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Petersham: Not your humdrum suburb

Less than 6km from the CBD and home to a flourishing culinary and bar scene, the historic suburb of Petersham has become one of the Inner West’s most sought-after neighbourhoods.

Less than 6km from the CBD and home to a flourishing culinary and bar scene, the historic suburb of Petersham has become one of the Inner West’s most sought-after neighbourhoods. 

It is described by the Timeout guide as “one of Sydney’s must-visit destinations for eating and drinking”. Prized for its convenient 11-minute train ride to Central, Petersham continues to be highly sought after areas in the Inner West with apartment prices rising 10.6 per cent over the past year. With its mix of Portuguese culture, Victorian architecture, trendy pubs, cafes and public art, Petersham has long been recognised for its idiosyncratic style.

Even as far back as the 1940s, Petersham was recognised for its unique character. The 1948 book The Story of Petersham noted the area “has never been satisfied with average humdrum existence but has reached out in a most energetic fashion”.

Faces in the Street

It was with the opening of its train station in 1857 that Petersham started to grow into the “small postal township” that the New South Wales Gazetteer described it as a decade later. 
In 1887, Petersham Station was upgraded to include the largest and most elaborate 19th Century station building on the Sydney suburban rail network. It was the only 'First Class' station in suburban Sydney during the Victorian era. 

And it was one of its platforms that in 1888 inspired one of Australia’s most celebrated poems, Henry Lawson’s Faces in the Street.

Lawson, who was at the time boarding at the Lord Carrington Hotel opposite the station wrote: “My window-sill is level with the faces in the street – drifting past, drifting past, to the beat of weary feet. While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.”

The station, which is now undergoing a major upgrade, remains a key drawcard for people wanting to live in the suburb – only two train stops from the Inner West’s main food and entertainment district of Newtown and five stops from Central Station. 

Another appeal is the area’s walkability. “Most errands can be accomplished on foot in Petersham,” notes the Walk Score website. There is definitely nothing humdrum about Petersham’s food, café and bar scene. 

Long home to the Portuguese charcoal chicken eatery Frangos, which is considered by some as having Sydney’s best burger, Petersham’s main street and back streets in recent years have seen a raft of café openings. These include the old school styled Daisy’s Milkbar, pastry-filled Pig & Pastry, Sweet Belem Cake Boutique famed for its Portuguese tarts, the cronut pastry café the Tiny Giant to the Grumpy Barista.

Then there are the pubs popular for their craft beers and good food, which include Henry Lawson’s former hangout  the White Cockatoo, The Oxford Tavern and the Petersham Public House. 

Petersham is also home to one of the Inner West’s most picturesque parks, Petersham Park, where many locals can be spotted with their picnic blankets on sunny afternoons.  

Little Portugal and a new RSL clubhouse 

Petersham remains best known for its Portuguese influence, which stems back to when Portuguese immigrants started to settle in the suburb in 1970s. Acknowledging the suburb as the epicentre of Portuguese culture in Australia, the Inner West Council officially renamed the main eating strip of Petersham “Little Portugal” at the Bairro Portugues food festival in 2019. Another mainstay of the local area since 1919 is the Petersham RSL, whose new clubhouse will be the centrepiece of Deicorp’s The Siding development. With its pub, restaurants and entertainment area, the new club will add to Petersham’s new-found vibrancy.

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