For this walk we're going to take a detailed tour through the shopping area of the suburb of Crows Nest. We begin on the corner of Hume Street (ahead and behind) and the Pacific Highway (left-right). We're facing north-east across the highway, towards the commercial centre of Crows Nest.
Although Crows Nest is on the highway directly between North Sydney and St Leonards, the existing train line from North Sydney to St Leonards has to deal with the hilly geography, and takes a roundabout detour around Crows Nest, through Waverton and Wollstonecraft, avoiding the large hill which gives Crows Nest its commanding views and name. This construction work is building a new underground metro station for a brand new train line, which will finally give Crows Nest a train station.
This corner of the block used to be the Crows Nest Post Office, in an uninspiring 1960s-era building, which has now been demolished. But the large mailboxes out the front are still there.
While I wait for the traffic lights to change so I can cross the highway, here's a photo up the hill, to the south-east. We're going to walk that way. Once I cross the road...
Okay, here we go, walking south-east.
The highway is the main traffic route through Crows Nest, and there are several shops and businesses here, but with the heavy traffic and the difficulty of crossing the road, the highway gets relatively little foot traffic and isn't really the most desirable street to have a business.
Several have in fact closed down, and the premises are for lease.
Last Train to Bombay is still open, though. This is a slightly fancy Indian restaurant, and pretty good. The dining room has a large glass window giving a view directly into the kitchen, where you can see the chefs preparing dough to make naan bread and sticking it on the inside of a large wood-fired tandoor oven.
I should point out that I did this walk about 2pm, and normally many of the restaurants would still be open for the tail end of lunch, but with the current COVID-19 restrictions, restaurants can only provide take-away food, with no sit-in service. So things look a little different to how they normally would.
Across the highway on the southern side are WaazWaan and Malabar, also both Indian restaurants, and Sakana-Ya, a Japanese place. The shop in between used to be another Indian restaurant, if memory serves me correctly. Yes, we have a lot of Indian restaurants in this suburb!
Malabar is currently my favourite. I prefer southern Indian cuisine to the northern Indian, particularly the dosais and the fish curries.
The buildings were originally built as houses along the main road, but have all been converted into commercial space on the ground floor. I think some of the owners probably live upstairs, although in some cases the upstairs portion has also been converted into business premises. Malabar, for example, has a large upstairs dining room for the restaurant. The set of four identically styled buildings from WaazWaan to Sakana-Ya are all heritage listed as examples of Federation Free style terrace houses.
On this side of the highway is Jump! Swim School. I've never been in here, but you can smell the chlorine as you walk past (when they're open), so they obviously have an indoor pool in there.
If you grow up in Australia, it's 99% guaranteed that you learn to swim. It's very much a part of our culture.
More old houses converted to restaurants across the highway. This is a row of seven identical Federation Free style terrace houses, all heritage listed as a group.
Mario Brothers is my wife's and my favourite pizza place, and we've been eating here for over 20 years. It's cozy and homey, with photos of Italy all over the walls, and the owners are an old married Italian couple who greet everyone who comes in the door as if they know them with a "Buonasera!" and wave bye with a "Ciao!" when you depart. And yes, there's an old Vespa on the awning.
I know for most people "Mario Brothers" means a Nintendo game, but to me it means this pizza place first and foremost.
In a tiny arcade off this side of the highway is my barber. Frank & Michael used to be just Frank's, but the name changed after Frank's son Michael (that's him in the doorway) had been working there for a few years. Frank is now semi-retired, but still comes in once a week or so to cut hair. Frank is from southern Italy - you can see the map of Italy on the wall inside.
The Pacific Highway reaches the top of the Crows Nest hill at the next intersection - the five-way intersection with Shirley Road (right), Falcon Street (gentle left), and Willoughby Road (hard left). We've been through this intersection on previous walks, notably walk number 9. Crows Nest and Cammeray.
Turning the corner a little, we see Falcon Street (ahead left), and Willoughby Road (hard left), flanking the Crows Nest Hotel. The place on the opposite corner below the billboard used to be a toy shop many years ago, then a dentist, then a snow sports shop, but now it's currently empty.
A proper view of the heritage listed Crows Nest Hotel.
On this sharp corner we've just turned around is Turka, a Turkish cafe/restaurant.
This premises used to be a place called New Orleans Cafe for many years, and it was a marvellous casual dining option, with great burgers and a range of delicious Cajun dishes. I was very sad to see New Orleans close, and then the place hosted a rapid succession of other restaurants which all failed quickly. When Turka opened, I hoped that it would last, and it has, now having been here for about 5 years. They do some really nice mezze dishes.
We're looking north down Willoughby Road. (I say "down" because it's downhill.)
