Sydney is under construction right now. The city is going through a transformation with a new tram network, addition of more metro stations and the much controversial Barangaroo development. In the 19th century, this western district of the CBD was a container terminal, but by the 1980s, the area lost its purpose. Later in 2006, the city realised its potential and started the process of its redevelopment. It was to be designed to give locals more public spaces, garden areas, and foreshore walk, but it became a business hub, with buildings dominating the skies and a casino set to be opened in 2024. Nonetheless, it’s Sydney’s cool new address with companies moving from the next door CBD and residential developments.
Making A City
Barangaroo is historically relevant to Australia. In the shadow of skyscrapers laden with terraced gardens and balconies, I learned that the area is named after an Aboriginal leader, a Cammeraygal woman, who was a key figure in the community at the time of early colonial settlement. In her days, the women fished on the shores in a small canoe, carrying a spear, and the responsibility of feeding the family rested with them. A screen by the foreshore walk narrates the story of these women, of their clan, much like an old photograph of an ancestor in the house–a remembrance of how much life has changed. (There are cultural tours of the Barangaroo Reserve that go deep into the historic significance of the Aboriginals and their heritage, if you’re interested to learn of their ways.)
I booked an Airbnb walking tour of the area, mainly focusing on food. As the gelato melted in the cup, we stood by the sandstone foreshore and imagined fisherwomen bringing out their canoes. The sandstones for the foreshore have been extracted on-site, 93% of the 10,000 blocks, and 300 different sizes have been used to build it–12D technology, bar codes, custom-made equipment and an app are part of this modern story. What would Barangaroo, who didn’t like to get dressed or fraternize with Europeans, think of this development?
A lift up from the foreshore walk, the Barangaroo Reserve opens up six hectares of headland, with 75,000 native Australian trees and shrubs. From here, you get another perspective of the Harbour Bridge. Of course, Millers Point neighbourhood needs a mention. This was the site of the bubonic plague; this is where the oldest existing catholic church of Australia and the oldest hotel in Sydney are located; this is where the famed Sydney Observatory is. In 1910, the reconstruction of the city included development of wharf workers’ homes, which were later destroyed, ironically, for redevelopment of the wharves. There are three that have been preserved, so there is still a part of this history entact in 2020. In addition, the 19the-century Agar Steps have also survived human intervention. It’s unthinkable that the Rocks precinct was once under threat too–in the 1970s, developers wanted to replace the cobblestone with concrete and gloss over its rough, gangster legacy. Thankfully, Jack Mundey stood up against the idea and there’s a mural on the Rocks to remind the city of what it almost lost and what a man saved.
History depends on change–for the good and the bad. As we reinvent ourselves, we rethink our surroundings and strive for something better. It’s not always the best course, but that’s how history is made and lessons are learnt.
Barangaroo Food Guide
There’s a lot to do for food lovers in the Barangaroo neighbourhood. As sharply dressed office-goers stride to meetings, you can grab a bite at these restaurants.
Wild Sage: Lunch at this upscale restaurant means a table outdoors, a glass of bubbly and modern Australian dishes. Have the fresh fish of the day, or try their soft shell crab salad–the restaurant has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options for those who’ve recently watched The Game Changers. Wild Sage also hosts cocktail classes with their bartenders, so you can make yourself a mean cosmopolitan at home too!
Corso Brio: This Italian restaurant is beautifully set up, with a wooden bar; an exclusive cellar, Bar & Brio, with a selection of more than 3,500 local and international wines; and a marketplace with fresh product, flowers, meals and artisanal breads along with other staples. The food here is organic and made with freshly sourced ingredients–order a thin-crust pizza and team it with a bottle of wine, and it’ll be a meal to remember.
Rivareno Gelato: A long queue might await you at this gelato place, but it feels worth it when you look at the extensive menu of more than 100 flavours of rich, creamy gelato, freshly produced every day. Some of their specialities include Contessa (almond, macaroons and hazelnut), After Eight Style Mint (mint from a small village near Turin and and dark chocolate shavings) and Mango Heera (with Indian mangos and kesar reinventing mango lassi).
Public House, Hotel Palisade: This watering hole is a walk down memory lane. You can almost imagine rowdy wharf workers enjoy a large mug of beer at the end of the day here. Located in a heritage building, the bar has been carefully restored but it still offers beautiful views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sit on a high wooden table, order a craft beer and fish and chips and enjoy the ambience (minus the ruckus of the last century).
Environmental Initiatives At Barangaroo
Barangaroo aims to be carbon neutral. The construction waste going into the landfills has been reduced by 97% and the area aims to be zero waste and water positive. Water recycling and solar electricity are contributing to its goal with water tanks in towers, recycled water in toilets and solar panels on buildings. In fact, the three International Towers Sydney have green building certification from the Green Building Council of Australia. You can read more about it here.
You can book the Airbnb ‘Taste of Sydney – Barangaroo & The Rocks’ experience for Rs 5,920 per person.