standing). Gradually, road freight replaced rail and ships used other ports. In the 1980s the disused land underwent a major transformation and Darling Harbour is now a focal point for large scale public events. A boardwalk around the perimeter takes you past restaurants, bars, retail stores, attractions, and entertainment venues. 

Doltone House

One of Sydney’s premium function venues, Doltone House is a standing tribute to the classic migrant story. Aged 19, Biaggio Signorelli arrived from Italy in 1954 with a suitcase and a dream. His ambition took him from a small fruit shop in Lakemba to the collection of world-class venues and restaurants that form the Doltone House group. The beautiful bronze statue outside Signorelli Gastranomia restaurant is called “Life From A Suitcase” and depicts Signorelli and his family.

Darling Island and Jones Bay Wharf. Info: www.doltonehouse.com.au

Dunkirk Hotel

The original Dunkirk Hotel was built in 1895 and named The Butcher’s Arms. It was knocked down and rebuilt in 1914, which places it within the Federation architectural period. In the 1940s it was renamed The Dunkirk to commemorate the famous battle. Locals affectionately call it “The Kirk”. It’s one of the handfuls of pubs still standing from a time when there was virtually one on each corner. It has a bistro, bottle shop and function room as well as accommodation.

205 Harris St, Pyrmont. Info: www.thedunkirk.com.au

Festival Records (now IGA)

This impressive building was once the home of one of Australia’s most successful music recording and publishing companies. From 1952 until 2005, Festival Records produced some of the country’s biggest hits with our most famous pop stars. The building itself dates back to 1939 and is in the style of inter-war functionalism with Art Deco elements. Its practical design has saved its distinctive features from being altered through several tenancies.  It currently serves as an IGA supermarket. 

63 Miller Street, Pyrmont

Goldsbrough Building

English born Richard Goldsbrough arrived in Australia in 1847 and established a successful wool business.  He built Pyrmont’s first wool store – the innovative Goldsbrough Building – in 1883, right next to the railway goods line. Business was booming and three more floors were added in 1924. In 1935 a fire that burnt for almost two weeks, fuelled by the wool, destroyed the interior but left the exterior virtually intact. The wool store was rebuilt and functioned for decades until it was converted into apartments in 1995. 

243 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont 

Goods Line

The abandoned goods railway in Ultimo was partly repurposed for the light rail network, but a short unused section has been converted into a landscaped pedestrian/cycle path. The route runs from Central Station’s Devonshire St tunnel to Hay St and provides access to TAFE, UTS, ABC Studios, Powerhouse Museum, Paddy’s Markets, and the southern end of Darling Harbour precinct. Along the way are drinking fountains, kids’ activities, gardens, relics, and seats. 

Central Station to Hay Street, Ultimo

Google

The global tech giant set up its Australian headquarters in the 6 star environmentally rated building, Workplace 6 in Pyrmont. The low level, block-shaped building has an all-glass facade giving it a simple, modern look but also capturing reflections of the nearby harbour and trees. The waterfront building backs onto Metcalfe Park, a green oasis surrounded by low-rise buildings and site of outdoor cinema and other events. Google employees can often be seen sitting in the sun or walking through. 

48 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont

Harbourside Shopping Centre

The glass and metal shopping mall with its raised archway feature has become the recognisable symbol of Darling Harbour. Located on the western shore, the industrial style, the multi-level building was opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II. It houses a range of retail stores, restaurants, bars, food court, as well as attractions such as a bowling alley, laser skirmish, amusements, flight simulator. At the Pyrmont Bridge end is the disused station of the defunct monorail system. Every Saturday night there is a fireworks display in the bay.

2-10 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour

Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre

Named after the gold medal Olympic swimmer, the centre is also an enduring monument to acclaimed Australian architect, Harry Seidler. It was his last design and, sadly, he died before it was completed. The building’s most distinguishing feature is the undulating roof that mimics a breaking wave. It is flanked on either side by clear glass walls, allowing natural light and city views. Inside are three heated pools, spa, sauna, gym, spin studio, cafe, and it offers a range of activities. 