Willoughby Road used to be two-way traffic, but some years ago they restructured this first block to be a bit more pedestrian friendly, so now traffic is restricted to southbound.
We're walking down the west side of Willoughby Road. On the eastern side is Bakers Delight, a large bakery chain. Next to it, the large green premises used to be a gourmet/organic grocer, which closed down recently. I'm interested to know what will replace it. I'm hoping for an Italian grocer!
For many years there was no specialist butcher in Crows Nest. Then one day Meadow Meat opened.
And not long after, Manling Meat opened directly across the street! Both seem to be doing enough business to hang around for a while.
Two doors down from Meadow Meat is La Baguette, the French patisserie. Like almost every French patisserie in Australia, it's operated by Vietnamese immigrants, not French ones. The French occupation did nasty things in Vietnam, but one positive thing they left behind was to the skill of how to bake delicious bread and pastries. And with the large Vietnamese emigration to Australia, we have benefited from that. Everywhere you go in Australia there are Vietnamese expats turning out delectable baked goods.
Across the street is Constant Reader, one of relatively few independent bookshops left in Australia. I'm a bit mixed on my opinions about this place. I like to support it against the multinational mail order businesses and huge book chains, but I've had very mixed service and staff friendliness levels in here.
One cool thing they do is change the window display every week, and they do it to a theme. One week it'll be all children's books, the next all books with green covers, the next all Star Wars books, the next all cookbooks, the next all books with pola dot covers...
At the end of the first block is Burlington Street, which comes in from the right. Traffic down Willoughby Road is two-way from here on. Note the salmon-coloured bus shelter with terracotta roof on the right. This area is usually bustling with people by the way. This is very sparse, due to COVID.
Just past the intersection we have:
Cork & Canvas - a place where you can go to participate in a casual paint-it-yourself lesson, while sipping on a glass of wine. Places like this have popped up in several locations recently.
George's Fine Wines - a wine shop. One time many years ago I wanted to buy some brandy for cooking, and I went in and asked if they had any brandy, and the man behind the counter looked at me very haughtily and said, "No. This is a wine shop." Nowadays it seems they sell gin (advertised on the front window) and beer (cases inside) at least, and who knows what else. Maybe brandy.
The Stoned Crow - a pub, which we also saw in walk number 9. Crows Nest and Cammeray. They do an absolute killer chicken schnitzel and chips.
On the other side of the Stoned Crow are:
Deli Noodles - a cheap hole-in-the-wall noodle place. I like the combination stir-fried hokkein noodles.
Sushi Town - I get take-way sushi boxes from here sometimes.
PixelsPlus - this place has been a photo lab since before pixels were a thing (the name changed some years ago). I had all my old film developed and printed here before I got a digital camera. Notice the architecture of the buildings, which were also originally designed as houses along the street.
Just before the next intersection on this side is Johnny Bird. It opened some years back as Johnny Lobster, a seafood place. They did fish & chips, and grilled lobsters, and lobster rolls, and crab cakes, and all sorts of delicious stuff. They had one non-seafood dish on the menu for the person in your group who doesn't like seafood: fried chicken wings. After a couple of years they realised they were selling more chicken wings than anything else, and decided to change to Johnny Bird.
Now it's all fried chicken dishes, and one token fish & chips on the menu. I hated the change at the time because I'm a big seafood fan, and I liked everything on the old menu (but had never had the wings). However, I've tried all their chicken burgers, and the fried chicken pieces, and it's delicious. So it's still one of my favourite places for a good quality "junk food" meal.
Clarke Street enters from the left.
On the corner across Clarke Street is Coco Cubano, the local Cuban place. Cuban isn't very big in Sydney - this is the only place I know of. They do some good stuff. Behind is Salty Bodega, a Spanish tapas place, which my wife and I like a bit more.
The footpaths on Willoughby Road are very wide and many of the restaurants have tables and chairs outside (during non-COVID times) and we can eat al fresco with Scully sitting on her doggy mat by our table. You can see some of the white tent-like rain shelters over the al fresco dining areas in the previous photo.
Across the street are more al fresco dining areas, as well as:
C9 Gelato - currently my favourite gelato place in Crows Nest.
Grill'd - a burger chain. There was a competing burger chain called Moo a few doors down, which we liked better, but apparently we were in a minority because Moo shut down and Grill'd survives.
On this side down a shady looking arcade is Antica Barberia, an Olde Fashioned barber shop. I like the juxtaposition of the sign with the one for the ladies' swimwear shop that sits in front of it (the window glass on the far right).
Across from here is Bravo Trattoria.
Bravo used to be in another premises on Falcon Street just a block away, and was one of my favourite places in Crows Nest. Good pizza and pasta, but most of all for the amazingly good gelato. We visited often, and the owner's face was familiar to us. He was a cheerful, friendly guy, generous with portions.
