“Danks Street is an absolute buzz,” says chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan, whose global headquarters you’ll find there alongside his wine and tapas bar, Mojo. Close to the city and a stone’s throw from other cool suburbs such as Redfern and Alexandria, it’s a great place to be located, says Mangan: “A complete, eclectic mix of restaurants, food, design, new development and style. Love it!”
The warehouse space where Mojo is based – and the slick, contemporary makeover it has been given – is typical of Danks Street. Like the rest of Waterloo the area was characterised by industry in the 19th century, and public housing in the 20th. And while the story of its gentrification is not an uncommon one, Danks Street itself has evolved into a unique strip of Sydney.
The galleries first moved in during the early 2000s, when arts precinct 2 Danks Street was established in an old Kodak factory. Utopia Art Sydney – a leading Aboriginal art gallery, which also has non-Aboriginal artists on its books, including American icon Chuck Close – was the first. “We have watched it develop into a vibrant community,” says its director, artist Christopher Hodges. “Initially attracted by a lovely building and big spaces, 2 Danks Street became a catalyst for the transformation of Danks Street.”
Brenda May Gallery shows the work of established and emerging artists as well as fostering the careers of young curators. It was also one of the originals. “At that time Waterloo wasn’t on the radar of developers and in the 15 years since, the area has undergone a transformation as semi-industrial spaces have been replaced by high-rise apartment buildings along with a host of new restaurants and cafes,” says May. “Over the 15 years it has been open, the Danks Street complex has constantly evolved.” While it originally hosted 10 galleries, it now has other businesses also, including a contemporary jewellery studio, Studio 20/17. The homewares and furniture stores you’ll find elsewhere on Danks Street bolster its design and lifestyle appeal. As Hughes says, “It’s a unique district combining art, food and style. You can eat well here, and dress your home well here.”
The Danks Street dining scene itself has become the stuff of Sydney legend. It’s part of the reason Broadsheet has decided to open its pop-up restaurant in the area. Jared Ingersoll – who has just opened Butcher and Farmer at Harold Park Tramsheds - opened Danks Street Depot in 2002, before the original Fratelli Fresh opened across the road in a vast old warehouse one year later. While both institutions are now gone, Danks Street is a master of reinvention. Old favourites such as Sonoma Bakery and Wah Wah Lounge remain, while newer neighbours include contemporary Vietnamese street-food eatery SO9 and Middle Eastern-inspired Kepos & Co. Both are in Casba, a new development whose courtyard makes for fine al fresco dining. Kepos & Co’s Michael Rantissi and Kristy Frawley were drawn to its Mediterranean feel: “an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city”, says Frawley. They attract customers from the local community as well as those who travel from far and wide to this Danks Street destination.
And we can expect European flair here soon: the Quattrovilles family (of Fourth Village Providores in Mosman) are transforming the former Fratelli building into a produce merchants, promising an old-fashioned European-style market including a fishmonger, butcher and restaurant. Danks Street, you’re doing it again.
Broadsheet Restaurant opens on Danks Street this October 6.