458 Harris Street, Ultimo. Info: www.itac.org.au

Hotel Ibis Darling Harbour

This 19-level, irregular shaped building stands directly behind Harbourside Shopping Centre. The curved rooftop feature complements the famous shopping mall arch, melding the hotel visually with the surrounding landscape. It has 256 rooms, most with magnificent views, a restaurant and bar, and is easy walking distance to major attractions. 

70 Murray Street, Pyrmont. Info: www.accorhotels.com

International Grammar School

Located in the commercial centre of Ultimo, this innovative and progressive school has utilised the austere surroundings to create a stimulating, inspiring learning environment. Features that can be seen from the street include the striking pink entrance, a large mural insert on one building, and perhaps most impressive, the Kerry Murphy Building whose full-length external walls resemble a cardboard sheet with pebble-hole cutouts. The award-winning design reflects the free imagination and spirit of creativity encouraged at this unique school. 

4-8 Kelly Street, Ultimo. Info: www.igssyd.nsw.edu.au

Jones Bay Wharf (100th Anniversary)

Jones Bay Wharf is one of the many reclaimed industrial sites in the precinct that have been repurposed while retaining original rustic features. This historically significant landmark celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and is still incredibly well preserved – a testament to the engineering at the time.  Greyscale tones, solid grainy timber, and visible metal frames add a rare ambience to bars, restaurants, and residences that have moved into the warehouse space. 

26-32 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont

Kwik Kopy

Kwik Kopy Australia was established in 1982 and is one of the most commended printing franchises in the country. The two owners responsible for its success operate the Darling Harbour store. Offering a wide range of printing, marketing, and web services, the experienced staff can also provide advice and assistance.  Their proprietary online printing management system, Zenith Hub, allows users to manage collateral from anywhere using a secure login – perfect for the travelling business person.

Shop 97/1-5 Harwood St, Pyrmont. Info: www.kwikkopy.com.au

Lord Wolseley Hotel

Officially the narrowest pub in NSW and one of the smallest, this modest drinking hole is hidden in the back streets and sits at the top of Quarry Green, a narrow reserve amidst residential terrace houses. Purportedly, it was built because of a fairground nearby. The basic pub menu has been finessed thanks to the services of one of Sydney’s top chefs. 

265 Bulwara Rd, Ultimo

Mustard Seed Uniting Church

The Mustard Seed was a small group of worshippers formed in 1996, who met regularly at St Bede’s Church. They officially became a Uniting Church Faith Community Church in 2002 and are actively involved in local events, providing support, and fostering a nurturing, welcoming community.

 97 Quarry St, Ultimo

Novotel Darling Harbour

The majestic trapezoid shape of this grand hotel stands as a backdrop to the Darling Harbour’s western shore. The relief features on its front facade give it a statuesque feel and also optimise the number of rooms facing Darling Harbour. It was the first Novotel/Accor hotel in Australia and is a long-standing landmark in the precinct. Its restaurant, The Trenery, offers a superb menu and stunning views.

100 Murray Street, Pyrmont. Info: www.novoteldarlingharbour.com.au

Ovollo 1888

Part of Pyrmont’s prolific wool industry history, this slim, five-storey corner building has a Georgian feel to its facade. Built in 1888 as a wool store, it has retained many of its original features after being renovated into a boutique hotel. Exposed brick, iron-bark beams, and metalwork have been incorporated into the decor. Mr Percy wine bar, with its own fascinating history, is a good place to sit, sip and soak in the past.  

139 Murray St, Pyrmont. Info: www.ovolohotels.com.au

Pirrama Park

This area is a focal point for major events as well as local lifestyle. In 1875, when it was known as Pyrmont Point Park, it was the site of Pyrmont Public Baths which provided sheltered swimming in the bay until 1945. Water Police used the site from the 1970s to early 2000s. In 2005, thanks to a vehement public campaign, the park was saved from development. The mechanical sculpture, “Tied To Tide” was installed in the bay in 1999.

Pirrama Road, Pyrmont (opposite Jones Bay Wharf)

Powerhouse Museum

The Ultimo Power Station was commissioned in 1899 to supply electricity to Sydney’s tram network. It operated until around 1963 when the tram network was dismantled. The building remained relatively unused until it was refurbished and reopened in 1988 as the Powerhouse Museum (now part of Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.) Its 400,000 strong collection includes a diverse range of items, and it hosts exhibitions on varied subjects including fashion, art, pop culture, science.  