Then one day his body was found, murdered in the alley next to the trattoria. I don't know any details about it, but remember being shocked. A new owner took over Bravo, and quickly the portion sizes reduced and the prices went up. And the gelato never seemed to be quite as good any more.
A year or two later they moved here, next to Ernest Place park. They're still doing good business, and occasionally I come here, but it's no longer the cheap and friendly place it used to be - it's more upmarket and on the expensive side. And I get gelato from C9 instead.
Back on this side, next to the ladies' swimwear shop (sorry, no photos - I'm not particularly interested in ladies' swimwear) is The Sushi Counter. This is a fancy sushi place, where you sit at a counter and order your sushi and the chef makes it in front of you. No quick take-away boxes here. We don't go here much because my wife is vegetarian, but they do make a vegetarian maki roll, so we've eaten here a few times and it's very nice.
Here's a fuller view of the park in Ernest Place. Further on we'll walk past the back end of Ernest Place.
The hill gets a bit steeper here - lucky we're walking down!
On the left is a Subway - one of the very very few fast food places in Crows Nest. There was a proposal to have a McDonalds here some years ago, but the locals protested against it so much that they decided not to go ahead.
Directly across the street is the much more popular Simply Sandwiches, an old fashioned sandwich shop in an unpretentious brutalist building that must be doing things right, because at lunch times there is ALWAYS a huge queue here (today socially distanced).
Inside it looks like a sandwich shop right out of the 1970s, with a glass counter with little stainless steel tins of about 30 different sandwich ingredients, which you can mix and match on your sliced bread or bread rolls.
Further down, and a bit difficult to see (sorry) are:
Peter Pan Italian Restaurant (right) - I went here once many years ago, and the owner recognised me... turned out he went to school with me back in high school! Unfortunately I had no memories of him whatsoever, and could do nothing but verify I'd been to that school and then awkwardly try to finish my pizza. I've never been back to this restaurant since.
Annata (left) - this is the premises vacated by the ill-fated Moo Burger previously mentioned. It's now an upmarket restaurant that does very fancy and nice meals. My wife and I like it a lot, and go here for special occasions sometimes.
Back to this side of the street. Here used to be Title, one of those shops that can only be described as "eclectic". It had vinyl LP records and books on topics like art, music, obscure foreign cinema, architecture, and so on, as well as DVDs of foreign films and anime. I enjoyed browsing around but I think the only thing I ever bought here was a boxed set of the Ringu movies in Japanese with English subtitles.
Next to it is....
The yellow premises used to be Sapporo, a Japanese restaurant, that's been here forever. It was notable for the fact that the owner was obsessed with rugby. There was signed rugby memorabilia all over the walls, and they showed World Cup rugby matches live on a big screen. I'm sad it's closed... the food was also good!
Here's Le Bouchon, the local French place. Classy and expensive.
Oh! They have a French take-away stall set up outside during the COVID lockdown! That's pretty cool.
A bit further down is Kürtősh, a cake shop and cafe. Kürtősh are a Hungarian type of cake, made with a spiral of dough cooked on a wooden form. They also do large slab cakes which you can buy by weight as they cut slices to whatever size you want.
A sticky-beak in the window of Kürtősh. You can watch them making the spiral dough thingies.
We're approaching the intersection with Albany Street.
On the left corner is Charlie Lovett, a coffee roaster and cafe. I don't drink coffee, but they do some nice sandwiches and other goodies here. And delicious soups for a cold winter's lunch.
Across Albany Street the shops begin to peter out, but we'll go down one more short block. Here is where The Tall Lemongrass used to be - our favourite Thai restaurant. We went here many times, and were very sad when it closed down a year or so ago.
It's now being renovated to be turned into the new premises of Scully's vet! And I believe it's supposed to open next week.
The next corner is Atchison Street. Across there is a brand new Pet Barn. In the distance you can see the distinctive green copper spire of St Leonard's Catholic Church, Naremburn, which we passed in walk 14. Artarmon, Naremburn, St Leonards grunge.
But here we'll cross Willoughby Road to the eastern side and start walking back up the hill. Here is the new Coles supermarket, built into the bottom level of a new block of apartments. We also saw this in the second half of walk 14. Artarmon, Naremburn, St Leonards grunge.
Also in this complex is Salmon & Bear, a new restaurant which my wife and I tried one time before COVID lockdown. It was good and we're planning to go back when we can.
Back across Albany Street is The Hayberry, a bar and burger place. I mention this mostly because the premises used to be a Mexican place named Borderland, whose phone number was one digit off our old land line. We used to get wrong numbers from people all the time, asking to book a table or order take-away Mexican food.