500 Harris Street, Ultimo. Info: www.maas.museum

Pyrmont Bay Park / Markets

This open green reserve sits between The Star and the bay, giving the area an airy, fresh outlook. The wide timber wharf along the water’s edge lends itself to a range of traffic and uses, including markets. In July, the new Pyrmont Bay Markets will begin operating offering unique crafts, gourmet produce, fresh food straight from the source, local entertainment, and ready-to-eat options.  (First Sunday of every month from July 2019 from 9am until 2pm.)

Pirrama Road, Pyrmont  (opposite The Star)

Pyrmont Bridge

Built in 1902, this engineering marvel is one of the world’s oldest surviving and still operating electrical swingspan bridges. It connected the central city district to Pyrmont, Ultimo and beyond in, what was then, one of the busiest ports in the country. Thousands of carriages, trucks, pedestrians, and large animals traversed the bridge. In 1981 the bridge was closed to vehicles and became a pedestrian/cycle path. The large swing gates continue to open to allow tall vessels to pass into Cockle Bay. 

Cockle Bay

Pyrmont Bridge Hotel

Located close to the industrious waterfront region, this Victorian Era pub has had a speckled, sometimes tumultuous past. Built in 1870 and originally called Native Youth Hotel, it was renamed several times: Boylan’s (1913), Montgomery Hotel, known as “Monty’s” (1930s), and finally, Pyrmont Bridge Hotel (1998). It has retained its characteristic features and is now a vibrant venue featuring live music, a rooftop terrace, an upscale bistro, and function rooms. 

96 Union Street, Pyrmont. Info: www.pyrmontbridgehotel.com

Sofitel Darling Harbour

The brand new towering Sofitel is now the tallest building in Darling Harbour and stands, unchallenged, like an ornament on the landscape. It is best observed at night – from a cafe or bar on the opposite shore – when the all-glass tower is spectacularly lit up. The pattern changes regularly, often reflecting current events. Inside are three bars, the acclaimed Atelier restaurant and a rooftop infinity pool with spectacular views. 

12 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour. Info: www.sofitelsydneydarlingharbour.com.au

St Bede’s Catholic Church

This quaint sandstone church was built in 1867 by volunteers using sandstone sourced from the immediate surrounds and a nearby quarry. To serve the growing Catholic population in the area, a school was built in 1880, rebuilt in 1924, then closed in 1954. In 2006, the floor was repaired and in 2009 a beautiful medieval-style stained glass window was installed. The church serves several communities and holds regular services.  

43 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont. Info: www.stjames-stbede.org.au

The Star

Pyrmont Power Station was established in 1904 on the site now occupied by The Star complex. In its day, it supplied power to Sydney districts before newer power stations caused it to become redundant and it was closed in 1983. The site remained dormant for 10 years before it was developed by The Star Casino (previous name) who retained some of the original power station’s wall in its facade. The Star is now a multi-entertainment hub with restaurants, shops, a theatre, gaming, night clubs. 

80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont. Info: www.star.com.au 

Sydney Dance Company

Celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, this cultural stalwart has trained some of Australia’s greatest dancers and produced some extraordinary shows. Their new studio space in Ultimo is typical of the many repurposed commercial spaces in the precinct which are perfect for artistic, educational or fitness applications. SDC offers dance classes for all ages at all levels and has an exciting program of performances lined up this season. 

385 Wattle St, Ultimo. Info: www.sydneydancecompany.com

Sydney Fish Markets

Situated in the corner of Blackwattle Bay, below the towering Anzac Bridge, this busy market is the biggest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, catching and selling over 500 species and 13,500 tonnes of seafood each year. It began with a Southern Italian fishing family who migrated to Sydney, bought some fishing boats and started an industry.  Apart from fresh seafood, there are restaurants, bars, specialty and grocery stores, and frequent special events. 