Up a bit further is Secret Women's Business, a lingerie place, which is notable for the sometimes witty scribings on the blackboard out the front. The door on the left indicating a place for lease used to lead up the stairs to a sex toy shop...
Here's Small Bar, another in the several bars along here. This one is a favourite of me and my wife. They have a courtyard out the back where we can take Scully. Next door is Borruso's, an Italian place. They have a dessert of bananas baked in the pizza oven, flambéd with brandy.... mmmm...
We reach Holtermann Street (which I skipped past on the way down the hill), and here we'll turn left.
There are two old churches here. The brick one on the left used to be a Uniting Church, and was built in the Federation Gothic style, but it has now been converted into a local performing arts centre. The building is heritage listed.
The church on the right is older, built in the 1880s in a simpler Victorian Free Gothic style, and served as a Methodist Church. It is now the Helping Hands Mission Centre.
And a multi-storey car park. With so many restaurants, it's almost impossible to find a parking spot in Crows Nest in the evening.
On this cross street is one of our favourite restaurants of all: Garfish. It's a great seafood place. I say my wife is vegetarian, but occasionally she will deign to have the roast salmon fillet from here. They also do an excellent vegetarian platter, but of course it's the seafood that is brilliant.
On the corner across Holtermann Street is Mathew's Peacock Gardens, a Chinese place. This is one of the very few Chinese places we ever go to, as many are not very vegetarian-friendly.
We turn right and walk up Alexander Street, parallel to Willoughby Road.
On the other side is this lovely old sandstone cottage, nestled in between modern businesses. This is home to the Butterfly Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to supporting people with eating disorders. The cottage is a late 19th century residence in the Victorian Georgian style and in good condition, heritage listed.
On the corner of Ernest Place is this apartment block. We used to live in here, many years ago! Now we're further away from the bustle of Crows Nest, but in a quieter place.
On this side of Alexander Street is Big Music, the musical instrument store and music school.
Here's a view of Ernest Place from the other end. The small grassy park we saw earlier is straight ahead, past the trees and the black rain shelters.
Here in Alexander Street is the Rangoon Colonial Club Restaurant. This is an upmarket Indian place which used to be named the Rangoon Racquet Club. I preferred the old name and don't know why they changed it. It has old sporting equipment - tennis racquets, croquet mallets, and a rowing scull - mounted on the walls.
Here's a view inside the door. They also have shelves of vintage books all over the place. My wife and I dined here the night before our wedding, and we've come back several times for dinner on our wedding anniversary.
On the corner of Alexander and Burlington Streets is the new Woolworths supermarket building. It's a cool piece of architecture with those coloured panels. This is the north-east corner of the building - previously we saw the south-east corner near the end of walk 11. North Sydney and St Leonards Park.
Turning down Burlington Street briefly, we pass this old book and record exchange, still in business. The numismatic coin shop two doors down recently went out of business.
Next door to the old coins place is this micro Japanese bar named Tachinomi YP. Before the COVID lockdown it opened in the evenings, but the owner's friend came in and used the premises to offer ramen for lunch under the name of Ramen Shimizu - on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays only. I've had the ramen lunch and it is amazingly good. The menu is a piece of paper stuck to the back wall, handwritten with:
Tonkotsu ramen $12
(This is the only option)
On the other side of Burlington Street is Xenos, a Greek restaurant that has been here for over 50 years! They had their 50th anniversary celebrations last year. We like this place. When my wife has a girls' night out with her friends, they almost always go here.
Back on Alexander Street, we pass Montezuma's. This is what passes for a Mexican restaurant in Australia. The food is pretty good, but I know from experience that Mexican food in California is much, much better.
A few doors along is Stuyvesant's House, possibly the fanciest (and most expensive) restaurant in Crows Nest. It was opened in 1961 by two German immigrants from the Black Forest region, Rudi and Max. And both of them still work here! We've eaten here a handful of times, only on very special occasions.
A few years ago the premises caught fire and were gutted. I feared the place might close down, but they rebuilt it on the same site and reopened less than a year later.
At the top of Alexander Street we turn right onto Falcon Street. This is a busy traffic road. Here there's a Persian Rug Emporium, which in the established tradition of Persian rug places everywhere has been having a "going out of business" sale for the past 20 years.
Upstairs is a dance studio, which does everything from ballet to contemporary dance.
And finally, just before we return to the Pacific Highway and the Crows Nest Hotel on the corner, there are a couple more Japanese places and an antique store. But mainly I took this photo for the old painted signage above: "Body Control - Back to Fitness Studio" and a 7-digit phone number, from the days of yore before we switched to 8 digit numbers (1994).
Map of this walk. Starting at left, walking along the Highway, then north along Willoughby Road before turning around and heading back to the bottom of the map via Alexander Street.