Cnr Pyrmont Bridge Rd & Bank St, Pyrmont. Info: www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au

Sydney Lyric

This premiere theatre venue is part of The Star complex and is family owned and operated. The 2000 seat theatre received a significant upgrade in 2017 to the auditorium and technical facilities, foyers, bars, ticketing and merchandising outlets.  Innovative engineering now allows the auditorium to be converted into four different sizes. Sydney Lyric has held world premieres of several successful shows and hosted some of the biggest names in show business. 

55 Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont. Info: www.sydneylyric.com.au

Sydney Wine Centre

Pyrmont Ultimo locals have a reputation for appreciating good food and wine, so it’s not surprising that this wine appreciation centre is one of the most popular places in the precinct. They hold regular wine tastings and frequent special events as well as courses for beginners through to wine professionals and they conduct hospitality training. Wine tastings typically include several varieties paired with food tasting plates. 

1/119 Harris St, Pyrmont. Info: www.sydneywinecentre.com.au

The Muse at TAFE Sydney 

Also known less poetically as “Building C”, this Romanesque Revival styled, government architect designed building was opened in 1893 as a museum. It housed the surviving collection from a fire that destroyed a science museum, being designated a Technological Museum before that status and the collection was transferred to the Powerhouse Museum. The detailed, three-storey facade features arched windows, coloured bricks, reliefs, and intricate carvings depicting Australian fauna and flora.

651 Harris St, Ultimo 

Quarryman’s Hotel

Established in 1880 and known as O’Donnell’s Hotel, it was given an additional floor and new licensee in 1913 and changed its name to Quarryman’s. In those days, pubs were gathering places for (mostly) men who tended to mix with others in their industry and trade, hence how many pubs got their names. In 2012, the pub was extensively refurbished, restoring it to its original grandeur. It serves a wide range of craft beers. 

214 Harris St, Pyrmont. Info: www.quarrymans.com.au

Terminus Hotel

A true “phoenix” story,  this pub began trading (unofficially) at the end of 1841 as The Pyrmont Hotel and then, in turn, became Land’s End (1853), The Cooper’s Arms(1860) and finally (and legitimately), The Terminus in 1858 – with lots of saucy tales in between. Economic challenges forced its closure in 1983 and it stood, covered in ivy for 33 years until it underwent an extraordinary restoration to near original condition and re-opened in 2016.  

61 Harris St, Pyrmont. Info: www.terminuspyrmont.com

Union Square/Memorial

Rich with heritage, this has the feel and function of an old village square. Almost everything here has been heritage listed, from the rows of houses in Union St and Paternoster Row, to the Harlequin Inn, Banquerie Cafe, Bendigo Bank and the War Memorial with its Winged Victory statue. Union Square is where Anzac Day is commemorated and Christmas is celebrated and occasionally a market pops up – just like in the old days. 

Cnr Union St & Harris St, Pyrmont

University of Technology, Sydney

Founded as a university in 1988, UTS has quickly become world renowned as a leader in science, technology, business, and media research and studies. It promotes innovation, creativity, and collaboration. A walk among the campus buildings in immersion in architectural design. Notable are the brutalist tower, the original campus (Building 1); the Engineering & IT Faculty which is surrounded by aluminium screens perforated with binary code (Building 11); and the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building (see separate map entry). 

15 Broadway, Ultimo. Info: www.uts.edu.au

Vulcan Hotel

Named after the Roman god of fire this beautifully restored pub was built in 1894 and served the many workers, travellers and sailors in the area, providing good food and a soft bed. During later decades of the 1900s it was a live band venue, especially popular with jazz musicians, but gradually fell into dereliction. In 2002, it was revamped as a boutique hotel. The impressive exterior paintwork and stained glass windows have rendered it an Ultimo landmark. 

500 Wattle St, Ultimo. Info: www.vulcanhotel.com.au

Wentworth Park

In 1880 this was the site of a noxious swamp that was reclaimed and turned into a park. From that time on it has served as a multi-function venue, hosting professional and amateur sports, concerts, open-air cinema, speed car racing, and greyhound racing. The brick, arched viaduct dates back to 1892 and is heritage listed. It now supports the light rail line. There are several Morton Bay Figs here that are over 100 years old.  

Wentworth Park Rd, Glebe